Placebo pills made for kids

The Placebo Store sells cherry-flavored chewable tablets called Obecalp (get it?) for parents to administer when they don't think their kid is really sick.
Hi. Welcome to the Placebo Store. I'm Jen. I am a mommy. It's what I love. It's my job to make owies go away. Whether it's a kiss or a big hug, the magic happens immediately. This is the power of placebo. I have a baby girl and two sons. One of them always needs my comfort and the knowledge that I will make them feel better. I invented Obecalp when I realized that children might need a little more than a kiss to make it go away. Obecalp fills the gap when medicine is not needed but my children need something more to make them feel better. You'll know when Obecalp is necessary.
Link | NY Times story about placebos made for kids


  1. I want my kids to know that there’s always a pill to make them feel better, any time and for any reason.

  2. Invented Obecalp? Placebos have been prescribed as Obecalp at least since I worked in health care in 1981. Trademarked a commonly used term maybe.

  3. bah! I keep two large brown glass bottles labeled “AKWA” and “SUCKROSE”. If that isn’t enough to convince them they are fine, the large bore, rusty hypodermic does.

  4. For moms who want to *ensure*, not just hope, that their children grow up to be hypochondriacs.

  5. … and the pills that Mother gives you / Don’t do anything at all.

    Yay, let’s teach our kids that pills are the answer to every human need. What could possibly go right?

  6. I call dibs on commercialization of Obecalp addiction support groups. I am SO gonna clean up on this.

  7. Wow. That’s a terrible idea.

    If kids don’t need pills, let’s not give them pills. Let’s teach them that pills are for things that actually are wrong, not just to make us feel better.

    I sure hope I’m not the minority opinion here.

  8. This reminds me of the day I was in the drug store, and an old man came in and asked the pharmacist for “Placebo”. He told a story of how his daughter gave him some, and it made him feel so much better, and how it was great that there was a medication that not only helped but that didn`t interact with any of the other medications he was taking… But he couldn`t find it on the shelf.

    I had to stick around and see what happened. The pharmacist consulted another, and they gave him something in the end… And laughed a bit after he left, commenting on the power of the human mind over the body.

  9. An angry crowd has gathered outside the Hibbert Medical Clinic…

    Crowd: “We need a cure! We need a cure!”
    Hibbert: “Ho ho ho. Why, the only cure is bedrest. Anything I give you would be a placebo.”
    Woman: [frantic] “Where can we get these placebos?”

    The crowd overturn a truck in search of placebos, but alas the only thing inside is a crate of killer bees.

    (The Simpsons: “Marge in Chains”)

  10. I checked the website and I’m disappointed to see that at this time they only come in Regular Strength. I hope they’re ready to introduce the Extra Strength version that the public will inevitably demand when they become accustomed to the Regular Strength.

  11. And once the kids see through it, they learn another valuable lesson: Lying and deceiving are totally acceptable behaviour, when it makes some pesky relative shut up.

  12. It only comes in “Regular Strength”. My psychosomatic ills need something much stronger, but I don’t want to OD by taking too many.

  13. When the kids that grow up on this smack find out… it’ll be worst than the Easter Bunny for them.

  14. BAD idea.
    I would never start my kids off on the idea of pills make them “feel” better.

  15. How many people who actually have children think that this a bad idea and how many are on the way to the apothecary right now to pick some up?

  16. Hey, didn’t I just read over at The Consumerist that the FDA has issued a recall for these? Apparently, they cause fatal hiccups in some patients…

  17. “I’m Jen. I am a mommy. It’s what I love. It’s my job to make owies go away.”

    I wish her job was simply to make herself go away. Words like “owies” are the main reason I hate most self-described “mommies.”

    Let’s just make our kids stupid right off the bat.

  18. Twenty bucks says that one of those kids is going to help invent some kind of Mercerism (see Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep).

  19. Yeah, let’s train our kids to believe in snake oil and magic medicines.
    Let’s start off by lying to them on purpose as well.
    That’ll be sure to give them a head start in life.

    I have a kid, and I don’t give him placebos or homeopathic remedies or crystal healing to make him shut up.

    If your child needs a hug and a kiss after hurting themselves, fine. Here’s a crazy thought. GIVE your child a hug and a kiss.
    I know that might interfere with your “me” time but…oh, nevermind, just give placebo or better yet, just drug the little critter!

  20. What about when your get gets shot for trying to sell some bunk pills to a fellow student?

    I here 4th grade is getting rough these days.

  21. Quit being a pussy and give your kids Demerol. At times like these, nobody needs a lightweight.

  22. Just an observation, not a judgment: It seems like these pills would appeal to parents who just don’t have enough time or the skill to comfort their children (when they aren’t really sick). The fact that these are even available and will probably be popular with some, is just another indicator that our current US lifestyle is fucked up. Too much time and energy spent at the job or whatever leaves not enough time to nurture children.

    This isn’t worded very well, guess what I’m saying is that these placebos are a symptom of something.

  23. Too much time and energy spent at the job or whatever leaves not enough time to nurture children.

    One theory of the placebo effect is that it works because it is an aspect of care and attention. However it works, it appears to be as effective as many common medications. Having worked almost two decades in the hospital, I saw a lot of old people who got sick because they were lonely. I imagine that many children have the same problem. When you are vulnerable and have poor coping skills, characteristics of both the old and the young, an absence of care is devastating.

  24. I know Antinous, I’ve studied the placebo effect quite a bit. But, in the long run, this is not an effective treatment for whatever is ailing these kids. It may provide short-term relief for both patient and “doctor”, but what are the long-term consequences?

  25. My father, on the other hand, told me that aspirin, tylenol, etc were all placebos, that any pain was all in my head, and that I just needed to get over it.
    Me? I’m just gonna beat the “owies” out of my children.

  26. Band-aids for kids are about the same thing as this. Once I tried to explain to my son (5) that he didn’t need a band-aid on his scrape and that band-aids don’t have any medicine in them… but my wife gave me the look, so I stopped.

    We discussed the look afterward and she feels they make his scrapes and bumps feel better in his mind. He’s young and if he wants to think they make him feel better, more power to him. The mind is a powerful thing.

    I’m not exactly sure what the uproar is about here. I thought this was a pretty neat idea. When my son gets a fever, we give him Children’s Advil or some such–following the logic given here, won’t he think medicine can always make him feel better when he is sick? Never mind the fact that it does.

    Kids may feel weird and think they are sick. Adults have no way of knowing what’s wrong, if anything. I could give a general pain-killer (Advil) or something like that, but I’d feel better trying this first. I might just print off some labels of my own and fill it with Sweet Tarts though.

  27. Obecalp! For when you’re too busy/cant-be-bothered to comfort your child.

    Obecalp! For when it’s your step child who’s looking for attention.

    Obecalp! Tell em to take two of these and come back after your soaps are over.

    Obecalp! It might just shut them up.

    Obecalp! Because you really shouldn’t take aspirin to make your husband think you have a headache.

  28. Of course, administering a placebo also relies on the kid not figuring out that the pill is a placebo.

    I was 16 or so and I had a MD give me pills which I’m quite sure were placebos (I’ll bet he thought I’d convinced myself I was sick so as to avoid school, which may well have been true…). I figured out almost immediately that they were placebos since (i) Doctors don’t give you pills, pharmacies do, (ii) they were allegedly “antibiotics” but there was only one dose (to limit antibiotic resistance, a full course is always prescribed), and (iii) he said I probably had a cold (for which antibiotics would be useless).

    Mind you, he still did a throat culture and I still took the pills. We were both, I think, hedging our bets. Maybe I was unusually geeky for a 16 year old, but I’d bet a fair number of kids would work out what was going on.

  29. Jake, I wouldnt be too sure something is wrong with these kids. I mean, I’ve hung around kids long enough to know a. they may be cool, but you wouldn’t want to have to deal with their bull all day every day, and b. they make stuff up. I would rather give a kid this stuff over some kind of psychoactive drug any day. Placebo is one of those amazing things that really shouldn’t work, but for some reason does. Sometimes I wonder if psychoanalysis isn’t the science of controlling placebo, and that worries me.

  30. I’m taking bets that all the people claiming this is about not wanting to spend time with the kids don’t have any children. I’m not a fan of placebo pills, but what do you think that kiss/ice on the scrape is but a placebo? It’s not going to help it heal any better, but it makes the kid feel good, which is what it’s about. I’m not a big fan of pills generally, and I wouldn’t buy this. On the other hand, I have no compunction about giving my kids an ice pack for a scrape or a bandaid for a bruise. Neither helps, except in the child’s general feeling of being taken care of, and loved. And that’s worth something.

  31. Thalia- sure, a kiss / ice is a placebo, but the thing is, kisses and ice aren’t teaching the little ones that pills are the method of fixing things. They’re teaching them that a kiss and ice is.

    My grandma tries to shove pills down my throat for everything and takes pills at the slightest pain / illness. I’ve gotten very good at palming medicines (she would check my hand, I learned how to drop the pill into my shirt or catch it in the crook of my arm.) She wouldn’t go for this, though. Real pills all the way.

  32. @ Thalia:

    Well, to be fair, ice *can* help. For starters, it deadens the nerve endings, which can be temporarily effective when dealing with a scrape or minor burn. Still, can you not see the difference between giving a child an ice pack or giving them a pill? I mean: sure, you could give them one of those iceless ice-packs, but the effect is indistinguishable.

    I’m pretty sure that some people who believe placebos are the wrong approach do have children of their own. Bad faith on your part. Although the very implication that any discussion of child-rearing is best left to parents is naive at best. Some people without children would make excellent parents, if only they were clueless enough to bring a child into an effed-up world like this.

    But then, maybe they wouldn’t be such good parents after all.

  33. Scottfree @37, I realize that there are times when there is no organic sickness in the child. It is the times when they are feeling a bit lonely, afraid or just weird that these pills seem to be made for. They are just a substitute for a little love or attention that is required. (A kiss or some ice as Tenn said). All I’m saying is that it’s a bit sad when a parent who has no time or inclination to comfort their kid, thinks a fake pill is a good substitute.

  34. What if the lil’ bastards are undiagnosed diabetics?

    “Here son take this it’ll make you feel better.”

    “Thanks Mom!”

    “Son, why are you on the floor shaking uncontrollably?”

  35. Hans: I thought we were talking about kids much younger than 16. By age 16 I was consulting the physician’s desk reference. Stay away from pills, kids!

    Seriously though, I think it’s an idea comparable to candy cigarettes. But since kids are used to seeing their parents swallow a handful of tablets each day it makes sense that they think it’s a good thing.

  36. I have something that will make them much better parents. It comes in pill form…

    BTW… lsat psot! XD

  37. Back in my day, my dad performed a full Indian cleansing ritual (the smell of sage smoke still makes me feel better), heated up some rocks, got out the healing crystals, and talked to you through bad nights. I knew it was bunk, but my dad being there made me feel better than anything else. This… this just sickens me a bit.

    The crazy thing about it is, my dad only did this when I actually was sick. Doesn’t using a placebo for something tiny – or for *every* problem – lessen the effects?

  38. Sheesh, when today’s kids are grown up and look back on their childhood, they won’t mark their first major progress into adulthood by when they figure out Santa Claus is a fake, but by when they realize that “Obecalp is people”.

    wait. No. No. That’s not right.

  39. My old roommate grew up with a mother who said, “You’re sick, honey? Have another slice of cake.” My mother always said, “You’re not sick. You just need more exercise.” He hasn’t been sick more than ten days in the last thirty years, and I’m sick all the time. Coincidence? I think not.

  40. Yay. Let’s teach our children that there’s a pill for everything. Especially for “when they need a little than a kiss”. More what? Attention? Have a pill…

    (Disclaimer: I didn’t get pills when I was small unless they were prescribed by the doctor. I think that’s a good thing.)

  41. What an overwhelming volley of armchair parenting from people who don’t and probably never will have kids.

    My family had another family over for dinner one time when I was a kid, and one of the kids in the other family was feeling sick. The parents gave her a placebo, and my mom told me what they were doing. It worked.

    As others have said above, sometimes kids feel bad when there’s nothing wrong, and they just need to be comforted. Like a bandaid, the placebo is a confirmation that everything is going to be all right, and that the parent cares – both true.

    You have to realize (and this may be hard if you spend very little time around kids) that brute logic, e.g. saying “there’s nothing wrong with you, so shut up” does not make kids feel better. You return them to familiar, comforting routines, and if one of those is taking the appropriate medicine, then a placebo is a great idea. A nap or a pat on the back may also do the trick.

    I’m surprised that so many people missed the fact that, far from teaching kids that pills fix problems, placebos work precisely because kids already believe this, and with good reason. Medicine is a great way to solve certain problems, when used under the right circumstances. If there is no medical problem, then a non-medicine is a great solution.

  42. Hi. Welcome to the Placebo Store. I’m Jen. I am a mommy. It’s what I love. It’s my job to make owies go away. Whether it’s a kiss or a big hug, the magic happens immediately.

    Can I throw up now?

  43. Geektronica @52:

    Give it up. There’s no hope. The armchair theorists and the mommy drivebys (the sort who also give parents unsolicited advice/criticism in the street) have the thread.

    Look, people. What works varies enormously from child to child and from situation to situation. One child’s perfect solution may be another’s complete undoing. I admit it makes for less interesting comment threads, but it is true.

    It’s also worth remembering that not everything you do when raising a child has life-long effects. Sometimes you do things that don’t stick at all, rather than teaching them some vast life-long lesson. I used to use a “magic string” to get five children across busy streets, and yet none of them have any belief in the magic of string now. Assuming everything a parent does will resonate down a child’s entire life just ratchets up the guilt and the worry, and parenting is full enough of those already.

    Telling other parents what they should do all of the time? Telling them that everything they do could ruin their child’s life forever? Drivebys and guilt trips? I wish to heck there were a pill for that.

  44. Honestly, if this takes off, the person who benefits the most won’t be the drug companies OR the parents. It’ll be the English teachers who get to teach these kids what an “anagram” is.

  45. I am a celiac (my body can’t handle gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley, etc.) It is a hard condition to diagnose. The symptoms can be mild and seem totally unrelated in some people, which is why I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my late 20s. I often had temper tantrums when I was a kid, earaches, nausea, and was often very lazy and couldn’t concentrate. I think it was the fact that my parents only gave me medicine if I was really sick (had a fever or infection) that allowed me to even figure out that I have celiacs. I was able to recognize symptoms and recognize a pattern. When the severity of the symptoms worsened, I sought answers. Celiacs is treated by avoiding gluten. Since I have been on a gluten free diet, I am hardly ever sick, my symptoms disappeared, I have great skin for the first time in my life, and the list goes on and on.

    I looked at the placebo ingredients and the “mommy” says that it is made from dextrose (a simple sugar derived from starch)and natural cherry flavor. Since the starch could be made from wheat flour, this placebo pill would have made me sicker. And I won’t even mention the added bonus of a sugar rush.

  46. A friend of mine has been working as a primary (elementary) school teacher for a few decades now. As a result, she has a lot of experience dealing with young children’s bruises, scrapes and aches.

    She says that over the years, she’s never found anything as good for treating this stuff as a quick hug with, in serious cases and if he kid is young enough to buy it, her “magic wave” over the affected part.

    Of course, fear of pedophilia has made it illegal for her to give a crying six year old in her care a quick hug and the “magic wave” is probably considered disrespectuful to whatever religion the kid’s parents follow. Oh well.

  47. For some reason I didn’t learn what a placebo was until I was 21. I was hard up for cash and doing one of those awful drug research stay-overs when the guy next to me asks me what drug they’re using me for. The only name I remembered was “placebo”. That got a laugh, and boy did I feel stupid.

  48. New! Pediagra! For those little boys who feel insufficiently endowed.

    If your child develops an erection that lasts for more than three hours, consult a doctor immediately.

  49. Placebos work to a great extent…if I remember the statistics, given three cases,:no drug, a placebo and something that was actually treated the symptoms, there was a marked difference in patients given the placebo vs. nothing at all. This is generally true in any drug therapy regiment when you do testing. Sometimes they do better with the placebo than the actual drug.

    Then again, when attacking things from a behavioral perspective, the placebo starts to fail and the efficiency is short lived. Once you get into mental health, you quickly learn treating the root causes and not the symptoms are *MUCH* more effective. But it doesn’t happen in the US and most other westernized countries because insurances understand that we have about a 6 year employment average before switching jobs. This is just about the time it takes for real behavioral / psychotherapy to take hold. Drugs…much easier to administer and far cheaper than weekly sessions with a doctor for an hour or longer.

    And this is where it is unconscionable for a parent to give placebos…it might work temporarily, but you have the time and resources to help your child live a healthy and productive life. One where they are conscious of how the decisions they make impact their lives. How their emotional state has psychosomatic impact upon their health. A quick fix….every now and then. Cool. No one can do everything perfectly and even if you are a parent, you do have to have some life to your own. But for someone to institutionalize this in their family…what a fucking piss poor parent. I’m sorry, but the ‘drive-by mommies’ and ‘armchair theorists’ have it right. Parenting is about using the best skills you have at your disposal, but this is just fucking pathetic.

    What do I know…I’m just another armchair theorist who hasn’t had kids yet either regardless of what pieces of paper I have on my wall.

  50. Don’t they see that this is a gateway drug?

    First, they start using this. Then, by high school, they’re hooking and stealing cars to support their homeopathy habit.

    Won’t somebody think about the children?!

  51. As a couple of others have mentioned, there are some common and serious conditions that are notoriously under-diagnosed, especially in children. So my problem is not with the Obecalp per se, but rather with the initial assumption that the kid is wrong when he/she says they’re ill. Are parents going to just give Obecalp and immediately give up trying to figure out why their kid is uncomfortable?

    This is potentially very dangerous.

  52. Hi, I’m a mommy. It’s my job to make owies go away. It is important that children never, ever feel pain or get hurt in any way. That way, they grow up to be strong, courageous, well adjusted adults just bursting with character.

    Pad everything and take away anything that is remotely sharp. If your child gets hurt, you’re a failure as a parent.

  53. I don’t think this is people telling you to tell kids to shut up.

    This is people telling you teaching young children that pills fix everything is bad. Sure, use a placebo. But not one pill shaped.

    Also, your arguments for a posteriori knowledge being the key to a valid position need some work. I know a lot of people who’ve had kids, and are still stupid. And I know a lot of people who haven’t, and look after them a hell of a lot better.

  54. Why only pills? If you want it to be realistic, you might consider Obecalp ointments, Obecalp inhalers, or Obecalp suppositories. You could have a whole medicine cabinet of Obecalp fake pharmaceuticals.

  55. The pharmaceutical companies will absolutely love this– get the kids indoctrinated even earlier!


  56. So, wait.

    Do people have a problem with the use of placebos in general, or is everyone bitching because now it’s too easy to get ahold of them?

    It’s not like she invented placebos, she’s just selling them.

  57. My son has Crohn’s disease that took three years and a lot of visits to the doctor to get diagnosed. I hate the idea of a placebo pill for every ill, and the idea that it is a way of sifting the ill from the malingering. The placebo effect is a real one, and so the fact that the placebo pill gives a child (or adult) relief is NOT an indication that there was nothing real wrong with them. On the other hand I agree that giving children the idea that pills cure all ills is a dnagerous one… and giving pills to well children is something I would feel very uncomfortable about. Yes, I have three children.

    When my children were smallish I had a special box, in which I put things to interest them… some old fashioned pennies, a few little games, some fossils, some tiny books, marbles, a glass pen, shells, beads, some novelty items like yoyos, some ancient keys… If they had a hurt that didn’t go away with a hug and a kiss, the box was a very good test of their level of distress… a child with a seriously hurting tummy or head was only vaguely interested, whereas one with a mild pain was easily distracted by it.

    It seems like a much better alternative to me.

  58. Jeez, what a wave of hostility from supposedly enlightened BoingBoingers! We have multiple comments ridiculing the I am a mommy. It’s my job to make owies go away line. What’s the matter, people? Maybe you didn’t get enough mother love and cuddling when you were growing up?

    Then we have the barrage of commenters assuming anyone who would use these placebo pills are bad parents. #62 pontificates mightily before admitting he or she has no personal knowledge about being a parent.

    My own take? For small children with minor or non-existent ailments, Obecalp’s probably a good thing. It might work just as well as (and be much, much safer than) the barrage of children’s meds regularly given to kids by well-meaning parents. I’ll let my own judgment be my guide.

  59. Hey kids! A bottle of drugs can fix *anything*! When you grow up, you’ll be able to buy your own from a leading Pharma company!

    FFS, I’m a parent of two, and yes: sometimes they tend a little to being tiny hypochondriacs. Do you think pandering to that with “let’s get your special tablets out” is going to help? Do you want to encourage your kids to think that opening medication packs and eating the contents is good?

    Some common sense says this is a dumb, dumb idea.

  60. Doesn’t anyone remember being a kid? They don’t know what’s a serious problem and what isn’t, and aren’t mature enough to understand even if you could explain it in detail. How are they to know that a painful stomach ache will pass, when a not-so-painful bite from a rabid dog was a medical emergency requiring an emergency room visit. They aren’t mature enough to understand why some issues require attention and others don’t. Until they develop that maturity, it is perfectly healthy to motivate them to seek help with health issues that they don’t understand by giving all health issues attention, deserved or not.

  61. Like it or not, this would be an imprinting experience for a little kid.

    Pill -> Relief.

    Now, how many reading these posts have never taken a pill for relief?

  62. Hello, actual father here.

    The first thing to think about is whether or not there is actually an ailment that real medicine is appropriate for. There are times, obviously, when aspirin or ibuprofen are good treatments.

    Here’s the chorus of this comment: If you don’t know, ask your kid’s doctor. The symptoms you think are indicative of a need for over-the-counter meds or a placebo may, in fact, be signs of something that needs other care, or less care.

    If there isn’t a need for a medication, either prescribed or OTC, then comfort activities are wonderful; reading stories, getting to stay up a bit later to watch a video with mom/dad, meditation exercises, special foods… all of these things can help provide comfort, which tends to diminish stress and anxiety.

    What you want to ask yourself, I think, is this: where do you want your kids to assign ideas about comfort in their lives? I still enjoy a nice, relaxing hot shower when I’m feeling a bit funky because that was one of the pre-medicine things done in my family growing up. It relaxes you, makes you breathe better, gets you out of your usual stress programming, etc.

    The difference between most comfort activities — including band-aids and ice-packs — and drugs is that real drugs can be habit forming because of their actual effects. To give them an extra load of “comfy mommy owie-bye-bye” meaning can be psychologically troubling later in life.

    Chicken noodle soup never put anybody into rehab, and it’s a good life lesson to learn that you can, in many cases, find healing and comfort outside of a bottle of pills.

  63. yes, Bolamig, I do remember being a kid and having a runny nose and asking my mom for a tylenol – her reponse? “What are you gonna do, stick it up your nose? You don’t have a fever; you don’t need tylenol. Go get a kleenex.”

    No, as a kid you don’t know what’s serious and what will pass; that’s what parents are for. Not to “give a pill” whenever you don’t quite feel right.

  64. What’s wrong with parents getting their kids used to the idea that authority figures will often lie to them?

  65. First off where does it say on the product lable or website to use this as an alternative to good parenting? I can’t see it but the 2/3s of the posts here seem to be quoting it from somewhere like a religious mantra.

    To the posters underlining the dangers of rare diseases or allergies being masked by these. I don’t really think this becomes an issue except perhaps in the US where companies are at a disadvantage when being sued for damages by plaintiffs pretending to be legally retarded, keywords “McDonalds”, “driving” and “coffee”.

    Just try getting a busy family doctor or a misdiagnosis by any legally practicing doctor to have much more damage done. But don’t tell me the parents never suspect their children have a problem.

    Or could all the knee jerk postings just be a back lash against a monetary culture where medicine has become one of it’s most profitable products and pills are sold as stop gaps for the symptoms of much deeper and graver malaise? I think this is the case.

    As for the placebo’s for kids, in our house we take medecines when they help us fight illlneses, we put sticky plasters on cuts, cool pads on bruises and we don’t use the tv as a babysitter.

    Oh and I do know of an adult who always carries a bottle of asprin around to pop when feeling a bit down in the dumps, but who doesn’t drink. Stomach lining or brain cells – you choose which is more evil.

    Finally I would give out life terms without parole for adults using words like ‘owies’, ‘yummy’, ‘scrummy’ under any circumstances.

  66. What’s wrong with “owies?” Or “yummy?”

    I don’t have children of my own yet, but words like “owie” make up a significant percentage of my speech, particularly when communicating with my very young nephews. I’m not sure why anyone would be offended by them: they’re gentle, and well-meaning, and serve an important function of language by communicating ideas clearly and economically. In the case of “owie,” it seems to me to be a logical way to communicate not only to discuss an injury or pain, but emotional needs such as sympathy, caretaking, and nurturing.

    And honestly, I think gentleness and nurturing is never a bad thing.

  67. Reminds me of my own parents. They were and are amazing, amazing parents, but they could have their triksy moments. My brother and I hated eating onions, but they liked the things. We would frequently ask “What does this have in it?” to avoid consuming them. In order to avoid lying, but also to not go to the rediculous lengths of making two portions without them, they would call onions “Aromatic vegetables.” It worked, we ate our dinner! But I’m not too sure that I would do that to my kids.

    There was a Marvin comic on this very subject this past Sunday. Marvin, all of two and a half years old or so, is running an advice column in front of a computer for his fellow toddlers. Another kid writes in lamenting that his/her mommy is making him give up his/her pacifier/dummy, yet s/he has no desire to do so. Marvin writes back telling the kid that said child should give it up as soon as mommy quits using chocolate.

  68. What a difference a mention in the NY Times makes! We’ve actually had placebo pills on the market since the beginning of this year (though not targeting kids), at If we’re reading the comments right, most people are objecting to (a) enculturating kids into pill-popping behaviours, and (b) deceiving kids about the actual nature of the pill. Nobody’s gainsaying the operation of the so-called placebo effect, it seems to be more about the parenting issues …

    I guess the same objections would be raised to behaviour like putting a Flintstones-themed band-aid on a bumped knee that didn’t actually need a band-aid, with the assurance that this would ‘make it better’…?

    Two things, in defence of the placebo-as-pill approach (and astute readers will be aware that the placebo effect can also be engaged through sham injections, sham surgery … and possibly Mystical Words Uttered Backwards Under a Full Moon and so forth …)

    As conscious purveyors of placebos, we’re concerned with the potential of the placebo effect to inspire self-healing. We don’t recommend that people lie about or misrepresent our product: it’s a sugar pill, inert, side-effect free … BUT the placebo effect exists, and there is some evidence to show that people ingesting a placebo *in the awareness that it’s a placebo* may still gain some benefit. That’s the ‘honesty in parenting’ bit.

    As to the pill-popping-culture bit, well … perhaps. One of our team is a homeopath, and consequently aware of the materialist critique that homeopathic remedies are also nothing else but placebos. In general, our feeling is ‘so what? If there’s no deception and misrepresentation, and the things actually work, what’s the harm?’

    We understand the passion and the aggro, to an extent. Nobody likes the idea of ripping people off and leveraging the pain of children. But we can assure you there’s a case to be made for harmless and light-hearted exploration of the placebo effect, and especially for the questions it raises about the same pill-popping culture that encourages conventional practitioners to regularly use ineffective treatments (such as prescribing antibiotics for viral infections). Anyway, check out our website. You can pour some vitriol into the comments sections there, if you like!

  69. I guess the same objections would be raised to behaviour like putting a Flintstones-themed band-aid on a bumped knee that didn’t actually need a band-aid, with the assurance that this would ‘make it better’…?

    With the critical difference that a band aid of any kind really does make it better in a physical way by protecting the wound. To earn the right to continue to compare your product to a Band Aid, please demonstrate the concrete, physical benefit of your placebos that is equivalent to covering a wound.

  70. Wow, first of all i am a kid and ou know what i have never in my entire life used words like owies and stuff. But that may just be me. This whole thing is so stupid ya lie to us and mentaly scar us for life. I can even put how stupid this is into words. I am a 10 year old girl. Come on. Give me a freakin break. Does it do anything, no, does it teach children that taking pills will always make you feel better for no reason, yes. I’ve taken pills, I’ve drankin stupid cough medicine, and i’ve used the nasal spray stuff. I was actually sick and because my parents haven’t lied to me about something this idiotic I k know when to tke pills, when not to, and I am a straight A student so any one who wants to use this stuff, don’t. Coming from who you would be giving it to. Kids deserve better than that. And it is good that I am saying this because al of the people on this dang website are adults. DON’T BE IDIOTS.

  71. When it comes to people’s health, whatever works is the ticket.
    if it’s a placebo that does the trick, great!
    if not move on, try something else.

  72. And also to people like Bolamig, ya know what most of the time kids do know what is a serious problem and what isn’t. It’s just that all you adults don’t actually care about what us kids think. We are so inferier huh, I am extremly angry now. We matter just as much as you freakin adults do. But no matter what you guys are doing you can’t find the time or you just dona’t really care to listen to what we have to say. Actually the last time my tooth hurt and my parents didn’t care it turned out that it cracked in half and the nerve was exposed. And a few years ago when I said my ankle hurt my parents said get over it, it turned out to be cracked in half from running track. So all you adults might want to thing about listening to your kids. They have feelings, they get hurt and if you parents don’t learn to listen they are gonna end up as stupid as you people are acting. And as some of you people said about this not being bad them relying on pills because they already do, thats not true none of me or my friends rely on pills for anything. And as a matter of fact motrin for me works on headaches, because headaches a come of you said aren’t in your head they are from when you get stressed and the muscles in you hed tense up. (and kids do get stressed). Next up on the list of things going wrong in all your heads Band-Aids they aren’t like a conformation they protect it with or without medicine. I had a really bad cut and it got caught on a little bush branch and that ripped it open. If I had put a Band-Aid on it that wouldn’t have happened now would it!!! What all you might think of that doen’t exist might actually be something, and these pills might not help or possibly make it even worse. Some of you people have good points like just being around your parents does help you feel a little better and that is true. But some of you people are talking about us kids as though because we are younger we can’t think for ourselves newsflash by age 7 we can for me that was 3 years ago nd look at these paragraphs I’m typing up. Give me a break. Lets do some comparing people either give us a Band-Aid, a motrin/tylenol, hug or kiss, and if nessesary take us to the doctors, or you give us a placebo and they start to rely on them, you think no big deal right, WRONG big deal, if they get diagnosed with cancer when they are young they wil say “give me a placebo” what are ya gonna do now your kid dies. You know you lied about placebos, they know you lied about placebos and you live on knowing what you did to your kid. Good job people, on ruining the little childhood that child had. Lastish my parents didn’t know abot something I had about 3 months ago, ya’ll following, they took me to my doctor Dr. Aiesha Ahmar and it turned out to be a serious lung problem due to smoke, my mom smokes, don’t any body comment about my mother I am serious about that. If they had ignored it, it could have gotten worse they had made mistakes with my older brother(14) when he was my age nd they made some with me to and they weren’t gonna let that happen again so I got better and here I am now. To finish this off, here it goes, kids need love and protection, but they need it from their parents not pills.

  73. What if you have a kid who’s scared of pills, you talk them into taking Obecalp, and then they throw up or get a headache?

  74. What about this: I am “adopting” a child who is on sleeping pills. At age 7, I believe, the people he lived bought into some screwed up counselor’s advice that this child needed to be put on sleeping medication. Now, at age 10, he believes he cannot sleep without it. I know this isn’t true, because I’ve “run out” of the pills on a couple of occasions and there was no problem, except the one he convinced himself of. (He went to sleep at his normal time with no problem, but was worried so would cry for a few minutes before falling asleep, and convinced himself that he had stayed up super late.) I feel like in our case a placebo is exactly what we need. My only problem is, where can I find one that looks similar to what he is taking so he doesn’t get suspicious? I’m not sure what these look like, so I don’t know if I should buy them. I just want him off this medicine because I know he doesn’t need it!

  75. I have a 16 yr old daughter who has severe depression, she is on medications for the depression as well as Trazadone for sleeping issues that come with the cycling of depression. The issue is coming in is she is believing that she cannot sleep without the Trazadone and is now up to a 100mg a night, which is something that frankly scares me due to the side effects. She does already have hypochondria which is common with her issues, I have searched everywhere for something that would help her “believe” at least for the time being that she was taking a generic form of Trazadone but I could be at ease about the lack of side effects of it. Then, when she is weened off of the Trazadone, is told exactly that she has had a placebo and does not need the medications. It is products like this that are really needed, I wish they could be sold at Walgreens.

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