Pharyngula

Placebocide!

Oh, no. I’m flying off to the UK tomorrow, and I’ve just learned that all my favoritest, bestest people there are going to kill themselves just 8 hours from now (uh, remember, correlation is not causation…I’m sorta sure it’s not because I’m coming to visit.) What they’re all going to do is go down to their local pharmacy and overdose on those ever-so-potent homeopathic “remedies” they’re selling.

I may be tripping over heaps of corpses on the sidewalks there.

I wonder if there are homeopathic cures for jetlag? Can I pick up 1023 pills to get a molecule or two of something useful?

Comments

  1. #1 JD
    January 29, 2010

    The Catholic Church specifies that placebocide is a mortal sin.

    May they rest in eternal hell, or lots of water.

  2. #2 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 29, 2010

    Eating a whole bottle of sugar pills can do some damage to teeth. Remember to brush and floss after overdosing on sugar pills.

  3. #3 Carlie
    January 29, 2010

    I would worry a bit that those pills contain some other compounds that might not be good for you in large doses. I’ve seen studies that show all kinds of bizarre ingredients in “supplements”.

  4. #4 LawnBoy
    January 29, 2010

    Being drunk is like being jetlagged, so use diluted alcohol – Bug Light.

  5. #5 yar.natasha
    January 29, 2010

    Hey drinking that much water couldhave averse consequences beyond the usual must-find-a-bathroom-now ones.

    Not to mention in the U.K. there is always the possibility of being sued for libel for showing these idiots up as the lying scum they are.

  6. #6 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 29, 2010

    But it is too soon for Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh to be dead.

  7. #7 Sven DiMilo
    January 29, 2010

    Homeopathy and supplements are 2 very different kettles of fish, as you know.
    Oscillococcinum and the like are pretty reliably sugar, I think.

  8. #8 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 29, 2010

    Not to mention in the U.K. there is always the possibility of being sued for libel for showing these idiots up as the lying scum they are.

    I think you can get away with screaming “fraud” if you drink 2 or 3 times the OD warning and have nothing bad happen.

  9. #9 Legion
    January 29, 2010

    We wonder how homeopaths will explain the obvious lack of death among the people who’ve “overdosed” on such “potent” drugs.

    ?I couldn’t commit suicide if my life depended on it?

    …………………………………..George Carlin

  10. #10 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmqjr1Soop8J7pn5KfowpETBPlb5K6MC_8
    January 29, 2010

    Watch your step!

  11. #11 Zeno
    January 29, 2010

    All serious scientists understand that homeopathic solutions become more potent the more they are diluted. By irresponsibly overdosing, those people in Britain will reduce the efficacy of the medication and I predict that nothing will happen. If they really want to commit suicide by maximizing the impact, they should consume the tiniest possible amount!

    Hmm.

    Mathematically speaking, that would be zero.

    Hmm.

    I haven’t taken any homeopathic meds today.

    Damn. I’m going to die.

  12. #12 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnmFDYWvrp_G4tjd1U_V_JzbZhPc43b-SQ
    January 29, 2010
  13. #13 SEF
    January 29, 2010

    While the homeopaths claim that diluting the sympathetic magic ingredient down to nothingness makes its allegedly counter-acting effect more potent, they don’t have a similarly uniform claim over what happens when you multiply such doses up again (and risk having a single molecule of ingredient).

    I’m sure (ie I’ve previously seen it) that some do believe/claim it’s possible to overdose, while others do not. They certainly don’t ever seem to expect/claim that a single dose does everything immediately, but instead tend to require repeated doses in close proximity, which might as well count as “over”-dosing – and hence reducing the supposed effect again were they to be consistent.

    Of course, they’re not consistent … nor honest nor competent (at anything other than deceiving others and/or themselves).

  14. #14 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    January 29, 2010

    Hey drinking that much water couldhave averse consequences beyond the usual must-find-a-bathroom-now ones.

    Doing the “I have to pee” dance is a form of social suicide….

  15. #15 Peter Magellan
    January 29, 2010

    PZ: You’re coming to the UK? Wow. Where are you going to be?

  16. #16 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlARhxz_EZad2_PPNvQmVelK-U8LVLTYeA
    January 29, 2010

    PZ!! Don’t do that! You can’t tell me you’re gonna be in my country but not say what for or where abouts!

  17. #17 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    January 29, 2010

    We wonder how homeopaths will explain the obvious lack of death among the people who’ve “overdosed” on such “potent” drugs.

    They may claim that homeopathic remedies are too healthy for overdoses to be harmful, and that the risk of overdose is an artifact of toxic Big Pharma chemicals.

    At least, that’s what I’d do, if I were such a dishonest git.

  18. #18 Peter G.
    January 29, 2010

    This might throw the local coroner for a loop. Three hundred lethal cases of hyponatremia is going to be a bit of a puzzle.

  19. #19 nirozrules
    January 29, 2010

    Yes, there is such homeopathy. It seems to be some of the more popular ones, actually. :(

  20. #20 shoshidge
    January 29, 2010

    I’ve heard the homeopath response to this before.
    They claim that since homeopathic remedies are not drugs, and only function to help the bodies own natural defences fight disease, you can’t overdose from them.

  21. #21 infi.myopenid.com
    January 29, 2010

    Legion@9:

    We wonder how homeopaths will explain the obvious lack of death among the people who’ve “overdosed” on such “potent” drugs.

    They’ve already responded, one not unlike the Bunny@17 said:

    The Society of Homeopaths condemns 10.23 campaign ‘overdose’ as an ill advised publicity stunt in poor taste
    The British Homeopathic Association dismisses 10:23 campaign as “grossly irresponsible”

    Brains impervious to evidence.

  22. #22 Thunderbird 5
    January 29, 2010

    PZ in the UK? I understand he’s due in Eire this week but that was all AFAIK.

    I hope he hasn’t, you know, just gone and called his Dublin trip one to the UK.

  23. #23 Sven DiMilo
    January 29, 2010

    I hope he hasn’t, you know, just gone and called his Dublin trip one to the UK.

    oh, my.
    Unfortunate and embarrasing. Also WOTI.

  24. #24 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 29, 2010

    Isn’t PZ going to Belfast? That’s in the UK (much to Garry Adams’ disgust).

  25. #25 OrchidGrowinMan
    January 29, 2010

    OK, we know you can overdose on WATER (hypnoatremia):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hold_Your_Wee_for_a_Wii#Hold_Your_Wee_for_a_Wii_Controversy
    So, if you drink too much water, you should take an antidote to that toxin. We homeopathic doctors ™ will tell you that to prepare an antidote, all you have to do is dilute some of the toxin sufficiently in water… wait… what…?

  26. #26 SteveM
    January 29, 2010

    Hey drinking that much water could have averse consequences beyond the usual must-find-a-bathroom-now ones.

    Wouldn’t the proper way to OD on homeopathy would be to take one and dilute it up to say 30C instead of the usual 20C, which would make it 10 times more powerful. or something like that

  27. #27 Sven DiMilo
    January 29, 2010

    PZ sez:

    I’ll be speaking at University College Dublin on 2 February, and Galway on 4 February. I’ve got pending invitations from Cork and Belfast that I’m still trying to squeeze into the schedule; I may do both if I can work out transportation, but I’ll do at least one of them.

  28. #28 steve
    January 29, 2010

    Avogadro’s number of pills would be quite a few, about .8% the mass of the moon if we assume each pill is about 1 gram. Good luck getting through customs with that PZ.

  29. #29 Luke of Troy
    January 29, 2010

    I’m going to be doing this with the Perth Skeptics in West Australia in about 4 hours. We had to book the place a couple of hours earlier than our uk counterparts because the proper time slot was taken. So if we do die, we’ll call and let you know.

  30. #30 Sastra
    January 29, 2010

    Carlie at #3 is right: the public confuses ‘homeopathic’ with ‘herbal’ because the manufacturers know that the public doesn’t know the difference — and they will shove all kinds of things into “homeopathic” nostrums. Could be vitamins, could be herbs, could be actual medicine they have lying around such as aspirin — could be damn near anything. They are not accountable.

    I would never attempt an ‘overdose’ because these people cannot be honest enough even to follow their own rules: the amount of ‘successions’ they have to do after each dilution — and the water needed — is mathematically absurd. They start out lying, lie some more, get confused, obfuscate, duck and weave, change the subject — and then we’re supposed to believe that it’s “real” homeopathy inside the box, just like it says on the label?

    If a homeopath told me it was raining, I wouldn’t believe them. It could mean anything.

  31. #31 MadScientist
    January 29, 2010

    I really have no idea what they hope to accomplish with this stunt. Homeopaths have always claimed that their “cures” were safe. Those folks will just be proving that they won’t die even if they eat a whole bottle of homeopathic pills or drink a whole pint of homeopathic elixirs.

    The only thing which a homeopathic remedy cures is a bulge in the wallet.

  32. #32 vreejack
    January 29, 2010

    Homeopathic remedies are so safe that you cannot even overdose on them! I am told that this is because the dilution removes the nasty side-effects, but not the main beneficial effect of the drug…which can never cause an overdose because…Wait! Look over there!

    All natural! Healthy! So safe, the Food and Drug administration does not even bother to test them!

    We need a new food certification to go along with “Natural” and “Organic.” Call it “Certified Magical.”

  33. #33 Sven DiMilo
    January 29, 2010

    Sastra: Do you know of any actual examples of anything on your list being found in nostrums sold as “homeopathic”?

  34. #34 Peter H
    January 29, 2010

    The previous thread was fun and rewarding. This one is just silly.

  35. #35 Epinephrine
    January 29, 2010

    I share Sastra’s concern. While the pills are likely just sugar pills, herbal, ayurvedic, and various “traditional medicines” have been found to be contaminated (heavy metals, bacteria) or adulterated. You never know what someone will do to make their product “work” – all natural herbal sleep remedies laced with benzodiazepines? (These things actually happen.)

    I wouldn’t put it past some homeopaths to slip actual active substances into their concoctions.

  36. #36 Tim D.
    January 29, 2010

    Hey,

    Whatever, if anything, came of that Zicam nose-killing scare? I was amused by it when it was a headline, but I never understood how something touted as homeopathic could cause significant damage to the old olfactory system.

  37. #37 Jadehawk, OM
    January 29, 2010

    Whatever, if anything, came of that Zicam nose-killing scare? I was amused by it when it was a headline, but I never understood how something touted as homeopathic could cause significant damage to the old olfactory system.

    it wasn’t homeopathic, it was merely labeled as such. the problem with woo is that they fuck with words and use them in ways they weren’t meant to be used; even words from other kinds of woo.

    so “real” homeopathic zinc would have been harmless. however, this was some “natural remedy” that used the word homeopathic because it sounds both sciency and New Agey. It’s not like the term is certified or anything.

  38. #38 Tim D.
    January 29, 2010

    Right on. I always wondered about that.

  39. #39 Cuttlefish, OM
    January 29, 2010

    Luke of Troy–

    Say hi to Podblack for me! She has been telling me I need to join in on the fun… not mentioning that it will be at 6AM (plus or minus, I never know for sure) my time.

    Tell your spouse, tell your son, tell your daughter!
    Take a sugar pill–or, drink some water!
    From London to Perth
    Hell, all over the earth
    Join the homeopathic self-slaughter!

  40. #40 Blind Squirrel FCD
    January 30, 2010

    The previous thread was fun and rewarding. This one is just silly.

    Like girlfriends. It happens.

    BS

  41. #41 oisin.gallagher
    January 30, 2010
  42. #42 Mike Wagner
    January 30, 2010

    There once was a dashing young skeptic,
    Who made homeopaths apoplectic,
    Exposing their wares,
    As no better than air,
    And their claims as no better than septic.

  43. #43 Thunderbird 5
    January 30, 2010

    Um…WOTI?
    Dunno that one.

    Anyway, I’ve recently done a homeopathy OD myself: Mr Thunderbird5′s Ma has troublesome insomnia (caused by her inability to switch-off from her work -she’s a psychotherapist) and on our visit a couple of weeks ago, I was horrified to see three newly-purchased packets of Boots Homeopathy Insomnia Cure tablets tucked into the kitchen cupboard.
    After my somewhat agitated confrontation, I found out she simply thought they were a ‘kind of herbal medicine’: fortunately she got the message when I explained precisely what woo the h-path con is based on (molecular memory and all that).

    I then downed the contents of all three packets (not including the accompanying leaflets flogging other bullshit products) in front of her and went down the pub. I have no idea what was purported to be in the tablets but I know one can mix them with 3 pints of Guinness and still play a decent game of pool.

    Most herbal ‘medicine’ is a con IMHO but I did recommend she try a reliable preparation of valerian which is tried and tested to be of use as a sleep aid/sedative. And that she continue to concentrate her work more on the teaching and assessment side, which she has been doing and has found more enjoyable (and less stressful).

    A good ending but I can’t tell you how disgusted and upset I was to find that stuff there.

  44. #44 Stardrake
    January 30, 2010

    TB5–Wrong On The Internet. I.E., PZ, in saying on the Internet he was going to the UK when he was going to Eire, was Wrong On The Internet. Derived, no doubt, from SIWOTI.

    (Gee, John, you could’ve just called down to the island–Scott or Virgil would’ve known the answer. (Not to mention Tin-Tin!)

  45. #45 Thunderbird 5
    January 30, 2010

    F.A.B. Stardrake 44

    I’m pretty much limited to International Rescue communiques as Dad doesn’t want anyone to know where I am. And even when he lets me back down to Tracy Island, they just try to send me straight back into orbit on TB3.
    I mean, Grandma could do this job…

    As for Tin-Tin, no point asking her when all she does is make goo-goo eyes at Golden Boy Alan and model for Brains’ sexbots.

    Oops. Sorry Dad. FAB and that.

  46. #46 neutron.phil
    January 30, 2010

    I’m having trouble with the basic concept here – but shouldn’t it be an “underdose”? (Hmm, sounds vaguely like “anfluence of ilcohol, ociffer”.) I’m going down to Liverpool city centre today anyway to have my UD.

  47. #47 nathanschroeder1
    January 30, 2010

    So a great big fat dude was swimming in my pool. I take pool water, dilute it and I have Homeopathic weight loss formula? How much do I charge for it?

    I need someone out there with a tiny penis. I’ll be rich!

    Small boobs?
    Bald head?

    I’m off to get water from a blind friends eyes. I’ll run the glasses people out of business.

    This is wonderful!!

    Zeno; we are all going to die…. Hay I need a dead guy and some water.

  48. #48 acastcia
    January 30, 2010

    Once I had eaten something with mayonaise and I got awfully sick (cold sweat,nauseas,shivering,vertigo etc.)
    I spent half of the night hugging my toilet but couldn’t get rid of it. My body desperatly wanted to get rid of it but it was just impossible. The more I tried, the more my stomach semmed to contract. Well, anybody with similar experiences know what I’m talking about.
    To get to my point: In a kind of “intuition”(don’t know how to call it else)I thought on “nux vomica” my girl friend had in a box with homeopathy. I felt so sick and desperate that I took it. The reaction of my stomach was immediate and violent and finally I got rid of whatever intoxicated me. I’am not writing this in the “believers attitude” of “now explain this!!!!!”
    Cause I have not “faith” in homeopathy, just this experience that I can’t explain to myself with the Placebo effect, neither do I think that what I can’t explain to myself must be miracoulous….
    but I would really like to know what happened that night and believe me I felt so awful that there was no room for faith in woo, but that stuff just helped.

  49. #49 Robert MacDonald
    January 30, 2010

    MadScientist is on to a point I’m thinking about.

    “I really have no idea what they hope to accomplish with this stunt. Homeopaths have always claimed that their “cures” were safe.”

    Homeopaths claim, rightly enough, that their medicine has no side effects. (Though if you’re lactose intolerant, look out!) .So this protest reminds me of James Randi’s point that when you confront a self-proclaimed psychic with a playing card in a sealed envelope out of your pocket and demand that they identify it, but their shtick is naming your late great-aunt’s dog, you haven’t cornered them with their nonsense. A strict challenge has to match the woo peddler’s claim of what they do.

    Not that formal challenges are the only tool in the toolbox. Good broad ridicule works too. Randi himself guzzles down bottles of this stuff.

  50. #50 Timberwoof
    January 30, 2010

    I worry about the cleanliness of kitchens run by homeopathic restaurateurs: how can they possibly rinse the soap off their dishes?

  51. #51 dannystevens.myopenid.com
    January 30, 2010

    Do they have pills with very dilute bullets in them for healing gun shot wounds?

  52. #52 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2010

    I guess PZ is probably flying into Heathrow. I’m sure that’s what he meant.

    (pssssst, PZ! Get the Jameson, not the Bushmills!)

  53. #53 madbull
    January 30, 2010

    Why do so many people claim that homeopathy works ?
    I am terrible at chemistry and even I can see that there is no way those dilutions could make any sense.
    Is the placebo effect so powerful ? That so many people have claimed to be cured.
    I was discussing homeopathy with my friends, I was staunchly against it but they brought up swollen lymph nodes and chest congestion and a multitude of other diseases cured solely by homeopath. I wasnt able to wave it off as placebo effect after a while though that is all it can be !
    Whats with the world ? How are people so convinced that sugar coated pills cured them ?

  54. #54 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2010

    Person A gets sick with a virus. Takes homeopathic nostrum. Two days later, feels better.
    Homeopathy cures!

    Person B gets sick with a virus. Goes to the doc. Doc does all the looking and squeezing and prescribes a mild and completely unnecessary antibiotic. Two days later, feels better.
    Western medicine cures!

    Person C gets sick with a virus. Does nothing. Two days later, feels beter.
    uh…

  55. #55 Maslab
    January 30, 2010

    Now maybe I’ll have fewer people telling me to rub a cat on the side of my head to cure my headaches.

    In other news, people are being idiots:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012804001.html?g=0

  56. #56 Midnight Rambler
    January 30, 2010

    acastcia: Nux vomica is the strychnine tree. Maybe it wasn’t actual strychnine, but probably some kind of herbal thing rather than a “real” homeopathic item. As has been pointed out above, many types of “alternative medicines” are labelled as “homeopathic”.

  57. #57 John Morales
    January 30, 2010

    acastcia, you’re saying you could not bring yourself to vomit until you ingested this nostrum?

    Your report that the effect was immediate and violent is interesting — it means you could not possibly have metabolised whatever it was, so if the cause was physiological, it was an irritant.

    Have you still got it? I’d be interested to know what the label says; many so-called homoeopathic remedies actually do contain active (non-homoeopathic) content (cf. Zicam).

    BTW, Nux vomica.
    See also Strychnine pharmacology.

  58. #58 John Morales
    January 30, 2010

    Heh. You beat me to it, Rambler, but I didn’t see your comment.

  59. #59 blf
    January 30, 2010

    Now maybe I’ll have fewer people telling me to rub a cat on the side of my head to cure my headaches.

    The trick is to use large nasty felines. Try a lion or a tiger. Like the Romans used to use to cure themselves of xians. After you’reit’s done, your headaches will be gone and you won’t have any more complaints.

  60. #60 Bride of Shrek OM
    January 30, 2010

    Acastcia @#48

    The reaction of my stomach was immediate and violent and finally I got rid of whatever intoxicated me.

    I am in no way denying your experience ( which by the way sounds ghastly) but whatever made you ill was, highly likely, to have left your stomach by that point. You would have needed to digest at least some of it to get sick and it wouldn’t have still been in your tummy. I’ve no doubt you lost the contents of your stomach and this made you feel better but I imagine it’s in the same way as a hangover, what you are chucking up ain’t what made you sick!(and having said that throwing up with a hangover always makes me feel instantly better- not that I have them often *cheesy disclaimer from admiting to any alochol abuse *)

    Maybe there’s a doctor out there that can explain it better.

  61. #61 llewelly
    January 30, 2010

    Sven DiMilo | January 30, 2010 3:27 AM:

    Person C gets sick with a virus. Does nothing. Two days later, feels beter.
    uh…

    It was GOD you fucking unbeliever!!

  62. #62 jody
    January 30, 2010

    For comment # 48…food poisoning is a strange thing. What you described is an experience I have had before…but without homeopathic medicine. The stomach, for me, works like an egg timer….you will be fine…then you feel sick but can’t throw up…then you finally throw up…then you feel better. (Don’t forget sweating, or um…other fun side effects I won’t mention.)
    Sorry to say, but when you felt better after the homeopathic medicine was just a coincidence. I’m glad you feel better though. Food poisoning is dangerous, so please be careful what you eat next time and don’t rely off of homeopathic cures…because food poisoning CAN CAUSE DEATH!

  63. #63 BdN
    January 30, 2010

    @acastcia

    Maybe you should’ve tried The Bible Cure for Heartburn and Indigestion

  64. #64 Bride of Shrek OM
    January 30, 2010

    Jody @ #62 & Acastcia @#48

    I can so completely relate to this. Unless you have had a bout of food poisoning it’s hard to describe the degree of illness you feel.

    My sister and I once ate a dodgy kebab in Turkey and 6 hours later were in Italy when the symptoms hit. My sister and I fought,literally FOUGHT, for the toilet all night. It was not pretty as there was both ends of the body being relieved almost simultaneously on both of us and only one toilet in the hotel room. We finally agreed we were both so sick that embarassment wasn’t an issue and the sink and bathtub had to be put to necessary plumbing use. Having to poo in front of your sister isn’t nearly as horrific as it sounds when she’s crying and doing the same thing!

    I did learn one thing. Italian Pharmacists don’t appreciate Marcel Marceau type hand movement descriptions when it comes to asking for an anti-diarrhoeals.

  65. #65 StThomas
    January 30, 2010

    Homeopathic A&E

    For Americans, A&E is ER
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

  66. #66 mrcreosote
    January 30, 2010

    I tried to make a homeopathic battery for my car by completely diluting the battery acid, but now it won’t work. Can someone suggest what I might have done wrong? I have to admit, shaking the battery each time was a bitch, but it does wonders for the biceps.

  67. #67 Legion
    January 30, 2010

    Naked Bunny With A Whip:

    They may claim that homeopathic remedies are too healthy for overdoses to be harmful, and that the risk of overdose is an artifact of toxic Big Pharma chemicals.

    Ah, clever aren’t they.

    mrcreosote:

    I tried to make a homeopathic battery for my car by completely diluting the battery acid, but now it won’t work… I have to admit, shaking the battery each time was a bitch, but it does wonders for the biceps.

    Hmm, this sounds more like a homeopathic “cure” for wimpy biceps. Congratulations. Now all you have to do is publish and decide what you’re going to wear for the Nobel presentation ceremony.

  68. #68 gorunnova
    January 30, 2010

    The response from the British Homeopathetic Society is exactly what I expected… bull. Yeah, all this campaign is going to do is make the people who made the homeopathic snake oils consumed richer, while a few people drink water. -_-’

    When the official spokesslime for these guys have already said ‘overdoses don’t do anything because homeopathy works by multiple treatments!’, it’s kind of pointless to just go and give them money.

  69. #69 David Marjanovi?
    January 30, 2010

    You never know what someone will do to make their product “work” – all natural herbal sleep remedies laced with benzodiazepines? (These things actually happen.)

    …Wow.

  70. #70 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 30, 2010

    (pssssst, PZ! Get the Jameson, not the Bushmills!)

    No no, PZ. Get the Redbreast or the Tullamore Dew.

  71. #71 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 30, 2010

    Italian Pharmacists don’t appreciate Marcel Marceau type hand movement descriptions when it comes to asking for an anti-diarrhoeals.

    I can’t imagine why. It’s for the sake of medicine and science, innit?

  72. #72 Smoggy Batzrubble OM4Jesus
    January 30, 2010

    Yippee, humiliating stories about defecation! This is my kind of thread.

    Let me tell you about a Noo Zillund woman holidaying in Germany with three friends, who contracted food poisoning and had such a bad attack of the anal squirts that she had to exit the car where it was stuck in a traffic jam on the autobahn and shit on the side of the highway while hundreds looked on.

  73. #73 PZ Myers
    January 30, 2010

    Sorry, I’ll only be passing through London on my way to Dublin. No time for the pubs in London.

    Besides, all the dead bodies will put me off…

  74. #74 curiousmind
    January 30, 2010

    Overdosed about 4 hours ago now, and you’ll be happy to know, I’m not dead yet. :)

    Although, considering that (allegedly) I’d have to take a homeopathic pill more massive than the entire universe in order for the (not even trace quantities of) arsenic to just make me feel mildly queasy, I’m not surprised.

  75. #75 Epinephrine
    January 30, 2010

    David Marjanovi?

    You never know what someone will do to make their product “work” – all natural herbal sleep remedies laced with benzodiazepines? (These things actually happen.)

    …Wow.

    Yeah, I work in drug regulation at Health Canada. Here’s a link to one off the public advisories we published.

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2007/2007_49-eng.php

  76. #76 Alan B
    January 30, 2010

    #57 John Morales

    Looked up your reference to Nux vomica. (More accurately, Strychnos nux-vomica.) It reminded me of one reason I dislike Wiki:

    The seeds contain approximately 1.5% strychnine, and the dried blossoms contain 1.023%.

    I’ll take approximately 1.5% in the seeds: can’t find another reference to cross check.

    But 1.023% in dried blossom? Correct to 0.0005% ?? Total garbage!!

    Do these people have any idea at all about Sig. Figs?

  77. #77 blf
    January 30, 2010

    Get the Redbreast or the Tullamore Dew.

    No opinion on Redbreast, but I certainly second the recommendation for Tullamore Dew.

  78. #78 Alan B
    January 30, 2010

    Having rubbished Wiki, the following will help sort out Britain, UK, Ireland, Eire, British Isles etc.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminology_of_the_British_Isles#cite_note-13

    At first sight it seems accurate although I suspect Irish Republicans would prefer not to use the term “British Isles” since Ireland is the second largest island in the archipelago and is definitely an independent country (as far as anyone can be said to be independent in the EU)!

  79. #79 Alan B
    January 30, 2010

    Welcome to Dublin on the River Liffey:

    “No man who has faced the Liffey can be appalled by the dirt of another river.”
    ?Iris Murdoch, Under the Net.

    “Somebody once said that ‘Joyce has made of this river the Ganges of the literary world,’ but sometimes the smell of the Ganges of the literary world is not all that literary.”
    ?Brendan Behan, Confessions of an Irish Rebel.

    “The smell of the Liffey is one of the sites of the city!”
    -Popular version of the above.

  80. #80 SC OM
    January 30, 2010

    “No man who has faced the Liffey can be appalled by the dirt of another river.”

    Appalling? Here it’s embraced!*

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHRVUTUpnNM

    *(Not really, fortunately.)

  81. #82 blf
    January 30, 2010

    I wonder if there are homeopathic cures for jetlag?

    Asking Generalissimo Google™ for homeopathic cures for jetlag finds numerous alleged homeopathetic preventives; I didn’t bother to sort through the rubbish to see if there were any alleged homeopathetic cures. At least one of the woo-mongers claims to have done a double-blinded placebo-controlled trial—the experts here can tear it apart, but I’ll just note it seems not to have been published and I wonder just how the (unspecified?) placebo is different from the woo being “tested”?

  82. #83 alareth
    January 30, 2010

    This passage from the BHA response caught my eye:

    The Faculty of Homeopathy and BHA do not support the sole use of homeopathy for any serious disease when effective conventional treatment is available to, and tolerated by, the individual patient. Homeopathy is, however, often used with great patient satisfaction for support during conventional treatments.,

    I read that as, “Don’t use homeopathy if you’re really sick, go to an real doctor”

    A weasel words version of the Quack Miranda perhaps?

  83. #84 redrabbitslife
    January 30, 2010

    The biggest fear I would think from an OD on homeopathic tablets would be the fact that the carrier sugar is generally not dextrose but lactose.

    Harder to break down, and in big enough doses, everyone gets a chance to experience lactose intolerance.

    (Watch out for natural gaz.)

  84. #85 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 30, 2010
  85. #86 SC OM
    January 30, 2010

    ‘Tis, that is so strange! I was just playing a clip of it before going to look on YT. Since it’s the name of the album, I think it’s OK to add these:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F47Wm-Eq6cQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyS0i1kXiHg

    (Sorry about the threadjack. I really want to go to Dublin and can’t afford it, so I’m escaping into music. :])

  86. #87 Tumsup
    January 30, 2010

    Homeopathic medicines are NOT harmless. They contain a substantial proportion of Dihydrogen Monoxide!! I read recently of a Homeopathic Doctor who fell off a cruise ship and died of an overdose!!!

    While we’re on the subject of alternative medicines, Chiropractic theory is TRUE. In the late eighteenth century for instance, cervical subluxions claimed the life of the KIng of France and his wife. There may even have been a genetic component at work since many of the nobility succumbed to the same disorder at that time.

  87. #88 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2010

    Correct to 0.0005% ?? Total garbage!!

    eh, no problem. Why, I have a balance in my own pitiful litle lab that’s good to 0.1 milligram; a couple of grams of dried leaves (was it?) and a clue about the proper extraction technique and I myself could achieve that precision with confidence.

  88. #89 Kagehi
    January 30, 2010

    Whatever, if anything, came of that Zicam nose-killing scare?

    And here I thought that the whole issue with that was that it **actually** contained zinc, that zinc is a neurotoxin, and the nose contains the only neurons that are exposed directly to the outside world… Silly me. Glad to know it was just a “scare”.

  89. #90 acastcia
    January 30, 2010

    For jody @ 62

    The thing is, as much i desired to vomit i just couldn’t, the more i tried the more contractions, cold sweat, nauseas……….
    The very same moment i put nux vomica in my mouth, it was like opening a “lack of the proper english word and no diccionary at reach ………”

    For Bride of Shrek @ 60
    “I’ve no doubt you lost the contents of your stomach and this made you feel better”

    You can bet on it!

  90. #91 Ray Moscow
    January 30, 2010

    I just walked down to my local Boots pharmacy. They must have cleared the bodies away already, because everyone looked OK.

  91. #92 Walton
    January 30, 2010

    Smoggy,

    Let me tell you about a Noo Zillund woman holidaying in Germany with three friends, who contracted food poisoning and had such a bad attack of the anal squirts that she had to exit the car where it was stuck in a traffic jam on the autobahn and shit on the side of the highway while hundreds looked on.

    This story is a lie! I refuse to believe that women defecate. Such things simply do not happen. :-)

  92. #93 Dave Hughes
    January 30, 2010

    This is the video of the Hampshire Skeptics Society Homeopathic Suicide Squad exposing the woo in Southampton, UK.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WeZlQZDm7Q

    It was great fun !

  93. #94 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    January 30, 2010

    I refuse to believe that women defecate.

    Women do. Ladies don’t.

  94. #95 destlund
    January 30, 2010

    What a deceptive act! Taking a bunch of homeopathic pills as if that’s how you overdose. What they should do is cut one pill in half, cut the half in half, dissolve it in 20 gallons of water, and drink one drop. That ought to kill them sure as day.

  95. #96 lenoxuss
    January 30, 2010

    #89 Kagehi: I wouldn’t say that “scare” always means it didn’t happen. For example, the 2002 anthrax scare.

    But it is an imprecise term. Maybe the “correct” definition is when the phenomenon’s individual instances are over-reported by the media. For example, sharks claim about 5 lives a year, so if sharks claimed 8 in one year, there would be a “shark scare” (but it’s not like sharks are our bestest friends). On the same continuum, we have the Tylenol scare (just a few deaths, but it really happened) and the Wendy’s thumb scare (turned out to be totally fake).

    Whereas, say, it wouldn’t be correct to refer to a swine flue scare, or the reporting on the 9/11 attacks as a terrorism scare. Dunno, though. (Maybe that last one in particular is too political ? after all, a random American’s chances of dying on 9/11 from terrorism were still lower than dying of anything else, even though the attacks claimed 3,000 lives. Yet it’s not like terrorism is something to be lax about ? or food safety or medicine safety or mail safety or shark? safety, for that matter.)

  96. #97 MadScientist
    January 30, 2010

    @Acastcia #48: The symptoms of food poisoning are due to toxins produced by the bacteria; throwing up only helps by getting rid of some material which is laced with the poisons. Although strychnine will indeed kill some types of bacteria, since it is the toxins and not the bacteria as such which is the problem, even if you could instantly kill all bacteria you certainly wouldn’t get any instant relief. So it’s more likely that your body just happened to get rid of enough of the toxins through various mechanisms (including throwing up).

    Strychnine is still used to poison various pests and Tom Lehrer poked fun at something which is raised in New York every few years (and Chicago as well) – “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”. Well, it used to be a common topic of conversations but I don’t know if anyone would dare bring it up these days even though you practically have to wade through the pigeon poop along Lakeshore Drive.

  97. #98 lenoxuss
    January 30, 2010

    All sick rationalists should chant thrice thusly:

    Most ailments are self limiting. Most ailments are self limiting. Most ailments are self limiting.

    You won’t need any placebos if you keep that in mind. As shown in the example on this page about throwing up, alt-med “works” precisely because people don’t trust their immune systems until someone, be she a doctor or homeopath, comes along with a bottle of fixit ? then they believe they’ll get better.

    Ironically, it’s the alties, not the scientists, who underestimate the “magical” powers of the body (and who refuse to study them beyond labeling them as magic).

  98. #99 Norbury
    January 30, 2010

    Ooh, a thread involving vomiting, I have to delurk!
    Acastcia: when I’m feeling like vomiting drinking or eating anything is often enough of a trigger to make me chuck up. And I always feel better after doing so, at least for a bit. Just a sip of water can be enough, homeopathy not needed! As far as I can tell you just had an expensive sip of water, sometimes that’s all the trigger you need.

  99. #100 glowball
    January 30, 2010

    Late to the thread… Oh well. I got talked into trying a homeopathic remedy once. Since it was suspended in alcohol it was actually mighty tasty. I do believe if I’d drunk the entire thing at once I’dve ended up thoroughly drunk. Might’ve cured a sore throat. For a few minutes.
    Sugar pills – no fun.

  100. #101 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2010

    The interesting thing about vomiting (emesis) is that the stomach itself is not actually invoved. It’s made of smooth muscle, which contracts much too slowly to project anything. Instead, the emetic reflex involves forceful contraction of the abdominal muscles, which applies sudden pressure to the stomach, with simultaneous relaxation of the gastroesophageal (aka “cardiac”) sphincter.

    The abs are of course skeletal muscles, therefore ostensibly voluntary, but the reflex is involuntary and causes much more forceful contraction than I, at least, am capable of intentionally. These contractions can, however, be inhibited voluntarily to some degree (as you run down the hall to the bathroom, e.g.).

  101. #102 Gordon
    January 31, 2010

    I took fake arsenic and fake aconite. They tasted sugary and came in a pez dispensor. The only ingredients listed on the container were sugar and lactose, and there was no warning not to exceed the listed dose, almost as if they were expecting it to have no effect…

    I got interviewed on camera and thought of lots of clever things I should have said about 10 minutes later.

  102. #103 Alan B
    January 31, 2010

    #88 Sven DiMilo said

    … I have a balance in my own pitiful litle lab that’s good to 0.1 milligram; a couple of grams of dried leaves* (was it?) and a clue about the proper extraction technique and I myself could achieve that precision with confidence.

    * flowers – but who cares.

    Sven: I have confidence in your ability to do repeat weighings to 1 part in 2000. Can you guarantee that for the same batch of flowers you could mix them, sample them, extract the active agent, dry them to a standard (say, 110 deg C) and do all of this consistently to better than 1 part in 2,000? You may be good but I’m not sure you are that good. If you can’t then you can’t claim that precision.

    My bigger problem, however, is with Nature herself/himself/itself. Are you seriously telling me that Nature is so consistent that from flower to flower, tree to tree, ecosystem to ecosystem the variation is no higher than 1 part in 2,000 in the flowers and 10.5 in the seeds?

    If the article had claimed that the strychnine content of both the seeds and the flowers was around 1% (i.e. 10.5%) then I would be inclined to accept that as reasonable.

    My gut feeling* is that this is high and I would like to see confirmation if it mattered to me. Like if someone asked me to ingest some…

  103. #104 Sauceress
    January 31, 2010

    shoshidg #20

    They claim that since homeopathic remedies are not drugs, and only function to help the bodies own natural defences fight disease

    Not drugs eh?
    Definition of “drug” I’ve just dug up out of my 3rd year pharmacology lecture notes.

    -What is a drug?
    definition: ?a chemical substance of known structure, other than a nutrient or an essential dietary ingredient,
    which, when administered to a living organism, produces a biological effect?
    [NB definition reflects practices of the TGA and its equivalents around the world (e.g. FDA in the US)]

    Sooooo…a drug produces a biological effect.
    Not a drug…no biological effect

    only function to help the bodies own natural defences fight disease

    Which would require the production of an effect on immune system…so a biological effect
    It always amuses me the way these con artists throw the word “drug” around as code for sinister “chemical” (another one) worshipping “big pharma”.

    But note in the press releases that homeopathic formulations are referred to as medicines.

    http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/media_centre/news/bha_dismiss_1023_campaign.html

    To suggest in public that taking an overdose of a medicine is a good way of testing its effectiveness

    A medicine?
    definition: ?a chemical preparation, which usually but not necessarily contains one or more drugs, administered with the intention of producing a therapeutic effect?

    Can’t have it both ways.

  104. #105 Sauceress
    January 31, 2010

    Maybe I should also mention that these definitions are those in Rang,Dale,Ritter & Flower’s “Pharmacology”.

  105. #106 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawl3kd2Fi68U5HnaXZp0nqQZ1e2b9LhpAIA
    February 1, 2010

    Hydration is good for jet lag, so homeopathic overdoses is just the ticket.

  106. #107 HappyHax0r
    February 2, 2010

    There’s only one surefire way to get rid of Jet-lag PZ… rest, and drink plenty of water ;).

  107. #108 Kristjan Wager
    February 2, 2010

    Since I was in Perth, Australia anyway, I participated in the event that Luke mentioned uptread. It was great fun.

    I didn’t participate in the actual placebocide, as I was going on a plane a few hours later, and didn’t want to be filled up on sugar before going, but I did stay around and talked with the Perth Skeptics.

    If you ever find yourself in Perth, Australia, and have the time to participate in one of the Skeptics in the Pub meetups, I highly recommend it.

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