Would you take a medicine if you didn’t believe it would help you?

Would you take a medicine if you didn’t believe it would help you?

Well would you?  It is a straight forward question but why is it so important?

In this discussion I am going to explore why some people take medicines without having the least faith in them working while others do not.

What part of the medication treatment is purely physical and how much does the belief in their ability to treat, cure or suppress the symptoms being experienced?

And finally, what exactly do we mean when we speak of believing something?’ At what level do we accept our belief in something.    From the historical evidence it can vary from a ‘blind belief’ such as accepting a notion of something completely undetectable, non- physical to associating an effect of some medication to a particular symptom.     Quite a few people will state that they need to witness something with their own eyes to qualify as a fact.  ‘Seeing is believing they would say’.  But the trouble with this position is that we all know, given today’s advances is science, of very many things which we cannot see but know for certain are true.  

Trust in someone or something is one aspect of believing, but just how far do we go in that direction?   The majority of patients trust in their doctor’s ability to treat them safely, particularly if that physician has a speciality in the treatment of the patient’s condition at the time of their consultation.  This would naturally lead the patient to accept that whatever the doctor proscribes must be at least safe and therefore not cause any further problems.  However, when it came to actually accepting that the treatment, whatever it’s form should be, to be effective and offer the prospect of at least some relief if not a total cure, is an entirely different matter.

Advertising is a powerful tool in educating people to accept a premise that a given product will achieve what the customer is looking for.   Yet there may well be no real evidence to back up claims by the advertiser of the product or service offered.   Usually producers will highlight the benefits of their offerings and fail to acknowledge that the customer may have certain needs rather than what they think they want.    It all comes down to a matter of trust.    The belief in this scenario lies almost exclusively with the purchaser particularly if they are buying blind, on the internet for example.   Let us examine for a moment a situation where someone is suffering from headaches. They know from experience that aspirin will usually provide relief, so they are confident to go online and order a quantity of these pills.   But here is the catch, what they don’t know is whether the vender they chose will supply the pills from a reliable, proven and traceable source.   Or even if their diagnosis of their condition is correct, it might just as easy be that there are other causes for their condition. This demonstrates that in every case if you dig a little deeper it all depends upon the individual’s belief.  And by the way, this example also shows that the subject’s faith, belief, trust in the treatment they are purchasing.  

Let us now move on to consider where a patient is about to start undertaking a treatment or a course of pills.   How much is the outcome derived from this action due to their belief in its ability to assist them with their condition?  Well we already know that the patient’s faith in the professional they have consulted would be a factor, but there remains a doubt that in their particular case whether it will work for them, or as an individual would they be among those the treatment failed to work in the past?  If on the other hand the person has a positive attitude and believes that the said will cure their aliment then of course the future prospects would appear to be beneficial.   What do you purpose would be the alternative if the person did not believe the treatment would work for them?   Here there is a huge body of evidence to support the view that for a treatment to be its most effective a positive attitude in a good outcome is essential.

So, we have to consider that for the purposes of this article we could say there are two parts to any treatment, a physical component and a psychological aspect.  The latter of these is in the form of ‘beliefs’ and may be either a conscious or subconscious recognition of its ability to work.  It is also apparent that both components are essential for the successful treatment of any condition.   Further what is of particular interest is to try and establish the relative weighting of each. 

Belief can arise in a number of different forms, for instance in the case of a conscious belief it may well be based upon comparing observed conditions and applied logical reasoning.  On the other hand, as is often the case when people are taking a course of medication prescribed by their physician, they may not be aware that they believe with a conscious mind but nevertheless there is an acceptance which is subconsciously confirmed.   There is evidence to suggest that patients respond far better to a given treatment when they have a high level of faith in its efficaciousness.

A recently completed study monitored some 2000+ men suffering from Erectile Dysfunction.   All subjects were examined and diagnosed by their physicians and were prescribed the same, sildenafil citrate, based pill, there was no record of each patient’s prescribed dosage so it is likely that may have been different with the group under consideration.   All these men were approached and asked whether they would co-operate with a follow up study requiring them to answer three short questionnaires over a period of three months.  1760 subjects agreed and were accepted onto the study at the start.

It was assumed that at least some of the subjects would cease continue taking the pills at some point, therefore the researchers built in to their programme a period of 3 months before starting to distribute the first questionnaires.  As a result, 165 subjects were removed from the study, with of course the researchers, sincere thanks.   It would have been interesting to follow up those departing from the study, however since they would have been isolated individuals and there being no identifiable comparison group to act as a control it was decided to forgo this approximately 10% subjects.

Therefore, at month four there were a total of 1595 subjects, claiming to be regularly taken their pills before sexual activity, participating, voluntarily.

At this point the subjects were divided into two sub-groups a) 798 and b)797. This was done without reference to any of the individuals and completely randomly.   Sub-group (b) were offered a small free supply of pills. They were not told that these pills were in fact placebos.   

The following month questionnaires were sent out asking how well subjects were finding the pills working?

The results were collated and analysed.

Those returned from Sub-Group (a)

759 respondents reported being fully satisfied with their outcomes

39 respondents reported that they had stopped taking the pill on at least two occasions and that they were able to get a satisfactory erection each time. 5 of this group stated that they were thinking of dispensing with the use of pills believing that they were indeed ‘cured’.

Those returned from Sub-Group (b)

 Of these 797 respondents 64 reported that while the pills were some help, they did not seem as strong or potent as those they had previously purchased themselves.  Of the remaining returns (733) 505 reported they were fully satisfied with the results of their treatment this equates to 69%.  Of the remaining 228 there were 31 reports that said the pills didn’t seem so strong as those they had tried previously and 197 thought that they were unsure of exactly how well their pills worked.

After careful analysis and consideration, the researchers considered that between 50 and 69% could be regarded as not receiving any obvious physical from taking sildenafil citrate, based pills.

There are many other reports of studies involving a wide range of medications that arrive at similar conclusions.  The consensus being that between 50% and 70% of patients do not need to take their medications.  The only reason for prescribing being that of the patient’s belief in their ability to provide a better outcome.

Interesting don’t you think?

Bio

Alan, the author is a qualified hypnotherapist with many years clinical and online experience.

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