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There is no treatment in psychiatry that targets an underlying cause of an illness. All treatments in psychiatry merely block or replace brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that are elevated or reduced. This includes psychiatric medication but also includes non-pharmacological treatments such as cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. It could also include alternative treatments such as chiropractic care and acupuncture.

Psychiatry is a unique branch of medicine because non-pharmacological treatments often work as well as pharmacological treatments. Neurotransmitters regulate all bodily functions and we don’t know why they are altered in psychiatric illness. We do know that this alteration is a symptom and not the cause of illness. The new neuroscience of the placebo effect is uncovering the mechanism by which non-pharmacological interventions can effect compensatory neurotransmitter function.

This section is about how the placebo effect should be maximized in psychiatry and how complementary treatments, which often work through the placebo effect, could have a more demonstrable role provided there are no false claims or deception.

-Morgan Levy, MD



Video (5:15): Placebo Medicine- Psychiatry (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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