It was not that long ago that alternative and mainstream medicine were the same thing. At that time medical research was a process of rationalizing the cause and treatment of an illness based on personal experience and intuition. Some treatments may have had active ingredients and others worked by employing the placebo effect. More recently scientific methods have limited bias in our research and we have begun to discover treatments based on factual evidence. Many in the scientific community predicted the demise of alternative therapies and practitioners. This did not happen. In fact, alternative medicine is bigger and more active today than it has ever been.
This section will explore what alternative treatments actually do and what they do not do. Some treatments may be effective but have not yet been studied well enough for us to be sure. Some treatments are effective for one thing but are claimed to be effective for a range of other things. Other treatments are totally inert and yet still have therapeutic benefit for nausea, pain, psychosomatic illness, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders through the placebo effect. Treatments in this last category are often falsely touted as treatments for everything under the sun.
I coined the term “Placebo Medicine” to create a category for treatments that utilize aspects of the placebo effect. You may think that I am promoting the use of deception but that is not true. You can maximize the placebo effect in both alternative and mainstream medicine without using any deception at all. Alternative treatments should focus on how and what they are actually able to do through the placebo effect and not promote things they clearly can not do. Mainstream treatments need to maximize the non-pharmacologic doctor-patient relationship factors that enhance the placebo effect. The two sides can work together to figure out better ways to treat patients.
Video (5:21): Placebo Medicine- Medicine (introduction)
Dr. Levy does speaking engagements to both professional and non-professional groups on a sliding scale. Read his bio and contact him at: Morgan L. Levy, MD
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