Ivy-Placebo_Modern or Hystorical

Ivy-Placebo_Modern or Hystorical - The placebo: Historical...

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The placebo: Historical Oversight or Modern Discovery? Daniel Ivy Placebos are inert substances, such as sugar pills, that are used as controls in clinical trials with the intent of mimicking some experimental intervention. The placebo effect is a term used to describe an unexplained occurrence as the inert placebo actually changes a patient’s condition, sometimes curing the patient completely. A landmark study conducted in 1955 showed that 35% of 1000 participants found their conditions improved when all they did was take placebos (Beecher, 1955). However, this study was not the first time that the placebo effect was observed in history, despite what most modern sources might say (de Crean, 1999). Shamanism is the oldest form of healing known to man. Shamanism is the belief that a religious leader can bestow healing powers to their followers which are granted to them by their deity. Both shamanism and the placebo effect improve the conditions of patients through means that modern medicine is unable to explain. “Any health outcome that does not fit biomedicine’s primary explanatory model of physical cause-effect reasoning can operationally be dumped into the waste basket of placebo effects” (Kaptchuk, 2001). If modern medicine understands the placebo effect to merely be any agent that will unexplainably heal a patient then shamanism must also be considered a form of the placebo effect. This consideration is based on the fact that modern medicine does not have an explainable reason why a sugar pill can improve a patient’s condition, nor can it explain the remedy brought by the intricate chanting of a faith healer. The primary cause of this historical oversight has to do with the desire for western society to understand the new cultures it encountered throughout history. In most cases
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little or nothing was revealed about shamanism because the practitioners were illiterate and were told to explain what they did in the foreign language of their newfound western neighbors (Anyanwu, 2000). The Shamen would explain that their gods gave them healing powers, a notion which was considered heresy by most incoming western cultures. Therefore, the common belief was that the source of their healing was based on the use of local herbs and concocted elixirs; however, further investigation would have revealed another variable that was allowing the patients to be healed completely. Science does not recognize divine intervention as a plausible healing method. Since Shamen were able to miraculously heal their tribesmen, it appears that the placebo may have a much more diverse lineage than modern medicine would imply. Shamanism is the practice, in some cultures, to elect a tribal shaman who acts as the healer for the tribe or village. The practice of shamanism dates back to ancient times primarily in the regions of Central Asia and North America and is still practiced by some non- industrialized cultures. Shamanistic medicine is centered on belief, imagination, and will,
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This note was uploaded on 03/06/2011 for the course PSYCH 212 taught by Professor Dansullivan during the Spring '11 term at NYU.

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Ivy-Placebo_Modern or Hystorical - The placebo: Historical...

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