Placebos Grow More Effective In The Treatment Of Schizophrenia

Dig it! According to a recent study, as reported on Fox News, sugar pills are more effective in the treatment of schizophrenia today than they were 10 years ago, Schizophrenia patients increasingly responding to placebos in trials.

Studies of schizophrenia drugs are increasingly finding lesser effects because more patients are responding to drug-free placebos used for comparison, according to a new United States government study.

I guess this is good news for placebo makers.

What’s more, recent clinical trials of second-generation antipsychotics — which emerged 20 years ago and now dominate the market — have been finding smaller treatment effects compared with trials from the early 1990s.

According to the article Food and Drug Administration researchers reviewed 32 clinical trials submitted to the agency between 1991 and 2008 to come up with their figures.

The researchers found North American trials done in more recent years turned up smaller treatment effects than older studies.

Dr. Thomas P. Laughren, one of the researchers, claimed that this was not because the drugs were any less effective, instead it was because patients given placebos started showing better responses. I guess this is proof positive that over the past 10 years placebos have been getting more powerful.

Another theory has it that the patients being treated today are less “sick”.

The patients responses on the drugs remained constant over time. Given the drug, there was a 13 point reduction of symptoms over a 4 to 8 week period. With the placebo this response changed over the years from 2 points between 1991 and 1998 to an average of 7 points between 1999 and 2008.

While the drugs showed a great statistical advantage over the placebo in the short term, it is our hope that these improved results could lead to more prolonged studies. If the clinical trials went on for quite a bit longer than 4 to 8 weeks, one school of thought has it that the placebo effect would eventually gain a distinct edge over the drug effect.

Any sporting person out there want to wager a bet over the outcome of this challenge? It is quite possible that the neuroleptic drug is a more of a sprinter beside the placebo which in the end could prove to be more of a marathon runner.

15 Responses

  1. This article reminds me of a documentary “A Drop of Sunshine”. A documentary about Reshma Valliappan , was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. ‘A Drop of Sunshine’ chronicles Reshma’s story of survival and also challenges mainstream views on the mental condition.

    Watch this documentary – Culture Unplugged

  2. Response to a placebo means they don’t have “schizophrenia”, No one has schizophrenia , or everyone has schizophrenia.

    • Shhh. That’s thinking outside of the textbook, and it can get you locked up.

      It also means SSRI antidepressants aren’t the only drugs that are competing with placebos for competence. The “no drug” drug works wonders for some people. Why aren’t we doing more with “no drugs” than we are presently doing? Why, of course, because drug company profits are so important. When you’ve got a problem population of unwanted people, the easiest thing to do with them is to sedate them into a unintrusive oblivion. How do they become a problem population? They prove themselves unacceptable to the 1 % that own the vast majority of the countries wealth. Among that 1 % are drug company exes. Drug company exes, politicians, bankers, manufacturers, tech moguls, media moguls, and celebrities…people who count. 99 % of the people are left in the cold, and wondering how do we cut the corruption that has resulted in so many psychiatriatic casualties (dead “nobodies”) for one thing. Then there is the kind of illogic that is at work in all this. The community of the 1 % is a serious threat to the community of the 99 %. Let’s give them more clout than they presently have. That’s sanity? Oh, didn’t you know, 99 % of population exist to serve 1 % of the population. With all the dirty money in politics these days, you can buy them in, you just can’t vote them out. It’s not people who are pulling their strings, it’s money. We’ve gotten rid of anti-trust laws, and let the corporations do what we won’t let the mob do, buy the country.

      Let me say that I’m exaggerating slightly. The real split is between the 1 % + the sell outs in their hire = 20 %, and everybody else, or 80 % of the population. In money grubbing speed freak competition talk, “everybody can’t be a winner”. That leaves us 80 percenters cleaning up the mess after the party. Uh, and contrary to popular opinion, it’s not 2 parties. 20 % of the population doesn’t = direct democracy.

  3. People with money who act out are thought of as wild and fun. People without money who do that are locked up and drugged.

    What is needed now is a study of people being given placebos compared to people being given nothing. This will tell us who is benefiting from thinking they are receiving a drug and who is benefiting from time to get better without drugs.

    I think it likely that schizophrenia is something that affects us on a sliding scale. Some people will never understand it, others will have glimpses, and a minority will experience it more fully. Getting drunk or taking drugs causes a facsimile amongst many and often these activities are cited as causes of schizophrenia.

    Just about everyone experiences internal dialogue. I do not see why it is such a stretch of the imagination to see that this is enhanced in some people, and that the phenomenon doesn’t necessarily make them crazy.

    Thank you to Rewati, “A Drop of Sunshine” is great. Thank you for posting the link. All psychiatric students in their first lecture ought to see this before a word is even spoken.

    • People with money who act out can be locked up and drugged as well. I just think the probability somewhat less. They also have the money to afford prevention and treatment options that people without money just don’t have as a rule.

      I think the placebo effect has been greatly exaggerated. I also think the drug effect has been exaggerated as well. The problem is that these clinical trials only last a circumscribed number of weeks. If you were to treat the patient with a placebo long term, eventually the placebo is likely to do better than a drug. Health, after all, is not “maintained” through drug use.

      I don’t think comparing non-drug treatments with treatment by placebo makes a whole lot of sense. Both treatment modalities are non-drug. We don’t speak of a non-drug effect, but that is essientially what a placebo effect is. Are we saying that some of this behavior is psycho-somatic rather than strictly biological? Yes, I think it is. The placebo effect would indicate that it is as well.

      I’ve heard someone talk about referring to “voices” as “loud thoughts”, and so I think that there is a sense that some of these “voices” are thought to stem from an internal dialogue. It is the negative “voice” in this dialogue that causes trouble. People sometimes claim to hear “voices” telling them that they are “bad” people, and then some people claim to hear “voices” telling them to off themselves, or the “bad” person that the “voice” claims they are.

      Psychoanalysis sometimes attributes these “voices” to people in a person’s past, sometimes a parent, and I’ve even heard of “voices” going away once the speaker has been identified.

      • Yes.

        The placebo effect indicates how people fare when they think they are receiving a drug when they are not. This is not the same as not being drugged and knowing it.

        Yes. This is essentially what I am saying. Some “loud thoughts” can become overwhelming and relief might only come from self injury or acting against others.

        Addressing the voices is another way of dealing with them.

        I have not figured out why very young children in what appear to be loving homes get affected although.

      • There are many kinds of “love”. You’ve got the “love” of families who unwittingly scapegoat a family member. You’ve got the “tough love” of parents who hate their kids. You’ve got the “love” of over protective parents who could literally “love” a child to death. You know, in a behind the scenes look at any “picture perfect” family, all is not “perfect”. If you’re looking for an “ideal” family, or even an “ideal” situation, you’re not going to find them outside of maybe Hans Christian Anderson, or the brothers Grimm.

  4. They would be “psychiatry” students. But then..

  5. I know, I know. I always look to the family and think there most be something going on that we don’t know about. But experiencing powerful multiple hallucinations at a young age is unusual, even in the most screwed up of family situations. We would have to know everything in order to make an informed assessment and that is just not going to happen.

    I do think, however, that diagnosing a young child and treating them as if they are irretrievably ill and have a “condition” is a bad approach. Children are still forming their personalities and having all this adult input telling them that they are sick is inevitably going to shape the way they see themselves. What might be a phase a particular child goes through – similar to having an imaginary friend, perhaps – wrongly becomes their lot for life.

    • Children are innocent, literally. Adults, not so much.

      We know antidepressants and stimulants trigger mania or psychosis in a certain percentage of cases. This “disease”, if that’s what it is, is iatrogenic in nature.

      The ‘1/2 of all lifetime “mental ill” “diagnosed” by age 14’ statistic is particularly disturbing. I just see a school for learning helplessness at work in this sort of thing. The mental health system is all about dependency. If one is to leave it, certain graduated steps have to be built for doing so. Just abandoning a person to the system, is abandoning them to their fate, and it isn’t a self-sufficient one.

      Am I saying the system is broken? Yes, after a fashion. Provision and caring are not the same thing. The needed epiphany acknowledges that the real world is out there, beyond the walls of the treatment facility. Stick around too long, and you will only get stuck. Chronic labels are due to this reluctance in takng the leap. When it’s often a matter of physical survival, and people are encouraged to take advantage of the system. What can you do?

      • The “real world” has become such a set of fake structures on all levels that we are taken further and further away from what is real. It is natural to want to escape from this fakery but we are bombarded with the idea that there must be something wrong with us if we take steps to do so. People end up feeling out of step with the world for feeling like they do not fit in with the way things are. It takes strength and fortitude to beat a path through the jungle.

  6. Hi, I loved reading the comments here. I certainly look at the placebo effect working at various levels. I remember my physician who shared an experience of it. A patient came in with actual pain caused by an injury. Nothing psycho-somatic. The physician gave him a regular vitamin but told him it was a pain killer and his pain would go away..and it did just that. Likewise, in schizophrenia I would see the same thing happening. When one if given the same medication over a period of time, our minds form a chain of patterns thereby creating more placebo like effects making one depend on medications. And like any drug or alcohol there always reaches a tolerance level, then we need more of it, hence creating another placebo effect pattern.
    I suppose my constant relapses somehow made me realize the tricks of my own mind while I was educating myself simultaneously to understand the symptoms. Though I wouldn’t advice this to anyone, as we all know relapses does cause graver experiences in the ‘madness’.
    But what I learnt to figure was that if I could somehow work on my will to re-introduce a new pattern to my mind at that particular moment, I was able to reconstruct another placebo effect of my own…a sort of like an art within the madness. And the constant practicing of it (like just about everything we do in life ‘practice makes perfect) enhanced my ability to deprive the earlier placebo effect which my mind was acquainted to and instead create a newer effect which is almost a daily ritual for me today, to live without any medications. That’s where my everyday living consist of a lot of creative work, such as painting, music, active meditation (martial arts), sports, pets, dancing, etc. Hope this makes sense? – Reshma from ‘A Drop of Sunshine’

    • Makes a lot of sense actually. The placebo effect is all about mind over matter. Turning your attention to something that absorbs you can be a way of getting outside of a problem, a diagnosis, or a label, and sometimes it works, as it may have done in your case. Obsessing, on the other hand, can be a way of staying stuck, whether intentionally or not.

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