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The Placebo Drugs Controversy Essay

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Updated: Jun 3rd, 2020

Placebo drugs have generally been used by medical doctors to help in their treatment process. According to Moon (2006), the placebo effect is considered very appropriate when it is necessary to influence the mind of a patient. Most patients always make their condition worse by trying to imagine of how terrible their condition is, while some believe that their condition would lead to their death. Once such beliefs take center-stage in their mind, they start developing withdrawal effects.

They start preparing for their death because they strongly believe that their condition would not be reversible. It may be dangerous if the condition of the mind remains in that status. The patients have to be convinced that their condition is not that very bad. They have to be made to believe that they have a chance to live again. This can only happen when they are convinced that there is a drug with the capacity to cure their condition. This may be necessary even if the doctors could be having doubts on the ability of the patient to fully recover from his or her condition. The use of placebo drugs has been very useful in achieving this. However, Miller (2013) notes that the use of placebo drugs has raised a lot of controversy in the recent past. It would be important to analyze some of the controversies that have been associated with the use of placebo drugs by medical practitioners.

According to Moon (2006), the society has come out to question why doctors are allowed to use drugs simply because of the placebo effect. Patients always trust their doctors with their lives, and whenever they are told to take a given medicine, they always have no choice but to do what they are instructed by their medical practitioners. For this reason, a lot of questions have been asked why a doctor would prescribe a drug that has no therapeutic value other than the psychological effect. When a patient takes such a drug, he or she expects that the drug would elevate his or her health condition. However, the truth is that such a drug would offer no medical solution other than changing the patient’s perception. In such instances, the pathogen that is responsible for the illness would continue manifesting itself within the body if control measures are not taken.

According to Moon (2006), the use of placebo drugs has raised a lot of controversy in the recent past as many people have started questioning its importance in the process of treatment. The drugs do not fight the pathogen that causes the disease in the body. Miller (2013) notes that sedatives that some of the doctors prescribe to patients may pose potential health risks instead of elevating their condition. The use of antibiotics as a placebo drug may also pose some health challenges to the patient. This means that instead of such a drug bringing some relief, it would actually cause more harm to the patient. This is another factor that has raised controversy in the use of these drugs.

A section of the society has challenged the use of placebo drugs on the ethical grounds. Moon (2006) argues that it is unethical for a medical doctor to prescribe a drug that he or she is sure of its inability in relieving pain of a patient. It erodes the trust that exists between the patient and the doctor. There has been a strong suggestion that doctors should inform their patients and seek for their permission before administering placebo drugs. According to the arguments of Moon (2006), patients should be informed that the drugs administered to them do not have any therapeutic value beyond its placebo effect. This has been opposed by doctors, as they say that this would mean the drug would not have the intended impact on the patients.

It is a fact that placebo drugs do not offer a permanent medical solution to a given medical condition. However, it is important to note that this drug has a role to play in the process of offering patients medical assistance. For a long time, the placebo drugs have been used in various ways to make patients psychologically strong before subjecting them to other stages of medication. As Miller (2013) says, it may not be easy to offer medical help to a critically ill patient who lacks the will power that his or her condition is curable. When the patient loses the will to fight, a simple medical problem can become a major health trauma that can lead to death.

For instance, researches have proven that the main reason why HIV/AIDs patients die quickly after contracting the disease is because of their psychological torture, and the belief that they will finally die because the disease is not curable. Those who accept their condition, take drugs regularly, develop healthy eating habits, and exercise live much longer. This is what placebo drugs offers. Despite the controversy, doctors should be allowed to use the drug without any restrictions.


Miller, F. G. (2013). The placebo: A reader. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Web.

Moon, M. (2006). Medicare: A policy primer. Washington, D.C: Urban Institute Press. Web.

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