How the placebo effect can work

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Expert conference on placebo effects: empathetic doctors more healing than medication

A friendly treatment in the medical field can have a positive effect on the patient's recovery and can even be more effective than medication - this is the opinion of a number of experts who will meet tomorrow in Tübingen for a three-day international conference to discuss the effectiveness of sham To discuss medication and empathetic doctors.

Placebo effects as strong as medication
According to conference president Paul Enck, professor of medical psychology and head of research at the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital in Tübingen, it is extremely important in medicine to reinforce positive psychological effects and to help patients overcome fears. "Such placebo effects can often be as strong as newly developed drugs," explains Professor Enck - listing the possible side effects of drugs would actually make many patients ill: "Studies show that if a side effect disappears from the package insert, it will also appear not on, ”continues Enck.

It should also be observed that a detailed risk assessment prior to surgery often leads to the fact that one of the complications mentioned would actually occur later. Therefore, these so-called "nocebo effects", ie the negative version of the "placebo effects", are receiving increasing attention in medical research. Expert Enck clearly sees the duty of doctors and calls for greater self-reflection: "Doctors should be much more concerned about how they affect their patients."

Studies also show positive placebo effects. Can the placebo effect really be demonstrated? According to Professor Enck, the placebo effect is not imagination, but would actually simulate the effect of medication in the patient's body - from which the doctors could benefit from the treatment. "If I take placebo instead of painkillers, processes are triggered in my head that lead to a neurobiological response - and in this case it means pain relief," says Enck.

This is also the conclusion reached by US scientists from Harvard Medical School in 2010: A study of 80 women and men suffering from irritable bowel syndrome had shown that an ineffective preparation could alleviate the symptoms - even if the patient was aware of it was that they were taking a sham drug. The researchers had thus shown that the positive effects were not only triggered by positive thinking or the expectations of the supposedly “real” drug - as has often been assumed. Instead, the placebo was made very clear: "We not only made it absolutely clear that these tablets did not contain any effective ingredients, we even printed placebo on the packaging," said study author Ted Kaptchuk, and further: "We told the patients that they don't necessarily have to believe in the placebo effect. You should just take the tablets. "

Nice doctors recover faster? At the same time, according to Enck, the physician himself is becoming more and more important: Studies have shown that patients with a cold felt an average of one day faster if they were treated by their doctor in a friendly and sensitive manner. The same would have been shown for heart operations - so that the researcher is clear: "Placebo effects have a lot more to do with doctors than with patients." (Sb)

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