May 29 2012

Modern Medical Zombies

There was a lot of buzz over the long weekend within skeptical circles about a recent article by Mike Adams of Natural News infamy about the coming zombie apocalypse. In the article Adams, who is notorious among skeptics as a conspiracy theorist and promoter of every sort of dubious medical medical claim, reports the story of a Miami man who was shot by police because he was eating the face off another man and would not stop when instructed to do so.

Let me say right off that I get that Adams is being tongue-in-cheek through most of his article. He is using the current cultural fascination with zombies as a metaphor for the kind of medical zombies he thinks modern society is creating. I understand the use of satire and metaphor, and have done so myself on occasion. But I have also learned to be crystal clear about it (and even then you run the risk of being misinterpreted). I found Adam’s article, however, to blend points he was seriously trying to make with distortions and metaphors in a very unclear way. It doesn’t help that his serious points are themselves conspiracy mongering and fear mongering nonsense.

Here, I think, is the actual point Adams is trying to make:

Humans who subject themselves to fluoride, aspartame, psychiatric drugs, vaccines and street drugs end up lobotomizing their higher brains. Vaccines, for starters, cause extreme neurological damage, and some vaccines are actually made of aggressive viruses designed to “eat” targeted regions of the brain, resulting in a biological lobotomy.

See what I mean? Adams occupies that part of CAM world that is anti-government, conspiracy mongering, and anti-medical establishment. Those imperatives seem to trump science and reason at every turn. The anti-fluoride community is a very vocal minority who have had some success in scaring communities away from a safe and effective public health measure. They employ misinformation, distortion, and half-truths to fear-monger about fluoride.

Aspartame is another common internet conspiracy meme – right up Adam’s alley. Fear mongering around aspartame usually involves the claim that it turns into methanol and formaldehyde (a claim Adam’s repeats in the article). This is an excellent example of distortion and misrepresentation of the fact. Aspartame is indeed metabolized into amino acids, methanol, formaldehyde and then formic acid, which is ultimately converted into water and carbon dioxide. This is all part of the normal metabolic pathways by which foods are broken down, used, and excreted. Many foods we eat also pass through formaldehyde on their metabolic journey in our body. There is nothing special about aspartame in this regard.  Further, studies have shown that asparatame is completely safe (as long as you don’t have phenylketonuria).

Fear mongering about aspartame is classic scientific distortion, similar to the dihydrogen monoxide satire. The satire, in fact, is so perfect and effective because it is just a slight exaggeration of the kind of fear mongering that conspiracy theorists like Adams create.

It’s interesting that Adams goes on to mention street drugs, because the article he linked to about the Miami man found eating the face of another man explained that it was almost certainly the result of the use a designer drug called bath salts. (The news article said it was a new form of LSD, but actually its mephedrone, an amphetamine-like stimulant.) The drug causes high fever, hence victim are often found naked as they strip down to cool off. It also causes violent delirium. While Adams is using the term “labotomizing” in a vague and sensationalist manner, this is the only time he comes close to the truth. Some street drugs do damage the brain and can cause violent behavior or acute delirium. The news story is actually a cautionary tale against abusing recreational drugs and the dangers of some street drugs in particular.

Psychiatric drugs are an entirely different animal. They are tested and used in specific controlled doses by trained professional to treat bothersome mental symptoms and disorders. I won’t get into another discussion of mental illness denial here – you can see my previous posts on the topic.

And of course Adams focuses special attention on vaccines, repeating the anti-vaccine pseudoscience about vaccines causing “extreme neurological damage.” Again, I refer readers to my many previous posts on the topic – to summarize, aside from very rare reactions, there is no evidence of neurological damage from the use of vaccines. The bit about some vaccines being made from brain-eating viruses is simply pure nonsense. Most vaccines are made using only parts of viruses or inactivated viruses, and therefore do not have the potential to cause any infection themselves (Adams also says “made of” not “made from”). There are some vaccines that are made with live attenuated viruses – viruses that have essentially been cultured to be weak forms of the virus, and are by definition no aggressive. There is no vaccines that contains an aggressive virus that attacks the brain – so it is hard to characterize that statement from Adams as anything other than a bold lie.


While Adam’s article was not literally about the coming of the walking dead, it was just as crazy and unscientific. He concludes:

I suppose that at some deep gut level, most people realize our civilized world is crumbling. The abandonment of law and common sense in the United States (and, heck, the UK too) is just one such sign…

What he lists as evidence for this is just confirmation bias. If you look at the world through the filter of conspiracy theories, then everything seems to support your conspiracies. He is thinking on a “gut” level – i.e. without any evidence of metacognition, skepticism, or any apparent critical thinking.

Ironically I think that Adams’ approach to the questions he addresses are “zombie like” in that he is thinking and reacting on a very primitive intellectual level, and is failing to employ the higher metacognitive practices that would make someone question what their gut tells them.

32 responses so far

32 thoughts on “Modern Medical Zombies”

  1. Kawarthajon says:

    I first want to say that I love zombies and I mean no disrespect to the coming zombie apocalypse by posting this comment. For those who want to understand the zombie’s point of view, please watch the very funny movie: “Aaah! Zombies!!”

    I also want to point out that Mike Adams uses the CDC’s blog about preparing for the zombie apocalypse as evidence of the “zombification of America”. I think that this has been discussed before on the SGU or maybe this blog, but the CDC’s website is not really about preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but is basically finding a fun way to get the general public to prepare for an emergency, using the popularity of zombies in pop culture to promote their message. Once again, Mike Adams gets it totally wrong and is purposely misleading the public. Besides, the CDC website mentions nothing of shotguns (++++++++ammo), bats, axes, crossbows, hatchets, machetes and other implements that would be essential in a real zombie apocalypse, thus exposing their ruse!

  2. provocate says:

    Great post! I just want to point out that bath salts are a type of stimulant, not a hallucinogen. They seem to cause amphetamine psychosis rather quickly (anecdotally, more quickly than meth), although I don’t think they’re amphetamine based.

    Which prompts a question, why do stimulants cause psychosis?

  3. foggytown says:

    Great article, as usual. One point of contention is the reference to “bath salts” as a “new form of LSD.” The class of designer drugs sold as bath salts are amphetamines, closely related to meth. They are not related to LSD (neither old or new).
    I understand that you are referencing a news article when you make this claim, but it really should be clarified to prevent rampant disinformation.
    Thanks for the great posts.

  4. etatro says:

    I believe in quantum zombies. An individual could either be in a zombie state, or not, but never in between. They eat away at wave functions until you observe them, then they collapse. Which (obviously) means that our consciousness played a role in creating them.

  5. ccbowers says:

    “I suppose that at some deep gut level, most people realize our civilized world is crumbling. The abandonment of law and common sense in the United States (and, heck, the UK too) is just one such sign…”

    This attitude, although common, always annoys me. This line of thinking allows some in every generation to think its approaching “the end times.” Yet, by nearly every metric, “our civilized world” is getting better all the time. I wonder what time period he would rather live in. When was this time when laws were followed, and common sense was in abundance? If I had to pick a time period to live in just based upon these factors, I would first eliminate any time prior to the present.

  6. Thanks for the clarification on bath salts. I did not have time earlier to investigate that separately, but it appears that this refers to mephedrone, which, as you state, is a stimulant like amphetamine and not related to LSD. I will make a correction in the post.

  7. ccbowers says:

    Bath salts are usually synthetic “cathinones.” Mephedrone is one of the possibilities, but there are others such as MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone), and there are regional difference in the contents of products called bath salts. Also, I’m not sure that the specific references to LSD or bath salts is anything other than speculation, although the use of bath salts makes a bit more sense.

  8. HHC says:

    I liked your statement about psychiatric drugs being used for “bothersome” mental symptoms and disorders, e.g. borderline or bipolar personality disorder, PTSD for military rape survivors. What’s really bothersome is the lack of justice for these military men and women.

  9. SARA says:

    Couldn’t he have even come up with a new metaphor? No, that would have required thought.

    Ironic though, I think Adams is closer to the unthinking zombie.

  10. locutusbrg says:

    I am concerned about this dihydrogen monoxide that you speak of. I looked it up, it is in just about everything. That would certainly explain the sharp increase in autism. I wonder if we should have dihydrogen monoxide extractor room. You know like a small wooden room with benches and hot rocks to remove the offending compound. If we get a few people together and put them in the room I am sure that they will feel better. I have a focus group that hangs out at 7eleven that would agree to peer review my study. Stop water zombies now!

    At least if we could get some conspiracy people onboard maybe we could put homeopathy out of business.

  11. daedalus2u says:

    provocate, my hypothesis as to why stimulants cause psychosis is that they trigger the fight-or-flight state, lower ATP levels so as to divert ATP to immediate consumption and turn off things like repair and healing. That is why they are stimulants. They don’t trigger a new source of energy, they turn off the “housekeeping” which frees up ATP for immediate consumption, but at a cost.

    A side effect of lowering the ATP level is that the NO level also gets lower (they are linked via their combined effect on sGC). A lower NO level causes reduced functional connectivity in the brain and that reduces the size of brain compartments that can be connected. With smaller brain regions kept “in sync” by NO signaling, the size thoughts that can be thunk gets smaller. When thought size becomes very small people become psychotic.

    Very often this type of NO reduction also triggers a violent affect. Low NO is the archetypal stress response and low NO is one of the triggers and effectors of the fight-or-flight response.

    When the ATP level is lowered enough, it triggers euphoria. This is the euphoria of near death metabolic stress, autoerotic asphyxiation, the runner’s high, near death experiences and (my hypothesis) the consequence of stimulant drugs of abuse. They trigger the normal euphoria of near death metabolic stress, the euphoria that physiology induces so organisms can run themselves to death while trying to escape from a predator.

    Normally feelings of pain and fatigue prevent running yourself to death. Stimulants and being chased by a predator suppress those feelings of pain and fatigue (injury and fatigue is still happening, the feelings (which are simply neural signals) are simply not accurately reporting the degree of injury and fatigue that is actually present).

  12. Nescio23 says:

    The reason stimulants can cause psychosis is probably related to dopamine release in the brain. Amphetamines and other drugs that stimulate dopamine release can trigger psychosis in schizophrenics at lower doses than in non-schizophrenics. Drugs that increase dopamine levels in the brain like l-dopa can also cause psychosis. Acute withdrawal from an addiction to drugs that suppress dopamine release, like gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), can cause a surge in dopamine and cause psychosis. It’s almost certainly more complex than that, but I’m sure dopamine is involved somehow, though I have no idea what the mechanism is.

  13. BillyJoe7 says:

    NO NesciO it’s NO. 😉

  14. jre says:

    Any discussion of Mike Adams quickly brings me back to a question that’s nagged me for some time, viz.: when does a crankish attention-seeker pass so far beyond the bounds of what’s normal that it confers an undeserved respectability even to discuss his / her statements seriously? The last time this came up it was in connection with Ann Coulter, who I think may be a performance artist not too unlike the late Andy Kaufman. I suggested that Coulter’s rhetoric is so bizarre that to take her seriously risks poisoning honest discourse. Steve’s answer, if I recall it correctly, was that even if Ann Coulter is just an act, there are plenty of people who think she is sincere, and those people, not Coulter, deserve a sane response to wacky ideas.
    Just so Mike Adams. This is a guy who believes, I shit you not, that organic food has enabled him to read books[1] at one page per second. He’s a carnival barker. He has not earned a millisecond’s time from anyone who cares about reality — yet he basks in a self-powered spotlight and grows wealthier daily in the only hard currency of the Intertubes: attention. Why? Because he angries up the blood. It’s entertaining, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing. Can anyone help?

    [1] Not, I presume, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

  15. PalMD says:

    I for one welcome our new zombie overlords.

    It does appear as if they’ve already eaten Adams’s brain, however. Not very filling.

  16. Mlema says:

    i had never heard of Mike Adams. He looks to be a wacko.

    i say the following even though i know that i will be probably lumped in with “believers”, “conspiracy theorists”, etc. although, please note that i don’t believe there’s any conspiracy here, only some updating of scientific understanding.

    Here it is:

    I don’t think flouride should be added to municipal water.

    I don’t think that the source cited gave an accurate picture of any financial benefits of fluoridated drinking water, and since fluoridosis does occur in many children (the article tries to minimize the nature of the condition, but the rate is very high in children in “optimally fluoridated” communities) why continue fluoridating when toothpaste has fluoride?

    When it’s added to the water, there’s no way to control how much any one individual is getting or what might be the damage to people who drink a lot of water, are diabetic, or have kidney problems. People on dialysis have died from overdose due to accidents at water treatment facilities.

    you can learn more about this here:

    I’m willing to risk being lumped in with wackos like Mike Adams because i think it’s a public safety issue. And it mostly affects poor people who don’t have alternate sources of drinking water, or reverse-osmosis systems in their homes. Poor children are also more vulnerable to the toxic affects of fluoride because they’re more likely to have poor nutrition.

    Public water fluoridation is outdated in my opinion. Why risk harm to certain individuals for a (maybe) benefit to people who don’t need it or aren’t even utilizing it?

  17. Mlema says:

    Here’s some sciency stuff for the skeptic in all of us:

  18. DLC says:

    Wait, you mean Adams is against the Evil Pollution of our Pure Essence that is water fluoridation ?
    So, he’s fighting the Good Fight to preserve our precious bodily fluids from teh Evils of the commie fluoride conspiracy ?
    Of course, if a vanishingly small amount of flouride in the water is bad for you, an even smaller amount of vaccine simply must destroy your brain! but, how do they target the areas they want ?
    The areas that losing turn you into a face-eating zombie ? Furthermore, how does an aluminum-foil hat protect you ? I mean, aluminum in vaccines immediately turns you into an Autistic Zombie, right ?
    So wearing an aluminum foil hat protects you ? Must be some kind of reverse homeopathy going on.
    If that’s true, I should surround myself with aluminum cans, add bauxite dust to my exterior house paint, and seed the lawn with bauxite -heavy sand. That should keep the Zombies at bay, right ?
    Or should I just double down on my safety system and buy a bunch of Mike Adams’ medical quackers ? Can I get some Woo-Woo Cheese with my Quackers ? /StupidRant

  19. BillyJoe7 says:


    “I don’t think flouride should be added to municipal water. ”

    Why do you accept the advice of the above references as opposed to the advice offered by the American Dental Association:

  20. jre says:

    Scientific American had a pretty good article on fluoridation in 2008:

    Bottom line: there is reason for some concern about over-fluoridation from all sources, but not enough to justify eliminating fluoride from the water. The benefits still outweigh the risks. Prison Planet’s objections are noted for the record.

  21. kdh1716 says:

    I have a friend from college, an well educated attorney, who believes firmly that vaccines, aspartame and fluoride, are all part of a conspiracy along with “Chem-trails, ” “HAARP” and the Federal Reserve Bank to cow the population and bring about the New World Order. He regularly predicts catastrophes and disasters that never occur. I used to argue with him using evidence and logic but to no avail. I have finally realized that this is basically apocalyptic pornography for him. He is titillated and excited by the thought of the coming collapse of civilization. Rational thought has nothing exciting enough to offer him.

  22. Mlema says:

    The Scientific American article is outdated.
    HHS and the EPA (in conjunction with the NRC) have recommended that the upper allowed level of fluoride be dropped to the lowest level that’s determined to have any benefit (.7ppm).

    But there are many at the EPA who want there to be no fluoridation. Fluoride is a pollutant. Right now, if your municipality has a level below 4ppm it’s not required to lower it. It’s highly debatable whether or not the level of 4ppm is safe long-term. But, most importantly, there’s no way to determine how much any one individual is ingesting. Small children who consume water in formula are especially vulnerable to deleterious effects. There are many sources of fluoride in our diets. The option to supplement should be just that: optional.

    I think it’s really curious that the skeptics who decry the uselessness of vitamin and mineral supplementation think fluoridation is worthwhile. And as far as “benefits outweighing the risks” – I guess if you think that some people dying (the delivery system is imperfect and vulnerable individuals have no control over exposure) or having pitted teeth is worth a possible improvement in dental health (more effectively provided by good oral hygiene) then, well, that’s just weird man.

  23. Mlema says:

    BillyJoe7 – that paper is garbage.

  24. BillyJoe7 says:

    jre: “Scientific American had a pretty good article on fluoridation in 2008:

    Mlema: “The Scientific American article is outdated.”

    That article is dated Jan 2008.

    Mlema: “”

    That article is dated November 28, 2002

    Mlema: “Here’s some sciency stuff for the skeptic in all of us:

    That article is dated August 1, 1988

    BillyJoe: “Why do you accept the advice of the above references as opposed to the advice offered by the American Dental Association:

    Mlema: “BillyJoe7 – that paper is garbage.”

    You’ve completely convinced me. I don’t think flouride should be added to municipal water.

  25. BillyJoe7 says:

    Mlema: “”

    From the article:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the fluoridation of drinking water one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

    One of water fluoridation’s biggest advantages is that it benefits all residents of a community—at home, work, school, or play,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH. “Today’s announcement is part of our ongoing support of appropriate fluoridation for community water systems, and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay throughout one’s lifetime.

  26. Mlema says:

    adjective old-fashioned, dated, obsolete, out of date, passé, antique, archaic, unfashionable, antiquated, outmoded, behind the times, out of style, obsolescent, unhip (slang), démodé (French), out of the ark (informal), oldfangled

    BillyJoe7, you’re just the kinda guy that write that for. Do you want to argue about fluoridation or what? Why don’t you just read all the stuff and make up your own mind? I’m just writing something for the benefit of anyone who might read it who has small children and drinks fluoridated water. This doesn’t affect me – I have a reverse osmosis filter in my home. Why is it important for you to support fluoridation? (except that food and beverages manufactured with fluoridated water also add to my intake of fluoride.) Why don’t you do some research on the studies which compare the caries rate in places that fluoridate and those that don’t? Why don’t you look at the European studies – those aren’t as affected by entrenched public policy and the interests of big money as those here in the states. Why don’t you do some additional research on the safest and most effective ways to prevent tooth decay and the safest ways to deliver water to our cities. Tell me what you find out.

  27. BillyJoe7 says:


    “I’m just writing something for the benefit of anyone who might read it…”

    Or so you believe.
    The AVN (Australian Vaccination Network – or the Anti Vaccination Network as we have renamed it) uses the same tactic.
    Print only the negatives.

    For the benefit of everyone who might read your links, I have supplied links to the counterargument.
    That’s only fair don’t you think?

  28. BillyJoe7 says:

    BTW, the quotes in my post 2 Jun 2012 at 3:42 am is directly from your own link.
    So I will leave your readers with those quotes from your own link dated 2011:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the fluoridation of drinking water one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

    One of water fluoridation’s biggest advantages is that it benefits all residents of a community—at home, work, school, or play,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH. “Today’s announcement is part of our ongoing support of appropriate fluoridation for community water systems, and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay throughout one’s lifetime.

    As always, th equestion is: “Who do you trust?”

  29. Mlema says:

    Dear BillyJoe7,

    I know you like to argue. Is that how you learn? When you see somebody who has a contrary point of view, you start an argument to see if they can convince you of their viewpoint? Is it because you can’t trust yourself to make up your own mind? When you see someone say “I’m just writing something for the benefit of anyone who might read it.” it makes you think of anti-vaxers, who you are against, so you think “hmm, maybe that will help me decide since that sounds like the anti-vaxers sound and I know I don’t like them, so I don’t like this anti-fluoride stuff either!” I’m not printing only the negatives, as you yourself pointed out. I linked to the site that says that flouride is the greatest thing since sliced bread. i linked to that to show that the recommendations that were given by the NRC are being utilized in the CDC’s move to lower the recommended fluoride level in public water, which has happened SINCE the article was printed. I did this to show that the Scientific American article was outdated. Of course the phraseology of HHS and the CDC is going to tow the line as much as possible. Do you think it would be possible for a governmental agency to say flat out that fluoride is damaging teeth, causing accidental deaths and may be harming thyroid, brain and other organs? There, now I’ve explained that to you too, so that’s another thing you don’t have to figure out for yourself. If you’d read all the materials that have been linked to, you wouldn’t have needed to engage me in further argument. The ADA paper is for the unscientific reader and promotes the association’s support of fluoridation. Did you look into the references on that paper at all? Did you find that some of the references actually contradict what the paper is saying? There are A LOT of references there. Did you read the paper? How it explains to the reader that lots of references are GOOD. And that the readers shouldn’t listen to “junk science” on the web. Real scientific, eh? Why don’t you do some research into the ADA’s financial alliances? Why don’t YOU trust a non-profit international organization of scientists and other citizens concerned about public health? Did you see that the Scientific American article is linked to on the site? Did you actually read the Scientific American article? I don’t think jre did. Why don’t you just read the little excerpt? Here, I’ll copy it for you: “Researchers are intensifying their scrutiny of fluoride, which is added to most public water systems in the U.S. Some recent studies suggest that overconsumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland.
    A 2006 report by a committee of the National Research Council recommended that the federal government lower its current limit for fluoride in drinking water because of health risks to both children and adults.”
    Did you know that the limit of 4ppm may be high enough to cause these deleterious effects?
    It’s old news, and the limit has been lowered, but, whatever. Now you can read it again.
    I don’t support fluoridation. I trust myself to examine all the evidence and form that opinion. If you’d like to form your own opinion, why don’t you read ALL the links that have been provided and make up your mind. Or, just do what the skeptics (?) do and follow the leader. Or, as is your wont, argue with someone like me to see if you can learn anything because you don’t want to read. Whatever man. Enjoy your fluoridated water. Salude

  30. Mlema says:

    wow. and now i have to apologize. i’m sorry BillyJoe7. That was harsh.

  31. BillyJoe7 says:


    No need to apologise.
    In fact, I was quite amused by your attempt at psychoanalysis.
    Of course it failed miserably.

    But I was more amused by your conclusion that fluoride should not be added to municipal water based on sources that support fluoridation.
    But of course you were merely providing balance!

    That’s a good one. 😉

  32. Tilman says:

    So let’s please recapitulate the “bath salt” story:

    1. A police spokesman is quoted as:
    “the similarities between this and other recent cases involving “bath salts” are striking.”
    This statement is pure conjecture as no drugs have been found around the crime scene.

    2. the Huffington Post (and many other tabloids) write stuff like:
    “Bath Salts: The ‘Cannibal’ From Miami’s Alleged Dangerous Drug Of Choice”

    notice the word “alleged”.

    3. a critical thinking sceptic (who by the way makes a great podcast I really enjoy) writes
    “it was almost certainly the result of the use a designer drug called bath salts.”

    Now it became “almost certainly”

    4. Yesterday the media is abuzz with headlines like
    “Miami face-eating attack may prompt ban on bath salts”
    This is so horribly misinformed as mephedrone and mdpv (the most popular substances sold as bath salts) are already emergency scheduled by the DEA since September 2011 and almost all thinkable other ingredients are covered by the analogue act already in place.

    But let’s remember that still there is not the faintest evidence that drugs have something to do with the story.

    We’ll probably soon hear about the “Bath Salt-Babies” born to Bath Salt abusing mothers and the Bath Salt junkies who share bath tubs and get STDs in this way….

    Couldnt we just base our reaction on facts and evidence?
    Or is this not possible anymore because the fluorine in the drinking water makes immune to reason?

Leave a Reply