The author highlights real, imaginary and symbolic features of drug effectiveness. He focuses principally on the symbolic level utilizing Levi Strauss’s theory on the effectiveness of symbols. The French ethno psychiatrist Georges Devereux, in his clinical work, describes the impact of the symbolic level on the effectiveness of a treatment. After that, one of his students, Tobie Nathan underlines the importance of the symbolic dimension Direttore della Scuola di Prevenzione Josè Blegér di Rimini. of "cultural belonging" in the effectiveness of diagnosis and drugs. In short, to understand the effectiveness of a drug, one has to focus primarily on its cultural code. It is the latter that delivers the meaning of a "drug", its cultural background and its different symbolic representations. The author then describes the diverse symbolic representations of drugs making use of anthropological data and clinical cases, and presents a comparative trial on the efficacy of MDMA (Ecstasy). 19 subjects of the research, during a rave party, received randomly either a placebo, or Ecstasy. The analysis of the perceived effects showed that the two groups of subjects could not be differentiated. In other words, to assess the effectiveness of a drug, one has to take into account the setting in which the drug is taken. The Italian professor of Physiology, Fabrizio Benedetti, has also gathered interesting data on the placebo effect. In conclusion, the author argues that to evaluate the effectiveness of a drug one has to establish the specific symbolic tie existing between therapist and patient.
Keywords: Symbolic effectiveness, scapegoat, drug, commodity, placebo.