Mind games: Do placebos have a place in modern medicine?

x placebo
Image: WebMD

Doctors in Australia commonly give their patients a placebo treatment intended mainly to ease their minds, according to a new study out [December 2].

The survey found that 39 percent of doctors said they had prescribed an inert placebo at least once in their careers, most often things like saline nasal sprays and skin creams. A whopping three-quarters of doctors also reported that they had given out an active placebo once in their careers, while 40 percent said they did so routinely, at least once a month. Of these active placebos, antibiotics (42 percent), vitamin and mineral supplements (17 percent), and therapies considered alternative medicine like homeopathy (10 percent) were the most commonly prescribed.

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As the authors of this latest study point out, there’s a perfectly reasonable place for placebos in medicine. Often, health complaints like colds and stomachaches are self-limiting and don’t go away any faster regardless of what treatment you use. But placebos can make us feel better during that period of suffering. That’s why scientists need to test any new treatment against a comparable placebo, to ensure it’s having an added effect.

Read full, original post: You’d Be Surprised How Often Doctors Prescribe Placebos

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