Feb 11 2011

Homeopathy Overdose Befuddles Homeopaths

Recently the 1023 campaign conducted another homeopathic overdose. In coordination with this, James Randi issued a $1 million  challenge to the homeopathic community to demonstrate that there is any difference between homeopathic water and regular water (there isn’t). Last week skeptics around the world downed fistsfull of homeopathic pills (i.e. sugar pills) to demonstrate that there is no effect or side effect to the products. You can take a couple of boxes of homeopathic sleeping pills without feeling the least bit drowsy.

To be clear – the homeopathic overdose is a stunt, and nothing more. It is not an experiment or meant to be scientific in any way. It is a stunt for the camera – to raise public awareness of the fact that there are generally no active ingredients in homeopathic products. They are sugar pills that have been kissed with magic water – nothing else. This is an important campaign because generally the public lacks awareness of what homeopathic products really are. Most people I encounter have no idea what the claims of homeopathy are, and assume that homeopathic means “natural” or “herbal.”

It is true that by doing this skeptics are demonstrating that homeopathic products lack toxicity and side effects – a feature prominently promoted by homeopaths. Of course, they have no side effects because they have no effects. It is easy for nothing to cause no direct harm. (Indirect harm is another matter.) So homeopaths should be happy – we are simply educating the public about their favorite snake-oil and demonstrating how wonderfully safe they are.

And yet the demonstration has the effect of irritating homeopaths – because no one likes to have it publicly pointed out that they are, in fact, completely naked.

Leave it to Mike Adams to write the most absurd homeopathic response to the overdose stunt. Adams has never met an argument or claim too full of burning stupid to embrace it fully, if he thinks he can use it to promote his nonsense. He complains that skeptics miss the point of homeopathy (no, we don’t) and issues his own challenge:

Notice that they never consume their own medicines in large doses? Chemotherapy? Statin drugs? Blood thinners? They wouldn’t dare drink those. In fact, today I’m challenging the homeopathic skeptics and other medical fundamentalists to a “drink-a-thon” test to see which medicines will kill you faster.

He wants homeopathy critics (i.e. the scientifically literate and well-informed) to overdose on real medicine. He thinks he is being clever, pointing out that real medicine has toxicity. Of course it does – pharmacology is all about identifying substances that are biologically active and then finding a dose range in which they have a beneficial effect that can be exploited with tolerable side effects and minimal to no toxicity. Any such substance, however, will become toxic if you increase the dose enough. Drink enough water and you will die of water toxicity. You can overdose on any vitamin. The symptoms of hypervitaminosis A are pretty gruesome – if it is acute enough you will die from your tissues falling apart.

In fact – here’s a counter (and also absurd) challenge to Adams – take an overdose of all those herbs, supplements, and vitamins you sell on your site (not homeopathy, but everything else). You’ll notice that advocates of science-based medicine never do that – because herbs are drugs and have all the toxicity of drugs. Supplements are also biologically active and can cause damage from overdose. Adams is a hypocrite for criticizing mainstream medicine for using remedies that have toxicity when overdosed, while selling products that also have toxicity when overdosed. Then again, the promoters of nonsense have never been known for their internal consistency.

Adams continues:

Homeopathy, you see, isn’t a drug. It’s not a chemical. So you can drink all you want and you won’t overdose on it. That’s not a defect in homeopathy — it’s a remarkable advantage.

We agree that homeopathy is not a drug or chemical – it’s literally nothing.  Homeopaths would have you believe that complete absence of any possibility of an effect is an advantage. In fact what it means is that homeopathy cannot work. And, in fact, when studied clinically it does not work – for anything. So if homeopathy cannot work by any established laws of physics, chemistry, or biology, how do homeopaths say it works? The answer – by magic. Of course they disguise the word “magic” in a Gish Gallop of scientific-sounding gobbledigook.

But homeopathy isn’t a chemical. It’s a resonance. A vibration, or a harmony. It’s the restructuring of water to resonate with the particular energy of a plant or substance. We can get into the physics of it in a subsequent article, but for now it’s easy to recognize that even from a conventional physics point of view, liquid water has tremendous energy, and it’s constantly in motion, not just at the molecular level but also at the level of its subatomic particles and so-called “orbiting electrons” which aren’t even orbiting in the first place. Electrons are vibrations and not physical objects.

Right – it’s the energy vibrational resonance of water – i.e. “magic”. Adams has now entered the pantheon of homeopaths who have desperately tried to explain how homeopathy works using the language of science, to humorous effect.

Adams also claims in his article that, “no one is harmed by homeopathy.” He even uses bold type to make sure we get it.

Well, tell that to Gloria Thomas Sam – whose parents decided to treat her severe skin condition with only homeopathic remedy. They were convinced by arguments similar to the ones being peddled by Adams that “chemicals” are dangerous. As a result, she died a horrible death at 9 months old. Tell that to all the people on this list at whatstheharm.net. This is just a small sample of cases of people being harmed, and even dying prematurely, because they were convinced to rely upon homeopathy to treat real non-self-limiting disease. This is a death toll that can be laid directly at the feet of all those who are promoting medical nonsense, like homeopathy. It belongs to all those who try to scare the public away from effective and proven medicine, to confuse the public with sophisticated but nonsensical arguments about magic water, and all those who attack “skeptics” who are just trying to explain the scientific facts to the public.

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