Placebo approach may pave way for new therapeutic depression treatments

Despite being a common mental illness, depression often gets brushed aside in thin air due to inadequate treatment facilities and prevalent social stigma. Depression is a debilitating mental issue that affects millions in the United States every year. According to the findings of the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the leading cause of disability in the world affecting more than 300 million people of all age groups.

The persistence of depression for a long period may lead to several health hazards, such as fatigue, insomnia, low appetite and weight loss, overeating and heavy weight gains, thoughts of death and even suicide. However, repercussions of depression can be overcome through placebo treatment. In fact, there is an interesting association between antidepressants and the placebo effect. The level of response of a person to real antidepressants depends on how accurately a person responds to fake medications.

How does placebo work?

Literally, the word “placebo” connotes “to please” and its role truly signifies the meaning. Being a highly placebo-responsive condition, the scope of positive response to antidepressants increases. In fact, placebo is a kind of treatment wherein the patient is administered medication or other substances that look like a normal and regular treatment, but it is typically just an indirect way to treat an illness effectively. The placebo effect does not act on the disease, rather on the mind of people. Scientific documentations and analysis indicate that the placebo effect may be due to the release of the natural pain killer endorphins in the brain.

However, some people may react to the placebo effect without undergoing through any medication or shot procedure. Like they say, “It is all in the head,” the placebo too works the same way. Some people may feel better just by visiting a doctor or by doing something they believe will help. The effectiveness of placebo effect depends on certain factors like the approach of the specialist and the patient, flexibility of the patient and type of treatment.

The placebo method has been delivering positive results over the last 30 years. In fact, there have been considerable response rates of about 31 percent to 45 percent in antidepressant trials, compared with approximately 50 percent responses to antidepressants, as highlighted in a 2015 study, titled “Association Between Placebo-Activated Neural Systems and Antidepressant Responses.”

This study published in the JAMA Psychiatry emphasized how the placebo approach could be used as an effective probe for developing new therapeutic treatments for depression that can regulate the biological processes. The research carried out at the University of Michigan Medical School administered a placebo to a batch of people battling with depression. The patients were told that the placebo will help in relieving the symptoms of depression.

It was found that there were significant changes in chemistry in the left part of the brain in patients who responded to the placebo pill. However, the same change was also noticed in the right brain of patients who responded to a real antidepressant.

Treating the mind with positivity

The above finding has opened the door to new researches and developments in the field of mental health that enhances the brain’s natural response in several new and different ways. This finding not only helps in improving depression, but also assists in developing and testing new drugs. The first step toward treatment is to recognize the symptom of depression and seek professional help. If left untreated for a long period, depression may turn devastating.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression or any other mental health condition, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get information about various rehab centers for depression in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our representatives to know about one of the best depression help centers.