A placebo, by its very nature, is supposed to be a non substance, a non issue, a non treatment. It is something given to people so they think they are getting a special program or medication. This is not necessarily to trick them into being well, but for scientists to trick themselves. One group gets the real thing and the other gets 'no thing' and researchers collect information on the two groups sometime later. Next, a person who has no idea which person got the real thing analyzes the data to see if the two groups have the same outcome - i.e score on a test, weight or change in health condition. The best studies are double blind - no one(participant or scientist) knows who got the real thing until the end.
The placebo effect is when someone gets better without the treatment. It should be harmless right? Even a good thing - you got nothing and yet you are well - YIPPEE.
That is not the case with the story aired on 60 Minutes this past Sunday. It regards the lack of effectiveness of antidepressant medications. The people may be improving but NOT because of the pills. Sort of a reverse placebo effect, except the pills are, in many instances, toxic.
Nearly 11% of Americans age 12 and up take antidepressant medication and maybe half of them take them without just cause. See the National Center for Health Statistics report here. Some antidepressant medications have the potential to cause metabolic dysfunction and increase the risk for diabetes. AND - the pills cost a lot of money in copays and for insurance companies as well as Medicaid and Medicare. They are not harmless or free.
Watch the story below or on CBS, or read it here.. You decide, is the antidepressant placebo effect something to address? Is there a reason to take some people off the pills? Whatever your thoughts, remember that medications should always be discussed with a physician - before starting and or stopping.