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Placebo healing website

Cures all known ills - because you believe it.
  (+4, -1)
(+4, -1)
  [vote for,

A web page headed with something to the effect that by pushing the button, your particular ailment may be relieved by means of the well documented and proven placebo effect.

In the middle of the page is a large button labelled 'press'.

At the bottom of the page is a note pointing out that the service is free to use. Users are invited to make a voluntary donation if they feel better.

This exploits the placebo effect in an honest manner, without the snake oil, religion, magnets, plastic wristbands, homeopathy or other bullshit for which the hard of thinking are charged small fortunes.

Twizz, Nov 24 2010

Sceptical alternative therapy Sceptical_20alternative_20therapy
Here it is [nineteenthly, Nov 24 2010]

Bad Science http://www.badscien...-thing-in-medicine/
[hippo, Nov 24 2010]

"An Exploration of Neurotic Patients' Responses to Placebo When Its Inert Content Is Disclosed" http://www.leecrand...pages/placebo1.html
[Archives of General Psychiatry, April 1965] [hippo, Nov 24 2010]

(?) The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything http://www.pixelsca...tulacity/button.htm
Est. 1994 [Cedar Park, Nov 27 2010]


       Baked: 700 club.
MikeD, Nov 24 2010

       Edited to include religion in the list of 'withouts'.   

       I had deliberately left it out to begin with, since the religious tend to be a bit sniffy about this kind of thing.   

       But now that that particular stone has been thrown from that particular glass house...
Twizz, Nov 24 2010

       Who? Me?   

       I stow no thrones in grass houses!
MikeD, Nov 24 2010

       I've already done this on here. Whether i've done it in reality or not is for you to judge. In the meantime you may wish to speculate about why the alleged "small fortune" i charge means i have to save up to buy a pint of milk.
nineteenthly, Nov 24 2010

       //This exploits the placebo effect in an honest manner, without the snake oil, religion, magnets, plastic wristbands, homeopathy or other bullshit for which the hard of thinking are charged small fortunes.//   

       No it doesn't.   

       The placebo effect requires the recipient to believe.   

       A big red button on the internet might not provide enough meat to suspend upon the bone of disbelief.   

       In other words, all that mysticism isn't necessarily a bad thing.   

       Furthermore, in just the same way that people paying large amounts of cash for a designer handbag will believe they are happier or more stylish, so will people paying larger amounts of cash believe that they are in good medical hands.   

       People aren't rational creatures - that's not always a bad thing - but it probably is worth bearing in mind.
zen_tom, Nov 24 2010

       [zen-t] Actually there is evidence that giving people placebos and telling them that they are receiving placebo pills can have a beneficial effect as well (see links).
hippo, Nov 24 2010

       Sorry, i would vote against this if i voted against things, but i think my idea is better. This is less subtle and doesn't represent the placebo effect. You also seem to assume that efficacy is the most important issue.   

       I hate doing the job i do but i also find it very rewarding. Obviously i believe it works but even if not, it stops people with imaginary ailments from clogging up the healthcare system. There are also various other issues not connected to how well different approaches to health work, which i really can't be bothered to go into here. If you really want to know, read the blog.   

       Oh yes, and Ben Goldacre, that bloke who claimed alternative health courses kept their materials secret for example, then when i emailed him - oh forget it, just read the fucking blog.
nineteenthly, Nov 24 2010

       [hippo] but, reading the script read to the patients in the study from your link were led to believe that the pills they were being given had curative qualities and were also provided with strict instructions on how to administer the pills. Both of these suggestions would plant a potentially plausable seed of belief in a way that I think it would be difficult to replicate with an internet button.   

       Unless of course, you wrapped up the button-pressing with some kind of ritualistic (losely termed, taking tablets 3 times a day is a kind of secular ritual) element, and perhaps some back-story describing a process by which the button-press generates a healing field, or other rationalisation that makes the button-press plausible.
zen_tom, Nov 24 2010

       How about promulgating a religion of pressing a big button on the internet? The act of pressing could be a strictly rquired daily observance, connecting the devotee to the divine and ensuring their spiritual development and salvation.   

       Edit to include a reply to [ZT]: Perhaps the button press could generate a string of random numbers, which would be logged in a public database; the numbers representing the kabbalistic permutations of the divine name. When the database was full, the process could restart with one extra digit added to the number, representing a step upwards in Humanity's collective spiritual development.
pocmloc, Nov 24 2010

       Some feature of the site would have to alter depending on the woe of the visitor. As I understand it, the colour, size, shape and taste of placebo pills can all affect a pill placebo's efficacy... a website would require the user to describe their illness and generate a "cure" on the fly.   

       [Small grey bun], because this post made me feel better.
Dub, Nov 24 2010

       what's the name of that Tenor's stunt double ? Placebo Domingo.   

       [+] for the idea, though a bit more mumbo-jumbo might be in order.
FlyingToaster, Nov 24 2010

       // a homeopathic placebo? //   

       100% active ingredient - guaranteed completely ineffective.   

       Post that, [IT] and we will bestow pastry upon it.
8th of 7, Nov 24 2010

       Clearly this is not for everyone. Those who require ritual, expenditure or hardware to focus their belief in a cure will still be drawn toward more heavily embellished placebos.   

       This is intended for people like myself, who need to understand what it is that actually does the job and who will eliminate all the mumbo jumbo until we find it.   

       Nineteenthly's idea is quite different. It uses the well documented benefits of human interaction and suggests changes to the patients lifestyle which can have direct effects on their health.   

       That is not placebo in the pure form that I am suggesting.
Twizz, Nov 25 2010

       Sorry, i was in a bad mood due to an abscess i've now cured by mumbo- jumbo, apparently. That must explain why it went away in a few hours, i mean it couldn't be that it actually worked or anything could it?   

       Anyway. I'm rather sceptical about homoeopathy but i wouldn't comment on it without a research protocol agreed between homoeopaths and medical scientists, ecological validity and so on, which wasn't what that publicity stunt a few months ago provided. I'm not a homoeopath because i wouldn't feel comfortable doing it because to me it's counter-intuitive.   

       Placebo does involve pleasing, hence the name, so the question is, is clicking a button sufficiently pleasing to provide the result desired. You would have to go quite far to do that. I do think it operates in some areas, for instance online petitions seem to make people feel like they've done something about an issue. Or offline ones, come to think of it.   

       There's apparently a hierarchy of placebo effects (can't cite, sorry, anecdotal), with surgery at the top.
nineteenthly, Nov 28 2010

       It's quite reasonable to expect that a patient would gain more placebo effect from a procedure which involves more interaction with anything identified as a treatment, so surgery would qualify highly and white tablets less so.   

       I am in the habit of actively creating my own placebos as required. If I wake up with a migraine (which happens about once a week) I will decide what today's cure will be. This might be walking the dog, cutting the steel sheet for the next project in the workshop etc. Whatever it is, I decide it's going to work and mostly, it does.   

       I can come up with reasons why the act of walking or sawing steel might have some physiological effect, but I believe that the reasoning, rather than the action, is part of the mechanism.   

       If folk can convince themselves that homeopathy etc. have direct physiological effects, they can do the same for the button.
Twizz, Dec 01 2010

       The way to convince oneself, or otherwise, that homoeopathy worked would be to test it sensibly rather than through publicity stunts and thrown-together slapdash research. I personally don't think it does but i also recognise that as my prejudice.   

       I do actually do and recommend something similar along the lines of taste and flavour. Just as there's a cephalic phase of digestion, there seems to be something similar with herbal remedies, so imagining the taste or flavour can trigger the same reflexes.
nineteenthly, Dec 01 2010

       Surely the Placebo website doesn't actually have to exist for it to work?
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 02 2010

       // personally don't think it does but i also recognise that as my prejudice.//   

       No, it's not a prejudice. It's a rational conclusion based on all the available evidence. Fuck relativism.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 02 2010

       Quite right. It's not a prejudice, it's a postjudice.
mouseposture, Dec 03 2010

       I disagree. I haven't looked at the evidence at all. I feel uncomfortable with the idea that homoeopathy works because it would conflict with my world view. However, there are plenty of counterintuitive truths. It's not practical for me to pursue homoeopathy because my strong suspicion that it's ineffective undermines the placebo effect of my relationship with the patient. I wouldn't be able to come across as plausible.
nineteenthly, Dec 03 2010

       Yes, but your world view probably encompasses things like atoms and molecules, and a decent amount of general science. And, on the basis of all of this, your world view says that homeopathy is sheer bollocks. To invalidate your opinion by saying that it's prejudiced by what you know just means that you can never hold an opinion on anything.   

       Anyway, I'm just rambling. Basically, homeopathy is a huge pile of crap, and says more about placebo effects and the ability of humans to deceive themselves and others than it does about anything else.   

       Of course, that's just my world view but, at the same time, it's true, whereas the world view of homeopathists is false.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 03 2010

       What i'm saying is, i would hold back from making any comments about the efficacy of homoeopathy until i come across good quality research using a methodology with which both scientists and homoeopaths are comfortable. It makes no sense at all to me because with 30C the concentration is way below a single molecule per large volume and the solubility of other compounds with which it comes into contact must be higher than the supposed concentration of the original remedy. I haven't looked for studies of evidence either way.   

       Obviously it does impinge considerably on my life since people confuse what i do with homoeopathy and plenty of my clients use it, so to be honest, i really should look into it at some point. Maybe even now.
nineteenthly, Dec 03 2010

       Perhaps I'm using the term "homeopathy" too broadly. I am referring to the use of ludicrously dilute solutions to treat illnesses; and also the indiscriminate application of the idea that "like cures like". These concepts are bollocks.   

       I have nothing against the idea that many plants contain pharmacologically active compounds; nor the the idea that concentrated pharmaceuticals can have side effects (as, indeed, can many plants if you eat enough of them to deliver a useful dose of the compound of interest).   

       As for the placebo effect, I believe utterly and totally that it works and can be extremely powerful. This is not a mystery - it is simply a statement of the complexity of the brain, both as an organ of perception and as an organ of regulation. It would surprising if the placebo effect did *not* exist.   

       As for acupuncture, there's no law of physics that says sticking needles in someone can't do anything. I think most of its effect is either mumbo-jumbo or pure placebo effect, but if someone can show a physical (physiological) mechanism then that's fine.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 03 2010

       People have been doing astrology for thousands of years.   

       Like I said, I'm happy with acupuncture having an effect.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 03 2010

       I have always understood 'homeopathy' to be specifically concerned with the use of ridiculously diluted substances and not in any way the basis of modern medicine.   

       What Codakron describes sounds more like 'holistic medicine'. This is a more realistic approach, but still seems to be laced with mumbo jumbo.
Twizz, Dec 03 2010

       The premise seems to be that some infections get under the radar, or have no preprogrammed immune system response, and substances that produce the same symptoms might put it on the radar.   

       The higher dilutions just gradually trick the brain into a Pavlovian reaction. A fun thing to do would be a placebo test on the silly ratio solutions.   

       Treating a Plantar's wart with Candida might be considered a homeopathic treatment in basic principle as it jumpstarts the immune system into action.
FlyingToaster, Dec 03 2010

       OK, lots to address here.   

       Homoeopathy is not herbalism for a number of reasons. One is that it doesn't just use plant remedies. It uses animal and mineral products, products derived from humans and in one case literally moonlight. The principle of like cures like is not honoured because the homoeopathic use of products derived from herbal mother tinctures (which we don't use much incidentally) often resembles our own use of them, but that of other remedies follows the "proving". From the outside, that seems inconsistent.   

       There are several levels of dilution. 6X, which is a million to one, can overlap with pharmacological or toxicological effects in some situations - see my idea on here about transuranic elements. Homoeopathic uranium exists and would fall into that category. It also means the Schedule 3's are technically not OTC because they do contain active ingredients, in however low a dose. An example would be homoeopathic Arnica 6X, if it exists. Administering or selling it without a prescription would therefore be technically illegal. This is always ignored.   

       I take rather extreme exception to your comment, [codrakon], but i won't rant. I am used to being crapped on from a great height by ignorant people after all and it's great fun not being able to feed the family and having to dumpster-dive as a result. Anyway, leaving that aside, there's a reason why we don't use standardised extracts. I can't be bothered to pursue that right now or i'll lose my temper even more.   

       Concerning acupuncture, there's allegedly a big variation in electrical resistance across and along meridians. I don't know the details and haven't tested it but it doesn't come into what i do.   

       [MB], my understanding of homoeopathy is the same as yours and i believe your usage of the term to be accurate.   

       This is my view:   

       Herbalism is not complementary medicine, it's a form of self-sufficiency, an application of cybernetics and a partly successful attempt to avoid the alienation of use- and exchange-value. In theory, remedies could be developed which were not based on plants, but that would have to be done in different economic circumstances than exist in this society. The alienation of value is also problematic in herbalism because, for example, many remedies appear to be Veblen goods. I tend to avoid those, but examples include Aloe vera, Echinacea species, Hypericum perforatum and Gingko biloba.   

       For what it's worth, i'm stuck with being a herbalist. I have no desire to continue but have no other way of making a living, so i do. I do believe it works but i also think it would be better for people to maintain their health and to educate themselves about medicine and treat themselves rationally when they get ill.
nineteenthly, Dec 03 2010

       //many remedies appear to be Veblen goods.//   

       Oh that's just great. Another fucking post-USSR country which I have no idea where it is.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 03 2010

       OK, sorry to wibble bollocks.   

       Certain herbs are luxury goods like caviar. They are bought simply because they are perceived as exotic and special. People are for some reason willing to go out to their local Holland and Barrett and buy a bottle of crappy tablets with a 3000% mark-up (that's not an exaggeration, honestly) having trodden on a weed growing between the cracks on their garden path which would've done the job better, simply because those tablets allegedly come from "The Rainforest" or something. Then there's the pyramid scheme associated with Aloe vera. What a load of bollocks.   

       Oh, and sorry to overreact, [codrakon]. As you may be aware - i stuck it somewhere else on here - i have done some research into putative astrological correlations between conditions and remedies based on iatromathematics and presenting complaints. My sample size was rather too small, but as it stood there was simply no correlation at all between natal sun sign and medical history in terms of pathologies associated with particular organs or systems and any sign. I actually found this a little surprising because i would've expected at least a connection between the time of year someone was born and their health. For instance, there is an association in Iceland between the development of type I diabetes and time of year which has been attributed to nitrosamines in a particular food traditionally eaten at Christmas. But i've come up with nothing, and i have looked very hard for it.   

       The point about the sample size is important. In order to establish evidence which is likely to be respected by the mainstream we would need to have larger data sets. Well, i'm sitting here with a few thousand case histories, as are several hundred other herbalists in the UK, and there's no centralised system for collecting them and although we do use a standardised way of recording information, herbalists tend to be unkeen on attempting to elicit quantifiable clinical signs such as PEF, BP and so forth. If they did that, collected the data centrally, anonymised it and made it publically available, i'd have a lot more respect for the supposed "profession". One reason we don't, i think, is that it's such a hand-to-mouth existence that we're concentrating on trying to survive most of the time rather than on the longer-term goal of establishing credibility. Most herbalists offer other therapies, in which i frequently have less faith, for instance VEGA testing and iridology. That presumably keeps their practices going but may give them a vested interest in not looking too closely at what they're doing.
nineteenthly, Dec 04 2010


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