Parents and teachers who are told a child is taking ADHD medication, when the child is not, tend to be more sympathetic to the child’s behaviour and treat them more positively. This study, conducted by University of Buffalo Associate professor Daniel A. Waschbusch, was recently published in the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics. These results raise interesting questions. Unfortunately, the most obvious implication is also the least feasible. That is, ethical problems prevent us from concluding that we should simply pretend to give children medication for ADHD so that parents and teachers will see and treat them in a more positive manner. However, the study suggests that the knowledge that treatment is being applied may be enough to signal that there is hope for a resolution to a particular problem. This may in turn be leading to a changed attitude amongst caregivers. Perhaps this goes beyond medication treatment and would apply to any treatment that adults know is being applied. Hope for change and relief of stress may be the true benefit. Future research could clarify this possibility.
You can read more about the study here.
At the recent Canadian Psychol0gical Association conference in Montreal researchers showed evidence that the placebo effect can be measured with a functional MRI. Researchers have known for decades that the placebo effect accounts for a substantial degree of the benefit obtained from all treatments. Now studies are showing that people who are given a sugar pill and told, for instance, that it is an antidepressant have very similar changes in brain activation to those people who actually take the anti-depressants.
You can read more about placebo effect research here.
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