Do Any Drugs Really Work?
In a 1962 experiment Drs. Harriet Linton and Robert Langs told test subjects they were going to participate in a study of the effects of LSD, but then gave them a placebo instead.
Nonetheless, half an hour after taking the placebo, the subjects began to experience the classic symptoms of the actual drug, loss of control, supposed insight into the meaning of existence, and so on. These "placebo trips" lasted several hours.
A few years later, in 1966, the now infamous Harvard psychologist Richard Alpert journeyed to the East to look for holy men who could offer him insight into the LSD experience. He found several who were willing to sample the drug and, interestingly, received a variety of reactions.
But the reaction that fascinated Alpert most came from a wizened little holy man in the foothills of the Himalayas. Alpert gave him one of his 315 microgram pills, but still the man was not satisfied. With a twinkle in his eye he requested another and then another and placed all 915 micrograms of LSD on his tongue, a massive dose by any standard, and swallowed them.
Shocked, Alpert watched intently, expecting the man to start waving his arms and whooping like a banshee, but instead he behaved as if nothing had happened. He remained that way for the rest of the day, his demeanor as serene and unperturbed as it always was, save for the twinkling glances he occasionally tossed Alpert.
The LSD apparently had little or no effect on him. Alpert was so moved by the experience he gave up LSD, changed his name to Ram Dass, and converted to mysticism.
And so, taking a placebo may well produce the same effect as taking the real drug, and taking the real drug might produce no effect!
There is also a case on record of a man addicted to the stimulant Ritalin, whose addiction was then transferred to a placebo. In other words, the man's doctor enabled him to avoid all the usual unpleasantries of Ritalin withdrawal by secretly replacing his prescription with sugar pills. Unfortunately the man then went on to display an addiction to the placebo!
Such events are not limited to experimental situations. Placebos also play a role in our everyday lives. Does caffeine keep you awake at night?
Research has shown that even an injection of caffeine won't keep caffeine-sensitive individuals awake if they believe they are receiving a sedative.
Have you ever experienced an unpleasant side effect after taking a medication?
In a study of a tranquilizer called mephenesin, researchers found that 10 to 20 percent of the test subjects experienced negative side effects—including nausea, itchy rash, and heart palpitations—regardless of whether they were given the actual drug
The mind is a powerful thing.