Drugs Work Better if You Know You’re Getting Them


image: iStock photo

Imagine the scenario: There’s 2 patients. One is connected to a morphine drip while he’s reading a book and the other is being given a morphine injection by the doctor. They’re both given morphine at the exact same time. One is aware of it but the other isn’t.

You’d think they’d both need the same amount of the drug, wouldn’t you? Well, it turns out that how much they actually need depends on whether they know about the morphine or not.

On average, people receiving morphine for pain need about 12mg to get the painkilling effect. But that’s only if they don’t know they’re getting it. If it’s administered in full view, they don’t need nearly so much to get the same effect.

The same kind of thing has been shown with diazepam. People sometimes get diazepam for anxiety after an operation. It turns out that the diazepam only works if the patients know they’re receiving it. If they don’t know they’re getting it then it doesn’t work. Weird isn’t it?

The reason is that it’s all in your mind!

Chemistry will play itself out in exactly the same way a hundred times out of a hundred in a test tube. But once you put human consciousness in the test tube, in other words the test tube is technically the human body, the chemistry is swayed left or right, so to speak, depending on what’s going on in your mind, depending on what you believe.

It’s true. What we believe shifts chemistry in our brains and bodies. If a person is given a placebo instead of morphine, but believes that it’s morphine and therefore believes in the pain killing effect, their brain produces a natural version of morphine to carry out the job of giving them what they are expecting to happen, i.e. a reduction in pain. The natural versions are known as endogenous opiates.

So when a person is receiving morphine from the doctor, who is administering it in plain sight, their belief in what morphine does produces endogenous opiates. So because the endogenous opiates are there to provide part of the pain killing effect, the patient doesn’t actually need as much morphine.

Imagine what it could mean for medicine if we could harness the placebo effect like this.


  1. Ross on May 22, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Very interesting article, David – completely fascinating!

    Here’s a question for you: do you think that if someone had the mental skill to gain complete control of their thoughts, they could potentially take a lethal dose of a deadly substance and yet suffer no ill effects due to their belief that it could not harm them?

    Also, I don’t know if you have been watching a programme on the telly called Man vs. Weird, but the latest show featured a Shaolin monk who can withstand a metal drill to his head through, in his words, channelling his “chi/qi” to that particular area of his body!

    I think conventional science is only at the very beginning of understanding the potential power of the human brain/mind!


    • David R. Hamilton PhD on June 4, 2014 at 10:18 am

      Hi Ross, I certainly wouldn’t want to try it myself 🙂 … but I have heard of some anecdotal reports of that kind of thing. What I find really fascinating is that chemistry follows a set of rules (I’m an organic chemistry by training) but inside the body, where our own mind, emotions, beliefs are operating, chemistry can follow very different paths depending upon the mindset, beliefs, and consciousness of the person.

      I went to see Shaolin monks live once and was amazed when one of them broke an iron bar on his head. I think these kinds of things show just how much we can do when we train ourselves to highly focus our minds and believe that many more things are possible than we normally think. 🙂

  2. Beth on May 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Our conscience is so strong and powerful we just need to believe. Another example of how our thoughts create.

  3. Rose Hargrove on May 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I have known about the placebo effect for a long time as a nurse. People given a pill that they are told is strong will react physiologically in a manner that shows a strong drug effect. Perhaps we could harness this and reduce the use of some of the toxic drugs. Dr. Hamilton, you are brilliant and I love your blogs.

  4. Aaron on May 23, 2014 at 6:25 am

    I love the science behind what your teaching! It makes it so much more down to earth and tangible for the sceptics 😉

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on June 4, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Thanks Aaron. 🙂

  5. Bill Rayfield on May 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Mr Hamilton. Saw you years ago talking in Swansea at a time when I was completing a Zodiac hypnotherapy diploma.
    I begin to see why you became so fascinated by the effects of placebo having just watched this Horizon programme :


    This is the first time I have heard of people in a trial being told they were taking a placebo. This IBS sufferer had such success with her condition, having accepted the verbal positives that went with the tablet , that she tried to later buy placebos from a health food store ! (Hypnotherapy was later mentioned generally in the programme, perhaps producing a similar placebo ( naturally occurring organic beneficial chemicals in the body) response for the client)

    Did you ever hear of someones belief system playing a part in this placebo self healing process ? Real deep seated belief in anything I suppose such as the expertness and white coat of the professional giving you the placebo. Belief in yourself perhaps and your abilities to achieve health benefits through your own determined efforts. Believing in something which can and therefore will help you or at least make you feel better. Belief in the potential power of things we have yet to fully understand like the relationship between the mind and body.

    Would appreciate any thoughts on the power of what we have come to believe is true for us.

    Regards Bill

  6. Judith MOrrow on June 3, 2014 at 2:35 am

    David Hamilton!!!

    I am listening to your interview on Hay House right now. I love it.

    I want to purchase it but due technical difficulties have not been able to.

    I want to post at lease one of your talks on my website that supports the documentary I just created – http://www.thehealingofheathergarden.com a story that shows how a woman healed from MS. Is this OK to do???

    I particularly want to post the one that I am listening to on HayHouse from today. It is so much the research that explains how the woman I made the documentary healed from Multiple Sclerosis.

    I have been trying to make contact with you since I first heard you, and even tried to sign up for your workshop in Ireland. William Duffield (whom I met during my effort to reach you) tells me that one is past, but you have another scheduled for fall.

    In summary, can I purchase that talk on Hay House, or may I repost one from utube on the blog I am developing to talk about how Heather healed?

    The website http://www.thehealingofheathergarden.com is to provide the understanding behind the documentary I just created.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on June 4, 2014 at 10:09 am

      Hi Judith, Yes, you can purchase it. Hay House have an option to buy the complete set of audios from the World Summit. If you’re not able to do that then please do feel free to use one of my YouTube videos. 🙂