placebo progress

My good friend, style guru and sister in law Arty Lady pointed us in the direction of a powerful tv programme about placebo. I was glued to the screen. This is fascinating.


The programme examines how people react to trialling a new powerful medicine, specifically designed to deal with their issues. Great efforts have been made to reinforce the legitimacy and the power of the wonder drug. They don’t know that the medicine is in fact a sugar pill. How do they react? In a nerdy fashion, I took notes.

A positive effect is reinforced by an authority figure (I had a man in a suit), evidence that the ‘drug’ works (same guy) and the fact that it looks like medicine (measuring spoon, instructions, big words).

The response from the participants in Brown’s film is extraordinary. Within minutes of taking their first dose, they are feeling the side effects they’d been warned of. One man, with a crippling fear of heights, went straight away to look down into a huge atrium area from several stories up. His response was immediate.

Particpants were tasked with keeping a video diary recording positive changes they’d noticed; it was all about positive reinforcement “Here’s the nice blue capsule I have to take four times a day…” All recorded good effects. According to Brown, the placebo was giving them permission to behave differently.

Half an hour into the programme I was in tears. A  man with a fear of confrontation, and even talking to people, was interviewing strangers on the street and breaking up a (staged) fight. A man too sacred to cross a teeny bridge on his own was standing on the railings on top of a huge viaduct (safety harness provided). When he was there, Brown told him about the placebo- you did this yourself. Oooh, how powerful the mind is.

The placebo was used to deal with fear, allergies, boost intelligence, and to encourage people to stop smoking. The colour of the capsule varied- blue where people needed calmed, red for stimulation.

After a few weeks, all the particpants were brought together and told about the placebo. Most were taken aback but greatly empowered by this news.

It was me. I did it. I can do anything. I have the power.

Sniffle, sniffle.

One of the participants- with an amazing voice but too scared to sing in public- has a surprise at the end of the show, when she sings to a crowded room. Oh, yes, more tears- tv manipulates us all


In my world, I’ve finished my trial pack of ME Relief and the month long supply arrived this morning. Placebo or not, I’m buying into it.

Of course, I needed Spurs Fan to work out how to open the tub for me (twist the lid).

It’s not a cure.


11 thoughts on “placebo progress

  1. I can well believe the extraordinary effects of the dummy pills. The power of suggestion, of what you are told by others and the general setting (measuring spoon etc) is very strong. Witness how much more confident and capable people are when they get plenty of encouragement and reassurance from others.

  2. It’ the Wizard of Oz all over again: if we think we have a big powerful Wizard in charge we can do so much more, like Tinman and his brain. How to plumb all the depths of a powerful unconscious without the placebo? Now there’s the golden question.

  3. Excellent! We all have our placebos,or are they? We don’t know. I take huge numbers of supplements in the belief that they are doing me good, prolonging good health, necessary for well-being. Many, maybe most doctors claim they’re superfluous and unnecessary. I still take them. Good luck to you! I really wish you well! I think the power of the mind, and the mind-body connection is something so amazing we can’t begin to really understand.

  4. Dear Fiona,
    Firstly thank you for choosing to try ME-Relief and thank you to the Man in the suit for spreading the word !
    I must admit I found myself shouting at my computer when I read your Blog “It’s not a Placebo” but then I thought about when I first discovered ME-Relief and how I too was disbelieving it could be that good and that easy for me to find a solution, an effective treatment for what was at the time severe to very severe ME symptoms.
    Six years on and I am still taking ME-Relief 4 times a day and if I stop taking it all my symptoms return within 24hrs and I am back in bed in pain and unable to do anything but sleep.
    You are right it is a treatment and not a cure but in time like other users of ME-Relief you may find your body is able to repair itself, pretty much in the same way that a broken bone heals over time with the help of a plaster cast to provide support during the healing process.
    With reference to Derren Brown, I don’t expect him to be calling you any time soon to tell you it’s all been an elaborate ruse and it’s just a placebo. I did watch his most recent series and all the people he helped had psychological issues (Irrational Fears hence the title of his programme “Fear and Faith”) which he helped them overcome, I don’t think even Derren would suggest placebos can actually cure physical problems such as ME or even a broken leg.
    There is a lot of controversy over what exactly ME/CFS is which isn’t helped by what appears to be a significant over or misdiagnosis as highlighted in recent research published on the ME Research website which suggests that possibly 50% of those diagnosed with ME/CFS have something else which should have been diagnosed including depression and other psychological problems as well as other physical illnesses.
    Personally I believe ME is a neurological condition possibly similar to MS and should be diagnosed and treated as such, I have a friend with MS and his symptoms are very similar to those I had before taking ME-Relief, in fact he is convinced I have MS and he finds benefit from taking ME-Relief.
    If you have any questions related to ME-Relief or ME in general I will do my best to answer them, you can send me an email or even give me a call, contact information is available on my website
    Just to give you an idea of how well I am, I play squash twice a week and in addition to the ME-Relief website and processing orders I provide computer support to a number of local businesses and regularly do DIY about my house and for friends and family and spend time looking after my 6 year old daughter all of which I couldn’t do without ME-Relief.
    I hope you continue to have success with ME-Relief but please remember you still have ME and can still overdo things, but should recover relatively quickly, an increase in the number of doses of ME-Relief during busy periods should help.
    Kind regards
    Paul Carpenter

    1. Paul, thank you for commenting. My experience with ME Relief has been very positive, and I’m downplaying some of my excitement about it deliberately- a protective measure of not getting my hopes up 🙂
      The man in the suit is back in full time work, does a lot of driving, exercising and is still awake enough to do family things. I was inspired by that.
      I have no doubt that ME is a physical illness that, in my case, has introduced me to the worlds of anxiety and depression. I’d rather not have any of those, but am happy to take supplements or medication which help.
      I have made some friends with ME aware of ME Relief (apart from on this blog) because I think it’s worth trying, not because I think it’s simply a placebo. I expect to continue using it for quite some time 🙂
      Sorry for having you shout at the computer!

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