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Thursday, April 23, 2020

COVID-19 and Placebo effect - ITREALMS

Covid-19 pandemic has struck so much fear in the psyche of humans all over the world because there is no known antidote to the infection as yet. For the first time in modern times, the world has been assailed by an infection that has humbled humanity. Suddenly, our existential reality has become so tenuous that nobody is sure of what tomorrow may bring.

In a situation such as this, we are left with nature’s own resource to tide us over; our immunity.

In modern medical science, there is a procedure used to bolster immunity, it is placebo. A placebo is an inert substance or treatment which is designed to have no therapeutic value. Placebo effect, therefore, is a non-therapeutic procedure designed to help the body achieve a therapeutic benefit.

How does this procedure relate to COVID-19?

For now, it is a fact that the most potent defence against the infection is body immunity. Anything we can do to bolster this process is the right antidote. A placebo can come in form of tablets, injection, lotion or cream. It is not these substances that exert therapeutic effect but the assurance that using them would lead to healing. What the placebo does is to induce the subject to invest in optimism that he would be healed. It has been found that it really works about 50percent of the time. The physiological process involved is that when we are optimistic about a cure to an ailment, the body releases some hormones that enables antibodies to flood the system and combat the infection successfully.

Placebo effect is what you find in prayers. Often times, when a sick person is taken to a spiritual master, he is told that the master is “powerful”; that induces some form of optimism in the patient which helps him to mobilize his immune system to fight the infection. He begins to feel well. It is the placebo effect.

How do we apply this concept to manage the current pandemic? We should invest in optimism; the positive notion that we cannot be victims whilst observing all prescribed precautions. Reading and sharing negative posts about the pandemic is antithetical to placebo effect because it generates a feeling of doubts and fear, which in turn, leads to lower immunity. When you come across posts that tend to induce fears such as many people dead, corpses being buried and so on, ignore and delete. They are not part of the antidote to self-preservation. How does watching corpses being gathered or people being whipped by soldiers help anybody to boost immunity?

Be positive, is the language of placebo effect. Invest in it.

*Contributed by Olatunji Agunbiade, Consultant Psychologist based in Lagos.
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