Should Doctors Prescribe Placebos?

by Moin Uddin Ahmed Tipu

Sometimes thinking you’re taking a medication, when in fact you’re not, can actually help you feel better. It’s called the “placebo effect,” and it’s being used more and more as a treatment option. But is it ethical for doctors to prescribe them? Join Trace and Laci as they weigh in on the placebo debate.

Read More:

“‘Most family doctors’ have given a patient a placebo drug”

“Most family doctors have given a placebo to at least one of their patients, survey findings suggest.”

“Placebo Use in the United Kingdom: Results from a National Survey of Primary Care Practitioners”

“Surveys in various countries suggest 17% to 80% of doctors prescribe ‘placebos’ in routine practice, but prevalence of placebo use in UK primary care is unknown.”

“Prescribing “placebo treatments”: results of national survey of US internists and rheumatologists”

“To describe the attitudes and behaviours regarding placebo treatments, defined as a treatment whose benefits derive from positive patient expectations and not from the physiological mechanism of the treatment itself.”

“How the Placebo Effect Works”

“That’s the gist of the placebo effect. It’s what happens when a person takes a medication that he or she perceives will help, although it actually has no proven therapeutic effect for his or her particular condition.”

“Is Your Doctor Prescribing Placebos?”

“One of the most intriguing processes in medicine is the placebo effect: the healing power of a sham therapy, when it’s offered to patients with the suggestion that it will help.”

DNews is a show about the science of everyday life. We post two new videos every day of the week.

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James Dickey July 28, 2013 - 6:27 AM

@TheYokiMoki yes but subconsciously you'll know that's not true so it wouldn't work, you should do some more research on the placebo effect.

Amber August 7, 2013 - 7:34 AM

THEY ARE NOT PLACEBOS !!!! I had a horrible bladder infection and if I didn't have antibiotics to kill the bacteria and infection it could've traveled to my kidneys and I would've had permanent kidney damage. If you look up how the medications work you'll understand them a little better. Placebos would be just giving someone sugar pills.

Remilia Scarlet August 8, 2013 - 2:43 AM


Lynn Davis August 13, 2013 - 10:08 PM

Since we have the power to make ourselves feel better with our thoughts, maybe we should focus our efforts in that direction.

Facts Over Emotions August 24, 2013 - 8:52 AM

I can help you figure out if it's working or not.

Facts Over Emotions August 24, 2013 - 9:30 AM

Placebo is fraud. You are paying money for nothing. It's snake oil sales and is supposed to be illegal. Fuck fraudulent people!

Kapula August 25, 2013 - 5:00 PM

back in the days i had 2 recipies for antidepressants and neither of those had any effect in 4-5 weeks, and i had some sleeping pills that i took every now and then without any effect so i took 5 pills with 8 beers to test those a bit and no effect what so ever,, exept being tipsy from the beer,, so i haven't took any pills for years and feeling just fine

J U August 27, 2013 - 9:57 PM

I think as a nation we need to step back, get educated more thoroughly & stop pestering & relying on our doctors. I have gotten laryngitis so many times it has changed my voice, but after the second time of going to the doctor, I decided I was going to give my body a chance to fight it on its own and low & behold, I started getting it less & less (and I still have my tonsils). Now I haven't had the same success with UTIs, but that's another story.

TheAkashicTraveller September 4, 2013 - 1:37 AM

Doctors shouldn't be allowed to give patient placebo's because everyone deserves to know what they are putting into there body.

TheAkashicTraveller September 4, 2013 - 1:38 AM

No but you might make yourself sick and if it creates a negative effect it's called a nocebo.

Richard Gauthier September 8, 2013 - 11:45 PM

me and my brother are at a disagreement on where your profile picture came from. i think it's from Magibon, but he is not so sure. would you please tell us?

CuPC4k3f0rK September 14, 2013 - 12:57 AM

it is a picture of me

Richard Gauthier September 14, 2013 - 1:09 AM

damn, i guess i should’ve listened to my brother (he's seen some of her videos)

Richard Gauthier September 14, 2013 - 1:13 AM

Why not just tell the patients coming in, with the cold or other virus, that are asking for antibiotics, that those don't work on a viruses?

KV September 14, 2013 - 3:10 AM

That's what my doctor did with me back when I was a teenager, and with me it worked.

However, some people have an irrational commitment to disliking their GP and will resentfully dismiss anything their GP says that doesn't line up with their expectations.

Depending on the temperament of the patient, I can sympathize with a doctor who decides to prescribe a placebo in that scenario. Which doesn't mean I'm not uneasy about it, because I am. But I can understand why a GP might take that out.

Ipeleng Motsatsi September 24, 2013 - 1:59 AM

In evolution what is the purpose of the nocebo effect

Ipeleng Motsatsi September 24, 2013 - 2:02 AM

What is the purpose of the nocebo effect in evolution?
someone please reply.

Ipeleng Motsatsi September 24, 2013 - 2:05 AM

In what use is the nocebo effect useful in evolution. Please replay.

Saylor Twift October 7, 2013 - 1:25 AM

Could you repeat that in English, please?

Ipeleng Motsatsi October 7, 2013 - 3:41 PM

Wow Really I think that makes sense and is readable to everyone who has english as there first language

Transgender, and Mental Health Topics October 20, 2013 - 2:46 PM

you like zacaria lee

Karl Slicher October 27, 2013 - 5:10 PM

It would be so stupid to get your money robbed by a doctor selling you dud pills. Don't let this become law anytime soon.

Ethan Buchan October 29, 2013 - 2:24 AM

I'd just like to say that our NHS is pretty brilliant, especially in Scotland, where more prescription medicines are free than in other regions of the UK. For example, the prescription for my asthma inhalers says that I would have to actually pay for it if I lived in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, but do not have to as I live in Scotland.

Ethan Buchan October 29, 2013 - 2:26 AM

"The Nocebo effect" refers to an idea similar to the placebo effect.
It refers to when the patient thinks that their drug will make them feel worse, and so does, in the way a placebo pill will make the patient feel better.
I could be wrong, but "Nocebo" is Latin for something along the lines of "I will do harm".

Ethan Buchan October 29, 2013 - 2:28 AM

I would have thought that the Nocebo effect is something learned, as opposed to something hereditary.

Ipeleng Motsatsi October 29, 2013 - 4:12 PM

That a good though. But I dont know?. if you where to learn it where did you learn it from?

Saylor Twift October 29, 2013 - 8:36 PM

Thanks for the enlightenment :D
I thought he was talking gibberish but I guess I was wrong then.

David Guay December 26, 2013 - 10:35 AM

Classical conditioning is unavoidable right? Is there one classical condition better than another? Is it healthy to try to live without any classical condition. Wait then you couldn't be consiouse could you? If consciousness is a product of experiences and memories…. hmm sounds like a paradox. VIVA FIAT

David Guay December 26, 2013 - 10:41 AM

It is that the researchers are smart, and back in the day before internet and rapid exchange of knowledge, they knew that giving a slightly addictive drug would be best for sales and look at the drug industry today; Brovo, brovo drug indystry the doctor-patient-pharmacy system in America needs fixing badly!!!!

Dichotomy February 16, 2014 - 5:46 AM

You are BOTH full of shit!!!

Chase Nanatovich February 17, 2014 - 9:13 PM

How would you sue someone if you are dead lol

Cyanogen May 17, 2014 - 11:15 AM


Niahc June 7, 2014 - 10:53 AM

Ive seen people in the EMERGENCY area of a hospital because they have a cold. And then they complain about the wait time… maybe we should be prescribing a pill called, 'stay at home and suck it up'

ELISA STRANGEHUMANBEING September 6, 2014 - 7:02 PM

good for hypocondriacs lol 

Shelia Ellison November 9, 2014 - 6:00 AM

It's obvious you guys know nothing about this, anymore than what you lifted off Wikipedia ….and you also made it sound like this is common…you're ok with it? Do you know how dangerous this could be? 

Bloodborne Eternal February 18, 2015 - 1:31 AM

its all a huge scam placebos need to be outlawed!

Funny Creature April 13, 2015 - 10:34 PM

Ugh…Lacey Green…

LoveSeals July 17, 2015 - 11:34 AM

When I was a teen I had extremely bad cluster headaches due to stress, anxiety and depression. When I was sent to a "specialist" he prescribed me a placebo for like 4 months and would yell at me and blame ME for it not working!

2Awesome September 18, 2016 - 12:32 AM

Why are placebos more expensive than most other medicines?

Jamew M December 6, 2016 - 11:50 AM

I'm a 26 yr man who lives with pain everyday and let me tell u it might work at first or for a bit but in the end u hurt worse by not takeing the pills

David Rodgers January 14, 2017 - 7:38 PM

Lacy Green is an insane idiot and her presence on DNews is offensive in and of itself.

Matt January 18, 2017 - 7:11 AM

1. It's lazy way out for scientists to not discover proper medicine.
2. Very susceptible to corporate greed.

drzarkoz January 18, 2017 - 8:13 AM

whether or not they work the patient has a right to know what their medication contains

Mnd0vrMnky January 18, 2017 - 6:27 PM

I'm from the uk and I pay around £1200 per year in national insurance with a wage of £26000 annually. I can walk into a hospital anywhere in Europe and get treatment for anything that ails.
How does this compare to you yanks?

SatireJD September 14, 2017 - 9:36 AM

Yes, we don't want bateria to get immune to working medicine. See: penicillin

2011relapse May 8, 2019 - 10:35 AM

doctors are worthless pricks, dont dont give a shit about patients