Friday, July 01, 2005

The Placebo Effect

When I was 6 or 7 I developed warts all over my hands. Since we lived in little Weatherford, Oklahoma my Mother took me to a dermatologist in Oklahoma City where it was decided to spend a lot of time convincing me that the pills I was to take would make the warts go away. I was encouraged to take them faithfully and this therapy was reinforced by parental encouragement. After only a few weeks of taking sugar pills my warts were gone. This well-known phenomenon is called the "placebo effect" and for many years has been the source of consternation because it has confounded attempts by drug companies to establish the efficacy of new drugs. Now there is some interest in using the placebo effect to treat a "condition" where I think it shows great promise. This is in the so called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Millions of children now take Adderall or Ritalin for this and studies are now underway to see if sugar pills will be at least as effective or maybe serve as "enhancers" which can convince the children that their symptoms will moderate and their "attention" will improve when taken faithfully. I predict success and Mothers should try this first.

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