More Psychiatrists Believe in Clinical Value of Placebos

More than 60 percent of psychiatrists agree that placebos have therapeutic effects

WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Psychiatrists are more likely than nonpsychiatrists to prescribe subtherapeutic doses of medication and believe in the clinical value of placebos, according to a study published in the April issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Amir Raz, Ph.D., from McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues examined attitudes and beliefs relating to placebos outside of clinical research and evaluated placebo-use patterns described by academic psychiatrists and physicians from different specialties. An online, five-minute, 21-question, anonymous survey was conducted at all 17 Canadian medical schools, with an emphasis on the schools' psychiatry departments, and in university-affiliated teaching hospitals. The online survey was completed by 606 physicians, of whom 257 were psychiatrists.

The investigators found that subtherapeutic doses of medication were prescribed significantly more often by psychiatrists than by physicians in other specialties. Placebos were regularly prescribed by about 20 percent of both psychiatrists and nonpsychiatrists. Only 2 percent of psychiatrists believed that placebos had no clinical value compared to 6 percent of nonpsychiatrists. Compared with fewer than 45 percent of physicians from other specialties, more than 60 percent of psychiatrists agreed or strongly agreed that placebos have therapeutic effects.

"Findings from this pan-Canadian survey suggest that, compared with other physicians, psychiatrists seem to better value the influence placebos wield on the mind and body and maintain more favorable beliefs and attitudes toward placebo phenomena," the authors write.

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