27 July 2011

The Placebo Effect

A placebo is a medicine that is ineffective but may help to relieve a condition because the patient has faith in its powers.

As a nurse, I have had experiences with clients who have low pain thresholds; complaining every waking hour of their stay in the hospital even when you just gave them their dose of analgesics. Pain is subjective, and we can never really tell whether a client is really in severe pain or just opiate dependent, or diva-ish. But there's one test that helps medical professionals to test if the complaints are real. The placebo. Instead of giving the dose of the prescribed medication, as needed, a medication of lesser effect (or no effect at all), will be administered. Once the patient  respond to that treatment and claim to be relieved of the symptom, then it's not real pain.

I was reminded of this term as I watched one episode of National Geographic Channel's Taboo series. They featured what the society proscribes as improper or unacceptable practice regarding food, health, well-being, and healing.

Taboo will test your boundaries and push beyond your comfort zone. Understand seemingly bizarre and shocking practices from around the world.
One high-class restaurant in Beijing serves a traditional dish they call "hot pot." It's an expensive and popular dish with the male reproductive organ of certain animals as the main ingredient. There is a deep belief in the Chinese culture that eating the animal part will heal the same part of the body. And although there has been no scientific proof to this belief, the traditional medicine, which has been proven effective by many, is where they put their faith in. But does it really heal? Or is it placebo effect?

Another story was about faith healing. I remember a time, watching news in the television featuring faith healers. I was in primary school back then. I've watched healers, without any other equipment but their hands, pulling out of a person's belly something like deceased meat, claiming it's what he extracted from the body of the sick. During the "procedure" blood would gush out of the operative site, which makes the whole thing look so real. Then all the blood would be wiped out, and whalla! No wounds or openings. No stitches and expensive professional fees, and you're healed! The customers believed so. And they felt better... for quite some time. Is it just plain optimism that prolonged their life, certain that their health was restored? Or is it really effective? They were not called "faith healers" for nothing!

It just goes to show how powerful our minds are. And that where we place our complete faith to, we surely will see some great results, even beyond belief. The world will give us alternative cures to our problems and answers to our questions. Although it may bring relief, it will be temporary. The danger is when we become numb to the pain because we're given "placebos" that we don't feel the need for real medicine anymore, and stick with the cure that doesn't really have any effect. Like any client in the medical field, we will never be told it's placebo we're getting.
Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
We all have mountain-moving faith. The problem begins when we put our faith on people and things of this world, finite and changing as they are. We can be easily deceived into believing that a certain gem will give us luck or better future; or that following cool and trending styles will make us more likeable. Tell you what: you became more confident while wearing what you think will make you so; and confidence is the best wardrobe you can ever wear. But the future will always be filled with uncertainties and problems, and gems won't help. You can't please everyone, then you'll realize it's not about what you wear.

Put your faith instead in God. He is unchanging. He is the miraculous healer. He is pleased with you and loves you unconditionally. He knows your future. He wrote about our stories even before we came to be. We don't need placebos. God is offering the CURE, we need only claim it. He will restore you. Life may not be problem-free, but like a water-proof watch immersed in water, we can be secured under God's sovereignty.
Proverbs 3: 5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
 Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God, all things are possible with God."