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There are ways to study the placebo, and within the past couple of decades there have been some remarkable results of these. It turns out that about two decades ago, Howard Fields and his colleagues reasoned that if a placebo could relieve pain, it might be doing so by acting through the very pathways in our brains that control pain involving endogenous opiates. Morphine, a plant narcotic, a plant opiate, merely provides an outside source of things that are already circulating within our brain.

They reasoned that if placebos relieve pain through opiates, if you block uploads, you might block placebo activities. And they showed that a drug that blocks morphine action, a drug known as Naloxone, completely eliminated placebo effects to pain.