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Power of placebo

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Giant hoax or medical miracle, scientists are one step closer to understanding a long-debated mystery, the power of placebo, which can apparently turn sugar pills into powerful drugs

Giant hoax or medical miracle, scientists are one step closer to understanding a long-debated mystery, the power of placebo, which can apparently turn sugar pills into powerful drugs.

Finnish and Swedish researchers have revealed more about how this mind-body interaction works. A placebo, they reported in the February 2002 issue of Science magazine, activates the same pain control impulses in the same region of the brain as painkillers.

This noteworthy phenomenon got big coverage after the New England Journal of Medicine reported that arthritis patients who only thought they'd undergone knee surgery experienced benefits similar to real surgery patients.

Another recent meta-analysis of 96 studies found the effects of antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft can be largely duplicated by placebo (75 percent).

While skeptics continue to ponder placebo's successes, many researchers would agree that a patient's beliefs particularly the will to live play a powerful role in healing.

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