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Placebo Studies

Controversial and ethically tenuous, the use of placebos is central to medicine but even more pivotal to psy- chosocial therapies. While studies report that half of US-based physicians regularly prescribe placebos, it is unclear how these American findings compare with data from other thriving medical models. In my lab we probe patterns of use, as well as attitudes and beliefs, concerning placebos outside of clinical research.

The science of placebos poses some difficult questions: Why are placebo injections more effec- tive than placebo pills? And why is sham surgery more effective than both? Why do red placebos stimulate whereas blue placebos calm? Why do more placebos work better than few? And why do more expensive placebos work better than cheaper ones?

Exploring the use of placebos in clinical practice

Encompassing a spectrum of non-drug effects, scientific findings demonstrate that placebos can initiate robust physiological changes. While studies report that about half of US-based physicians regularly prescribe placebos, it is unclear how these findings vary across North America. Our studies aim to probe placebo attitudes, knowledge, and patterns of use from physicians practicing in Canada.

Teaching placebo science in medical school

Placebos are central to medicine; however, medical training seldom educates future physicians about the science of placebos and non-drug factors. We aim to propose learning objectives that will enable physicians and other health care professionals to be well informed members of the medical community and society.

Exploring the pharmacological treatment of depression

Several meta-analytic findings suggest a negligible clinical benefit of antidepressants over placebos for the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. While physicians may not be able to prescribe pure placebos, it appears that they are using sub-therapeutic doses of medication. Our research seeks to gain clinical insight into this conundrum by probing physician atitudes, behaviours and rationales regarding the the use of sub-therapeutic doses of antidepressants for depression. We are using results from interviews and an international physician survey (link to survey) to explore the vagaries of sub-therapeutic doses and shed light on their role in the armamentarium of the modern clinician.

Suggestibility of Children vs Adults

The literature suggests but does not conclude that youth may demonstrate higher placebo effects than adults. Using asthma as a model, we are directly investigating the differences between adults and children with the aim of identifying if any objective differences exist. (please see Psychological Components in Asthma for more details).

Effects of Open Placebo Administration

Placebo analogies in diet and food culture

The non-drug effects of medication