Robby: How much is the placebo effect involved in cannabis trials?
Dr Giles Elrington, Consultant Neurologist: Well, the placebo effect, once you drill into it, is very difficult to define. So, for example, if I get a common cold, yes I do, if I take vitamin C along with Linus Pauling’s advice, when I then get better, is that a placebo response, or do people get better anyway from common colds? That’s your difficulty. Now, if your treatment makes you feel funny, it gets very hard to tease out the placebo effect.
How do you have a placebo for cannabis, what are you going to give people that makes them feel a bit wobbly and want to eat chocolate, you know, and laugh at unfunny jokes and so on, we know what happens. So how are you going to placebo-ise that, how are you going to distinguish the euphoric effect? Now, if you’re treating the disease, it’s not a problem, because you measure the person’s ability and you look at the MRI scan. But in terms of pain or spasticity or dodgy bladder or tremor, which are the things it’s been tried for, if the person is relaxed and happy, does that in itself bring a benefit? Problem.
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