The Man Who Overdosed On a Bottle of Placebos

An extraordinary case study from several years ago described a man in his twenties who had attempted suicide by swallowing 29 capsules of an experimental drug he received through participating in a clinical trial that was testing a new antidepressant.

After arguing with his ex-girlfriend, he swallowed all of the pills and had to be taken to the emergency room for an assumed overdose. His blood pressure had plummeted to 80/40, his heart rate rose to 110 beats per minute. He was shaking, and sweating and breathing rapidly.

Over the course of four hours, doctors injected him with more than 1.5 gallons, or 6 liters, of saline solution. They managed to raise his blood pressure to 100/62, but his heart rate remained high at 106 beats per minute.

Then a doctor from the clinical trial arrived. He told the patient that the pills weren’t antidepressants because he was in the control arm of the tests. The pills were placebos

In 15 minutes, his blood pressure stabilized at 126/80, and his heart rate dropped to a normal 80 beats per minute.



Photo: “Infinity” by Klesta ▲ is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0