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Nocebo or Placebo?

Posted Dec 17 2009 6:41am

I still remember an article I read many years ago that said many studies showed that the success of a prescribed drug was impacted by the words the doctor spoke when prescribing it. If a patient was told, “This is a miracle drug. It will make you well,” it was very likely to work wonders. If, on the other hand, the patient was told, “Let’s try this out. If you have……… this will help. Otherwise, we’ll try something else,” the treatment was likely to fail.

I now know the placebo effect is well documented and shown to have direct and measurable physiological effects.

I then learned about the “Nocebo Effect.” In Latin this means “I will harm.” This term refers to the adverse effects of expectations about disease, treatments, and pharmaceuticals. A commonly quoted story is about a man who lived in the 1970s who first won a bout with cancer. He was later told his cancer had returned and he had only a short time to live. He did pass away at the prescribed time. An autopsy showed that he did in fact have a minute tumor on his liver but it did not kill him.

In June of this year, a very vibrant, determined young woman, Jessica, was diagnosed with rectal cancer that had already spread to her lungs and liver. Early on, Jessica made the decision that in spite of her doctor’s dire predictions, she would survive and live a long and healthy life. The blog her mother created — Jessica’s Victory — reflects her expectation. She agreed to have chemotherapy and chose not to learn about possible adverse reactions. (This information was shared with her mother who could monitor Jessica’s well being). She researched and used acupuncture, proper nutrition, guided imagery, and participated in a Tong Ren group led by a healer and acupuncturist for people who were given no hope by their doctors. She was also given my Guided Imagery CD “Cancer Be Gone” by her oncology nurse at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. Six months have now passed and Jessica’s primary tumor is completely gone! She remains beautiful, full of life, and her cancer markers are very low. Many would call her a miracle.

Let me ask you this question. In your life, do you choose PLACEBO or NOCEBO?

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