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General*
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Sat 15th Dec '07 2:33AM
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http://www.badscience.net/?p=578

I've just been reading this article by Ben Goldacre.

I've always considered Homeopathy to be utter nonsense (Homeopathic medicines are just sugar pills and contain no active ingredient) but relatively harmless nonsense that gives the recreationaly unwell something to squander their money on in exchange for a dose of the placebo effect.

Recently however I have discovered that practitioners are recommending that people give their children sugar pills to prevent malaria, or as a substitute to the MMR vaccine (Measles has claimed its first child fatality as a result of the declining immunization rate BTW) and cure AIDs. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that it should be entirely outlawed, or at the very least that practitioners should not be able to refer to what they give as medicine, or a therapy and furthermore that people setting themselves up in a position of authority giving people dangerous health advise should be held criminally responsible for the damage they might cause.
    

Kelly*
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Tue 18th Dec '07 8:06PM
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I absolutely agree.

I think in addition to the physical health problems which are of course more immediate and therefore potentially much more important, it can also be really damaging to people emotionally/mentally because it encourages people in awful situations to try things that are proven to be ineffective. In my experience through work (which is obviously very limited and therefore doesn't prove anything general, but has been reasonably frequent), the person who the nonsense has been pushed at then feels there's something defective about them because it doesn't work - something that I think is reinforced by the prevailing attitude that 'having faith' as a vague concept is somehow laudable. Again, I've got nothing much to back that up, but it does seem to me that it's generally seen as a good/more moral thing to announce belief in un-evidence based/unprovable things, whilst expressing skepticism and asking for proper evidence is seen in a negative light.

I find working with vulnerable people has made me come even more to this conclusion, both because of the people I've worked with suffering and having their suffering compounded as a result of it, and because of the training I have had, which puts faith, belief, mysticism, and similar vaccuous and undefined concepts on a pedestal. I was recently asked to do a day's training at one of our local universities for the counselling degree students there, and found that several of them who I spoke to felt the same as I did for much of the training - that there was some key bit of knowledge they were missing which somehow tied together all this stuff, that they were just not bright enough to understand (whilst the lack of brightness is undoubtably true in my case, it probably isn't for all of them!). Although most of this is relevant to psychological rather than physical health issues, I experienced in my training one of the tutors (a qualified counsellor and supervisor) tell a trainee to encourage an insomniac client to use crystals. No recommendation to go to the doctor or talk to someone who might be able to give real help - just use crystals.

All this is (in my and their experience) tied in with things like homeopathy, crystal 'healing', and other alternative 'therapies', because the training course and professional journal of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists both have strong trends towards encouraging people to pretty much suspend belief and buy in to all this stuff. Most issues of the professional journal include some reference or other to how dreadful it is that anyone would ask counsellors (and implicitly, anyone working in a helping profession) for evidence that what they do works, with articles decrying the idea that there might be some kind of regulation of the profession involving evidence bases, including 'humourous' cartoons depicting people wanting evidence as stupid, tight and stubborn. So essentially a lot of the people who are out there in professional roles giving help to vulnerable people (albeit usually mentally rather than physically vulnerable) are likely to have been trained to not only to accept and peddle this nonsense, but also to see evidence bases for psychological treatment as laughable and even immoral (this based on the usual kind of argument that 'you can't measure people! That would be dreadful! And your wanting to probably makes you some kind of fascist nazi satan figure!').

Anyway, that's turned in to an incoherent rant, and is possibly the topic for another thread, so I'll stop!

EDIT: Edited to remove shameful misspelling of 'crystal'
   

General*
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Tue 18th Dec '07 9:24PM
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It's really interesting to hear the experiences of someone who has to live with this kind of nonsense on a day to day basis.

I didn't realise that indoctrination into this kind of claptrap is so ingrained in the counselling industry.

From my days studying Psychology I seem to remember that quite a few treatments like psychoanalysis have a success rate slightly below that of the spontaneous remission rate. In that kind of climate it probably isn't any wonder that people start to doubt the validity of hard evidence.
    

Spanners*
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Wed 19th Dec '07 8:02AM
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It seems that the only 'evidence' that homeopathy practitioners have is when people show improvement in certain conditions due to the placebo effect or simply because they were on the mend anyway. Yet this improvement is hailed as evidence that homeopathy works equally well for completely unrelated medical problems.

The big issue for me though issue though is in the placebo effect - if people believe in it strongly enough then they will convince themselves that their symptoms are less and they will feel better . However this does not mean that homeopathy is doing anything for the disease. Placebo effects cannot cure diseases and making claims that they will particularly when there are tested and proven vaccines out there should be grounds for criminal prosecution. It will cause many many deaths.
    

Clara
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Wed 19th Dec '07 9:52AM
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As many of you know, I've had a stomach condition for many years now and there have been times when I would have done ANYTHING to ease it. If someone had told me that grinding up crystals and digesting them with the milk of the yak would help, at my worst I'd have tried it. Homeopathy plays on this need.

The problem is that the best way of maintaining a healthy condition for those in my situation is an individual thing and what what works for one doesn't necessarily for another. This leads to lots of trial treatments, interspersed with horrible tests, which can often make you feel worse. When you're on a treadmill like that, the idea of 'natural' remedies is very appealing. Especially when you realise that the consultants treating you are on as much of a learning curve as you are.

Homeopathy is often put in a bracket with other complementary treatments that can help in the treatment of some conditions. I'm controlling mine with a mixture of hypnotherapy and some minor dietary restrictions and supplements and I feel better than I have for a long time. Of course, it is also possible that I would be feeling this good anyway, as I can go for lengthy periods feeling absolutely fine. Only time will tell!

Sorry, off topic there. Main point - homeopathy can help people in a placebo way. All well and good. ANY treatment should be trialled and refined - many of our medicines are based upon the effects of naturally occurring remedies - I'm not of the opinion that anything should be discounted until tests have been done and efficacy monitored. But to promote it as a way to heal in itself, without evidence. Bad.
 

Dregan
a flim flam is as good as a shim sham sam
Wed 19th Dec '07 12:13PM
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shamelessly reposting this from elsewhere, I like it because it has numbers and such



The first, and most important principle of homeopathy is "The Law Of Similars". This says that "like cures like". So if you have a set of symptoms, say a headache, then something that, in a healthy person will produce a headache, then thats what will cure your headache.

The rational behind this is that the body will not allow two identical diseases or imbalances and that by introducing an artificial set of symptoms, this will somehow "push out" the bad symptoms and you'll be cured.

Of course, it's a little more complicated, because the remedy or homeopathic dose has to be diluted. And it is. It's diluted by placing the remedy, let's say Ducks Liver, a common homeopathic substance, (apt for quackery) into a solution of water. 1 part duck to 100 parts water. Then it's shaken up and down ten times (the magic number). Then shaken side to side ten times, then backwards and forwards ten times. (I'm sure there should be some chanting here. Something like "hubble-bubble, toil and trouble..). And there you have a first dilution. But that's still too strong. So it goes through another dilution. One part diluted duck to 100 parts water. This is called succession. And it's a succession in the C scale.

Anyway, this dilution goes on and on and has a scale. A 1C is the first dilution. A 2C is the second and so on and so on. The founder of homeopathy reccomnds a 30C dilution for most ailments. Think about that. That's a dilution of 10 to the power 60. 10 with 60 zeros after it. To give you an idea of scale, 1ml of a solution which has gone through a 30C dilution would have been diluted into a volume of water equal to that of a cube of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 meters per side, or about 106 light years.

Let's put it another way. If you take a 30C homeopahtic remedy that claims an active ingrediant of Ducks Liver and subjected that to the best chemical analysis possible, and let's throw in physical analysis using the most powerful electron microscope available, you wouldn't find a single molecule, a single atom of Ducks Liver. Why? Because it doesn't fucking contain any.

So don't claim homeopathy is a science or deserves to be treated as a form of medicine because it isn't. It's faith-healing. And anyone who claims differently is a fucking liar.



A comment made on that states that in reality, if you were to subject it to the best chemical analysis possible, you're more than likely to find greater quantities of naturally-occurring impurities than the original 'active' ingredient. Meaning, of course, that alongside the 'water memory' of the duck's liver, there's the 'water memory' of lead, mercury, fluoride, toxic waste, fish shit and so on.

If one wants to take a homeopathic cure for a migraine or a cold, be my guest because it's one's own choice, congratulations for not wasting real doctor's time or medication and I've got this huge jar of snake oil for you guaranteed* to keep the tigers away. If one espouses using homeopathic immunisations for AIDS or malaria, then that's an accident waiting to happen. In the event of the worst happening, I don't see how it can be viewed as anything other than manslaughter.

*guarantee void in presence of tiger
    

General*
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Wed 19th Dec '07 9:24PM
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A couple of things to add to the debate.

Though the term Water Memory is banded about. It's a nothing term. A French researcher thought that he had discovered something, but when the experiment was repeated it turned out to be erroneous and since then no evidence has ever been seen. Despite this Homoeopaths still bang on about it.

Secondly whenever a double blind test is administered homoeopathy always performs exactly as well as the placebo. The experiments homoeopaths point to as evidence typically involve one group being given consultations followed by dispensing remedies which they are told will work with the other group being told 'Here's a placebo' which obviously completely negates the effect.
    

Demian*
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Mon 24th Dec '07 10:53AM
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Spanners was bold enough to comment:

Placebo effects cannot cure diseases and making claims that they will particularly when there are tested and proven vaccines out there should be grounds for criminal prosecution. It will cause many many deaths.



I totally agree with this.

According to my understanding of advertising law, any medical claims must have reliable evidence backing them up. What I don't understand is how the title of a business does not constitute advertising - near my house there is a large building with 'Homeopathy Clinic' on a large sign outside. Surely this ought to fall foul of the law since it implies that homeopathy is a valid form of treatment.

Maybe it's just that nobody has tried challenging it - I'm thinking of lodging a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority to see if they can have it removed.
  

Diziet
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Thu 3rd Jan '08 9:58PM
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General was bold enough to comment:

I've always considered Homeopathy to be utter nonsense (Homeopathic medicines are just sugar pills and contain no active ingredient) but relatively harmless nonsense that gives the recreationaly unwell something to squander their money on in exchange for a dose of the placebo effect.





fair enough about homeopathy being utter nonsense but what does 'recreationally unwell' mean and why specifically that group being given 'something to squander their money on in exchange for the placebo effect'?

this gives me an image of an elite club of AIDS sufferers, all financially sound, lazily flicking through shopping channels in a fairly disaffected manner thinking, 'oh sod it, i'll spend my cash on THAT particular wonder drug, after all i can't take it with me. ho. ho. ho'.

this is not an image i need in my head.



edit: i know someone who is slowly dying of cancer. he's decided to carry on smoking and drinking until the day he dies. fair fucking play to him i say, its his life. how dare any of us claim to be qualified to even begin to discuss the choices of a terminally ill person. this thread sucks.

General*
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Thu 3rd Jan '08 11:13PM
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By recreationaly unwell I mean wealthy hypochondriacs.

People who take alternative medicine do so because real medicine doesn't work for them either because there is nothing actually wrong with them, or because there is so much wrong with them that clinical medicine can't do anything for them.

In either case I don't have a problem with it. The benefit is entirely due to the placebo effect but that is still a real benefit.

What I do have a problem with is alternative therapists encouraging people who could be helped by conventional medicine to abandon treatment significantly reducing their chances of survival.

Quoting from the Ben Goldacre article I linked.

"in the extreme, when they’re not undermining public-health campaigns and leaving their patients exposed to fatal diseases, homeopaths who are not medically qualified can miss fatal diagnoses, or actively disregard them, telling their patients grandly to stop their inhalers, and throw away their heart pills. The Society of Homeopaths is holding a symposium on the treatment of Aids, featuring the work of Peter Chappell, a man who claims to have found a homeopathic solution to the epidemic. "


Another example these guys (endorsed by the bass player from the Foo Fighters) deny that AIDs exists and advise people to stop taking their medication.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alive_%26_Well_AIDS_Alternatives.

I don't think anyone on this thread is trying to tell terminally ill people how to live their lives. What pisses me of is that there are unqualified people who are dishing out advice that could kill people who have a chance of survival.

If your mate wants to carry on smoking and drinking then I agree, good luck to him. No one should try and tell him what to do with what remains of his life.

My cousin recently died of a brain tumor caused by cancer. He was a Jehovah's Witness and had the tumor been operable he wouldn't have been able to have an operation because he didn't believe in blood transfusions. That would be his choice and I wouldn't question it but it would be an informed choice not some quack telling him to lay off the chemotherapy and try some nice sugar pills and special healing music.
    

Diziet
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Thu 3rd Jan '08 11:25PM
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General was bold enough to comment:

My cousin recently died of a brain tumor caused by cancer. He was a Jehovah's Witness and had the tumor been operable he wouldn't have been able to have an operation because he didn't believe in blood transfusions. That would be his choice and I wouldn't question it but it would be an informed choice not some quack telling him to lay off the chemotherapy and try some nice sugar pills and special healing music.



how is blind faith an informed choice?

what if he'd believed in the 'suger pills and nice music' instead? how would you have reacted then? would you have felt obliged to impose your scientific beliefs on him because its something you disagree with? to reiterate - the choices of terminally ill people are fuck all to do with us.

by the way, jehovah's witnesses have probably killed more people in need of treatment than homeopathy.

General*
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Fri 4th Jan '08 12:37AM
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It's an informed choice to not undergo therapy and therefore die. As it happens I agree with your comments about the Witnesses and I don't have much to do with that part of my family. I can see that the religion thing makes it a bad example so forget that.

Perhaps A better example is my aunt who decided not to have a second course of chemotherapy and make the best of the time that was available. An informed choice and nobodies business but hers.

I'm not ( I don't think anyone in this thread is) saying sick peoples choices should be taken away and I have no idea where you are getting that idea from.

My point is this: A couple of weeks ago someones child died of measles for the first time in a long while because they hadn't had the MMR vaccine. More children will die over the next year or so and the reason is that people were being fed bad information, by an ill informed tabloid led witch hunt.

If I go out tomorrow and tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin and instead take my proven to work wonder drug for £500 which is actually a pill I've just invented and haven't properly tested and then they die shouldn't I be held responsible?
    

Diziet
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Fri 4th Jan '08 12:49AM
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General was bold enough to comment:

I'm not ( I don't think anyone in this thread is) saying sick peoples choices should be taken away and I have no idea where you are getting that idea from.




the title of this thread contains the word 'AIDS' which is a terminal disease. thats what i'm reacting to. you could have said 'Homeopathy Cures Flu (or not) but you chose AIDS (because thats what the article is about) so therefore the thread, to me, is about the choice of terminally ill people and homeopathy.

Diziet
optical moose
Fri 4th Jan '08 12:50AM
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General was bold enough to comment:

If I go out tomorrow and tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin and instead take my proven to work wonder drug for £500 which is actually a pill I've just invented and haven't properly tested and then they die shouldn't I be held responsible?



yes you should be held responsible, and have your knackers chopped off. i DO agree that homeopathy is garbage, honest.

General*
Windows Bob - the best!
Fri 4th Jan '08 1:17AM
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Diziet was bold enough to comment:

yes you should be held responsible, and have your knackers chopped off. i DO agree that homeopathy is garbage, honest.



Fair enough.

Something else that bugs me is big pharma trying to medicalise everything resulting in half the kids in the US being on Ritalin.

A good talk about it from the same site which also covers the lack of evidence for antioxcidents, pomegranite juice, fish oil etc.

Including the fantastic quote: "The daily mail are dividing all inanimate objects in the world into things that either cause or cure cancer"

http://www.badscience.net/?p=602
    

Diziet
optical moose
Fri 4th Jan '08 7:46AM
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i suspect i was waffling utter balls last night. i've arrived at work this morning with a terrible head cold, my thought processes seem to be a little all over the place.

i retract my statement that this thread sucks.

i'll go away now.


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