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Placebo Effect – The Amazing Power of Consciousness

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Research on the placebo effect is revealing some amazing discoveries about the power of belief. Placebos were created to control for suggestion, imagination, and bias in both investigators and patients in clinical studies.(1) At the time placebos were first introduced into medical research, investigators didn’t know how they produced their effects. As the field of neuroscience has evolved, it is becoming clear that belief induced within the context surrounding the placebo produces very specific and powerful physiologic effects.

Research shows there are actually multiple placebo effects. In other words, there are multiple ways the placebo influences the body-mind to heal depending upon the therapy or condition being treated. This research shows that the placebo effect is mediated by the release of neurotransmitters, consistently impacts certain areas of the brain, and even mirrors the action of pharmaceutical drugs on human physiology.(2)

Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials are the gold standard for proving effectiveness of a medication. The placebo -a pill containing no active substance – is used in these trials to act as a comparison for the active drug being tested. If you say the words ‘placebo effect’ to a pharmaceutical industry researcher, they might cringe. This is because it is not uncommon for the placebo to beat the active drug in clinical trials, and this is especially true for antidepressants.

Antidepressants versus placebos

In 1998, researchers published a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of sixteen antidepressant medications. They found that 25% of the effectiveness was due to the specific action of the drug, 25% was due to spontaneous remission, and 50% was due to the placebo effect.(3) Ten years later another meta-analysis of antidepressant clinical trials for four modern antidepressants was published. It showed antidepressants were clinically significant in only a few relatively small studies conducted on extremely severely depressed patients. For moderately depressed patients, these antidepressants had no effect at all.(4)

The mind as healer

Research on the placebo effect proves the mind is capable of great feats in healing the body, which is really not a surprise given that the body is an infinitely intelligent organism. Humans have been healing themselves long before the invention of modern medicine techniques. Indigenous shamans have been facilitating healing for thousands of years, often in conjunction with the placebo effect. They gave patients hope, and through expectation, the mind initiated the changes in physiology for the body to heal.

Psychosocial factors of placebo

It turns out that the placebo effect is the power of belief, and is related to multiple psychosocial factors. One factor is expectation, which relates to a reduction in anxiety or in expectation of reward. Learning is another factor related to conditioning through giving a medication prior to a placebo, or social learning whereby patients heal because they see others heal.(5)

The placebo effect provides insight into the complexity of consciousness and how little we really know about the mind and its ability to heal. But the scientific evidence is accumulating and points towards the possibility that the mind has an unlimited healing ability. This makes total sense to me, but skeptics don’t like common sense until the science proves it. They should be prepared to wait a very long time before science proves everything.

Placebos mimic drug effects in the body

Research shows that a placebo exactly mimics a drug’s effect when the patient has been exposed to the drug prior to the placebo. This has been shown with pain medications, an immune suppressing medication, an anti-Parkinson’s agent, and an anti-anxiety drug. What’s even more amazing is that the placebo effect can even be quantified based on what is told to the patient regarding the likelihood they will be getting a drug.(6)

Ritual of the therapeutic act

The placebo effect is a mind-body phenomenon that starts in the brain, results in clinical improvement, and is intimately related to the ritual of the therapeutic act. This ritual involves things such as the people in the room, spoken words, syringes or other devices, and even the color of a pill.

One of the most important factors that trigger expectations and belief is a verbal suggestion. Verbal suggestions are frequently given in clinical studies of the placebo effect, and these words as part of the therapeutic ritual have powerful effects on the body. This is an important concept to remember because your own words based on your innate beliefs are part of your own therapeutic ritual every single day of your life.

Fabrizio Benedetti, M.D., one of the world’s lead researchers on the placebo effect says, “In fact, what is emerging today from a strict scientific standpoint is that the very ritual of the therapeutic act can change the patient’s brain, thus anybody who performs a therapeutic ritual can influence the physiology of the patient’s brain and obtain positive effects.”(7)

Your body-mind is listening

The placebo effect emphasizes the importance of belief in overall health and wellness. Be positive in what you say and be discerning about what you believe. Your body-mind is listening.

About the Author: Dr. Keith Holden is a physician who is board certified in Internal Medicine and trained in Functional Medicine. He has a special interest in parapsychology, mind-body medicine, and spirituality in medicine. His popular course on Udemy.com, “Power of the Mind in Health and Healing,” teaches how to use the power of your mind to heal your body and maximize your intuition.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

1. Benedetti F. Placebo and the new physiology of the doctor-patient relationship. Physiol Rev. 2013;93(3):1207-46.

2. Benedetti F, Carlino E, Pollo A. How placebos change the patient’s brain. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(1):339-54.

3. Kirsch I, Sapirstein G. Listening to Prozac but hearing placebo: A meta-analysis of antidepressant medication. Prevention & Treatment. 1998;1(2)

4. Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-medina TB, Scoboria A, Moore TJ, Johnson BT. Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med. 2008;5(2):e45.

5. Colloca L, Klinger R, Flor H, Bingel U. Placebo analgesia: psychological and neurobiological mechanisms. Pain. 2013;154(4):511-4.

6. Kam-hansen S, Jakubowski M, Kelley JM, et al. Altered placebo and drug labeling changes the outcome of episodic migraine attacks. Sci Transl Med. 2014;6(218):218ra5.

7. Benedetti F. The placebo response: science versus ethics and the vulnerability of the patient. World Psychiatry. 2012;11(2):70-2

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Stroke Victims to Be Given Psychedelic Drug DMT in First-Ever US Clinical Trials

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The hallucinogenic drug DMT (dimethyltriptamine) could provide crucial aid to stroke victims by minimizing the damage inflicted on victims’ brains as they are rushed to the hospital, according to researchers.

Canadian company Algernon Pharmaceuticals has laid out plans to microdose participants in the first clinical trial of its kind in hopes to help stroke victims’ brains recover faster through a “rewiring” process, reports Metro.

A stroke occurs when blood supplies to a part of the brain is drastically reduced or interrupted, starving the vital organ of fresh oxygen and nutrients and setting in motion the death of crucial nerve cells. In some cases, stroke can even lead to death. About 795,000 people suffer from strokes annually in the U.S.

However, researchers at Algernon argue that DMT could play a key role in staving off the worst effects of stroke by sparking the growth of new neurons, effectively turbo-charging the healing process.

In the first-ever clinical trials of this kind in the U.S., DMT will soon be administered to stroke patients in the back of ambulances. While the doses will be far too small to trigger any sort of hallucinations, scientists are claiming that the microdoses will still be sufficient for conferring benefits.

The Phase 1 trials could begin as soon as next month, if they receive a green light from authorities. It could still take years before the drug receives approval for human use.

Algernon CEO Christopher Moreau is hopeful that the drug will prove its ability to help heal the brains of those who suffer from a stroke.

“Since we’re dealing with stroke patients, we will be using the sub-hallucinogenic dose, which in pre-clinical studies has still shown to improve neuroplasticity,” Moreau explained.

“It will help the brain heal even though patients aren’t having the psychedelic experience, and we really don’t want that if your patient has just had a stroke,” he continued. “The sooner you can start to treat post-injury the better.”

However, the drug could likely have its limits.

“DMT may not benefit hemorrhagic (stroke victims), we don’t know, but we’re hoping it won’t cause them any problems because then we don’t have to wait for the CT scan, we can treat in the ambulance,” Moreau added.

DMT – also known as the “spirit molecule” for its extremely potent hallucinogenic properties – is one of the main psychoactive compounds found in ayahuasca, a brew consumed in shamanistic rituals that has been used for centuries in South America before finding its way into North America and Europe as a recreational drug popular at music festivals.

Experts and users of DMT have said that the drug has a similar impact to such other psychedelic drugs as LSD and psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms. However, the psychedelic experience or so-called “trip” from DMT is much shorter in duration than either of the other psychedelic drugs.

Studies of DMT have shown that it does have the ability to improve motor functions, and in tests on brain-damaged rats it helped trigger the formation of new brain cells.

Moreau claims that studies have shown that within hours of a stroke, the brain attempts to rewire itself – and that DMT may potentially accelerate the process.

At present, patients have little recourse in the immediate aftermath of a stroke because doctors seldom know what type of stroke someone may be suffering from. While ischemic strokes involving blood clots require blood thinner as treatment, hemorrhagic strokes require more invasive treatment.

However, the wrong type of treatment for a stroke could be fatal for patients.

Algernon hopes that if the first phase of trials prove successful, regulators will approve the more widespread usage of the treatment. In the second and third phases of the trial, Algernon hopes to continue DMT treatments over the short and long term to prove the efficacy of the treatment.

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U.S. Files Lawsuit Against Walmart for Role in Fueling Opioid Crisis

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In a new lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Walmart corporation has been accused of helping to fuel the opioid crisis by knowingly filling out thousands of suspicious subscriptions and failing to report the orders to authorities. The DOJ says that the company could be facing billions of dollars in civil penalties if the court rules against them.

The lawsuit claims that Walmart was being investigated for years due to its lenient policy on opioid prescriptions. The company is being accused of violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) at its pharmacies and its wholesale drug distribution centers.

Walmart responded to the lawsuit and the allegations with a statement denying the charges, insisting that the lawsuit is based on “a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors” and “cherry-picked documents taken out of context.”

The DOJ claims that Walmart “knowingly filled thousands of controlled substance prescriptions that were not issued for legitimate medical purposes.”

The company claimed that they did actually report cases to the DEA, and suggested that they were being blamed for the DEA’s own failures.

“In contrast to DEA’s own failures, Walmart always empowered our pharmacists to refuse to fill problematic opioids prescriptions, and they refused to fill hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions. Walmart sent DEA tens of thousands of investigative leads, and we blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled at our pharmacies,” a statement from the company read, according to CNN Business.

This lawsuit is just the most recent of many actions that the DOJ has carried out against large corporations that played a role in the opioid crisis. Earlier this year, OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three federal criminal charges for the role that it played in the ongoing opioid crisis.

Justice Department officials said that the company will be pleading guilty as part of a settlement worth over $8 billion. 

In the settlement, Purdue will pay $225 million directly to the government and will give up an additional $2 billion to the government through criminal asset forfeiture. The company also faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine, but this money may not be collected due to bankruptcy. Purdue also owes $2.8 billion in damages to cover lawsuits that victims have brought against the company.

The company will be pleading guilty to three federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws. The company admitted to pushing doctors to prescribe more opioids than they would have otherwise. Investigations into dozens of companies are currently ongoing, and more announcements are expected to come in the following months, with the potential of more charges against corporations that have yet to be named.

Some critics of the industry feel that the lawsuits do not go far enough, pointing out that most people would be facing harsh prison sentences if they were accused of selling drugs to the extent that these companies did.

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After This Mom Lost Her 1-Year-Old Son in a Car Crash, Health Insurers Left Her $175k of Debt

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Car Crash
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(TMU) — It’s no exaggeration to say that the United States health care system is in the grips of a major crisis.

Despite the country being the wealthiest in the world, over 34 million people are uninsured while even more are underinsured. Thousands of Americans die of preventable illness every year while many struggle to afford their expensive prescriptions, yet U.S. health care remains a multi-billion dollar industry that rakes in major profits year after year.

And while the crisis has been reduced by mainstream media to an election year talking point—or an issue of “the market” versus “socialism”—the health care system has a life-and-death impact on Americans from all walks of life.

Such was the case for Michelle DuBarry, a Portland-based writer whose tragic experience with U.S. health care reveals all that’s wrong with a system that upholds corporate profits rather than human life.

When DuBarry’s 1-year-old son died after he was struck by a careless driver along with his father Eric, rather than being left to mourn she instead “sat at his bedside, his tiny, stitched-together body hooked to a million incessantly beeping machines, straining to recall what our deductibles were.”

Doctors had attempted to save the baby’s life but after two surgeries and one night in the ICU, he succumbed to his injuries. However, his death was only the beginning of a bereaved mother’s unimaginable ordeal at the hands of heartless health insurers and the bureaucracy that serves it.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669877628256256

DuBarry was already in dire straits because she was a new hire at her job and having worked less than a year in her position, she wasn’t comfortable taking days off. After all, if she lost this job then she could kiss her health insurance goodbye.

But a week hadn’t even passed before the hospital where she lost her son served her and her husband’s home with a lien. Having just lost their son, DuBarry and her husband now had to look at the possibility of losing their home.

In effect, the hospital was saying “Sucks that your son is gone, but we did our best – time to pay up!” Additionally, DuBarry’s husband couldn’t receive any treatment from his primary care doctor because not only would his supposedly “good” health insurance not cover it, but his doctor wouldn’t accept payment from the auto insurance company either.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669880736190465

Eventually, they only had to pay $5,000 following the death of their child and they still had a bit of cash from the auto insurance company on behalf of the reckless driver who killed the child. But once the health insurers realized that DuBarry and her husband got $175,000 from the auto insurance company, they did what any good predator would do: they sent their legal team to seize the funds leaving the grieving parents penniless.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669882573377537

DuBarry and her husband had no option to go on family and medical leave, so they did what good Americans are supposed to do: they went back to work toiling away to cover their mortgage and bills despite the catastrophic loss of their baby boy.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669884666273792

And while the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” is often touted as a major benefit to millions of people who would otherwise lack health insurance, it did precious little to help DuBarry and her husband after their devastating hospital visit.

DuBarry told her story on her personal website, explaining:

“In 2010, my husband Eric and our son Seamus were struck by a careless driver in a crosswalk near our home. Eric sustained minor injuries, and Seamus died the next day after enduring two surgeries and a night in intensive care. Our hospital bills totaled $180,000, and though most of it was covered by health insurance, we still had thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

They “soon learned that our health insurer was entitled to reimbursement out of these funds, effectively reducing our settlement to $0.” Due to these experiences, DuBarry began organizing to fight for a bill that would match the laws in many other states where the injured party is “made whole” for all damages from the at-fault party’s insurance prior to the injured party’s medical insurer getting paid. The bill was finally signed into law last June and DuBarry sees it as her late child’s legacy.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669886604075008

Michelle has now joined the growing legions of Americans demanding a universal healthcare system. While the plan has been lambasted by the right, as well as by Democratic Party bosses, many experts have hailed the plan as far more practical and less expensive than the status quo.

People across the globe were floored by DuBarry’s exceptionally American ordeal.

One Twitter user commented:

“In Canada, all that would have been free, and not only that, you wouldn’t have even needed to think about it. Our complete medical is paid from our taxes.”

While another wrote:

“All public health care is free in Australia. Can’t understand why USA unwilling to do the same. It’s just a cost the government meets.”

While Americans on both sides of the political divide—both “conservatives” and “liberals”—often revel in patriotic pride over the alleged greatness of the United States and the supposed “freedom” that citizenship offers, this woman and her husband found out that there simply is no choice under a private health care model. Instead, the health insurance industry is out to squeeze every last dollar from those who are suffering.

Why is it so hard for so many people to imagine a model where our health and happiness is protected rather than the profits of a small handful of health insurance corporations?

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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