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Old 02-20-2007, 05:11 PM   #1
Dagobahn Eagle
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Homeopathic "medicine" and other alternative methods of healing

First off, too get in the mood, let's watch as James "the amazing" Randi shoots down homeopathy. His view, basically, is that homeopathy is ineffective (presumably except from the placebo effect which must be present) as
  1. The idea, which is that if you dilute a substance significantly, its effect upon ingestion is reversed, has no backing, and
  2. That the ratio of medicine:non-medicine of the doses are far too small to have any effect anyway.
Wikipedia has more.

Now, I have a friend who's shamelessly crazy about everything alternative, up to, but very likely not limited to, a belief that she's protected by "the ones up there" 24 hours a day. This, coupled with the films on "the Amazing" Randi I've seen on Google Video, are to be blamed for me making this thread. Homeopathic "medicine" is sold at ludicrous costs all over Europe; faith healing and acupuncture is widespread; and psychics, in the year of 2007, claim to be able to read your mind.

What are your opinions on alternative medicine, psychics, faith-healing, et al?

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Old 02-20-2007, 05:25 PM   #2
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I'm a huge Randi fan, the man debunked Uri Geller, Peter Popoff, and Sylvia Browne among others. For thousands of years alternative (Well alternative today) medicine was the only thing practiced, disease was far more widespread then than now. If you can't see the correlation here I have massive contempt for you.

I preferred his Debunking of Popoff myself.
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Old 02-21-2007, 01:43 AM   #3
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Homeopathic therapy? Why not? The vapour water I can tell for a fact is better for colds than anything you can buy off the shelf. Marajuana is mostly illegal but even some doctors will promote it for pain relief. Detox programs are too expensive, there are alternate ways of doing this, I swear by orange juice. But does that mean that you should rely solely on alternate medication? No, what you should do is go with what works best for you.
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
Homeopathic therapy? Why not? The vapour water I can tell for a fact is better for colds than anything you can buy off the shelf.
Thats common knowledge, therefore not alternative.
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Marajuana is mostly illegal but even some doctors will promote it for pain relief. Detox programs are too expensive, there are alternate ways of doing this.
Use of Marijuana for medical purposes is also widely known to be effective, the only reason it could be considered alternative is because it's against the law in most places. Detox programs aren't all that necessary because Marijuana by itself is not toxic enough to kill you.
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:47 AM   #5
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Boil up lizards and scorpions to drink? That's alternative. If it works, better than conventional medication, then go for it.

As an aside, certain types of medication are a big no no, the type that contains codine is one I can think of, because it can be deadly to some.
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Old 02-21-2007, 03:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
Boil up lizards and scorpions to drink? That's alternative. If it works, better than conventional medication, then go for it.
Some people drink snake venom, Nancy.
I surely hell would not drink snake poison, but they say it make them stronger or live longer or something like that.
Snake venom could relieve arthritis, this article discuss that snake venom could relieve arthritis by a synthetic form of venom minus the toxins.
I believe a lot of things in nature could lead to treatments to health problems or cure diseases like AIDS, if we have not destroyed whatever those things are yet; by rainforest destruction, that may exist in nature.
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Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
As an aside, certain types of medication are a big no no, the type that contains codine is one I can think of, because it can be deadly to some.
You are talking about a derivative of opium codeine; used as an antitussive (to relieve coughing) and an analgesic (to relive pain).
Yes I agree; deadly to some since we all have different health characteristics.
So, a lot of treatments will have complex effects on different kind of individuals of our species.

Last edited by windu6; 02-21-2007 at 03:48 AM.
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Old 02-21-2007, 04:11 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Dagobahn Eagle
Now, I have a friend who's shamelessly crazy about everything alternative, up to, but very likely not limited to, a belief that she's protected by "the ones up there" 24 hours a day. This, coupled with the films on "the Amazing" Randi I've seen on Google Video, are to be blamed for me making this thread. Homeopathic "medicine" is sold at ludicrous costs all over Europe; faith healing and acupuncture is widespread; and psychics, in the year of 2007, claim to be able to read your mind.

What are your opinions on alternative medicine, psychics, faith-healing, et al?
Psychics: unless they have Force Heal, I'm not trusting them.
Also I don't trust no one who can read my mind.
Alternative medicine: maybe; the plants and the lifeforms(their genes or organisms in their cellular make up) in nature maybe beneficial to us; fighting diseases and general health treatments.
Faith healing: Well, that is the religious department, not my cup of tea.

Last edited by windu6; 02-21-2007 at 04:36 AM.
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Old 02-21-2007, 06:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
As an aside, certain types of medication are a big no no, the type that contains codine is one I can think of, because it can be deadly to some.
So can penicillin, which is arguably one of the most important medical discoveries ever. Some people are allergic to it and it will kill them. Does it mean the medicine itself is a big no no? I dare say not, it simply means that one should let actual doctors take care of them (You know, those people who spend 10+ years after high school and hundreds of thousands of dollars on tuition learning their trade) as opposed to some guy who thinks that the gutter water that runs by his church has healing properties.



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Old 02-21-2007, 08:07 AM   #9
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Of course doctors should be the ones to get it right, most of the time. If a better option exists however, whether it be homeopathic medicine or something else, people should take it.
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Old 02-21-2007, 12:59 PM   #10
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Homeopathic therapy? Why not?
Randi explains it quite well in the video from my first link. Homeopathic pills contain virtually or literally none of the anti-dotes they claim to, and either way, the theories it is based on are void and do not stand up to scientific testing.

Quote:
Thats common knowledge, therefore not alternative.
This might help in the question of alternative versus non-alternative:
Alternative medicine describes practices used in place of conventional medical treatments. Complementary medicine describes practices used in conjunction and cooperation with conventional medicine, to assist the existing process. The term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is an umbrella term for both branches. CAM includes practices that incorporate spiritual, metaphysical, or religious underpinnings; non-European medical traditions, or newly developed approaches to healing.
--Wiki.
Quote:
Of course doctors should be the ones to get it right, most of the time. If a better option exists however, whether it be homeopathic medicine or something else, people should take it.
Of course. But come on, homeopathy?
Homeopathy attempts to treat the sick with extremely diluted agents that, in undiluted doses, produce similar symptoms in the healthy. However, processes use cause the dose to be exactly zero in most cases: Its adherents and practitioners assert that the therapeutic potency of a remedy can be increased by serial dilution of the drug, combined with succussion, or vigorous shaking. This is, however, not supported by chemistry or physics. Homeopathy regards diseases as morbid derangements of the organism,[4] and states that instances of disease in different people differ fundamentally.[5] Homeopathy views a sick person as having a dynamic disturbance in a hypothetical "vital force", a disturbance which, homeopaths claim, underlies standard medical diagnoses of named diseases.[6]

Scientists describe homeopathy as pseudoscience [7] and quackery.[8] The theory that extreme dilution makes drugs more powerful by enhancing their "spirit-like medicinal powers"[9] is inconsistent with the laws of chemistry and physics. Placebo-controlled clinical trials have given mixed results, but most have methodological problems, with better-quality trials (e.g. those more likely to use double-blind techniques) more likely to give negative results.[10] Additionally, cases have been reported of life-threatening complications resulting from attempts to treat serious conditions solely with homeopathic remedies.[11][12]
--Wiki.

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Old 02-22-2007, 12:25 PM   #11
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Belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy is not supported by evidence, therefore it is irrational, and like all irrational beliefs it is intrinsically worthless and may well result in negative consequences for the person who holds it, and for those around them.

Beliefs must be based on reason and evidence to be valid. End of story.


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Old 02-22-2007, 11:43 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
Homeopathic therapy? Why not?
Simply put: because there's no reason to believe it works. Indeed, there is considerable evidence against it. Finally, simple logic dictates that it is useless, since homeopathy is based on the concept of "infinite dilution." This means that the substance, arsenic for instance, is diluted to the point that it simply isn't molecularly present in the water. Every single homeopathic remedy is no different than distilled water you can pick up at any Walmart for .58 cents a gallon.

With regard to "alternative" methods, that are generally worthless as well. Studies conducted on the most prominent of these, such as herbals like Echinacea, aromatherapy, and biofeedback, have shown to be less helpful than placebo. Many "alternative" treatments are downright harmful, such as cellular injection (the injection of foreign cells from animals) and Ayurvedic "medicine."

Some helpful links:

"alternative" health practice
Quackwatch
Kevin Trudeau: Pseudo-Advocate for the Consumer
The Pseudoscience of an "Infomercial" Conman (includes a brief overview of homeopathy)


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Old 02-23-2007, 12:39 AM   #13
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I'll go with "Crock of ****" for one thousand Alex.


Taken directly from wikipedia (not exactly the most reputable source, but I'm tired, so here goes).

"
Homeopathy attempts to treat the sick with extremely diluted agents that, in undiluted doses, produce similar symptoms in the healthy. However, processes use cause the dose to be exactly zero in most cases: Its adherents and practitioners assert that the therapeutic potency of a remedy can be increased by serial dilution of the drug, combined with succussion, or vigorous shaking. This is, however, not supported by chemistry or physics. Homeopathy regards diseases as morbid derangements of the organism,[4] and states that instances of disease in different people differ fundamentally "

1. Dose to be exactly zero? What are you taking then!?
2. Not supported by chemistry or physics, and uses INTENSE SHAKING to rid you of your disease.

Seems fishy to me. I'm going to toss my lot in with proven chemistry and physics, thanks. Homeopathy can be summed up preciesly by this, in my opinion.

"Heres the history of our medicine.
"I have a sore throat."
2000 BC : "eat this root"
1200 AD : "That root is heathen, say this prayer."
1500 AD : "That prayer is superstition, drink this elixir."
1800 AD : "That elixir is snake oil, Take this pill."
1900 AD : "That pill is ineffective, Take this antibiotic."
2000 AD : "That antibiotic is artificial, Here why dont you eat this root."

A step back in time...


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Old 02-23-2007, 02:00 AM   #14
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Homeopathic medicine does not make sense because it ignores many chemical and physical laws in an illogical fashion: by diluting a substance you simply spread it's molecules and atoms farther apart; they do not transfer any qualities to the surrounding molecules that would help the human body become immune to it. As Skinwalker says, all homeopathic water does is transform toxic or septic water into just tap water.

As for alternative medicine, I think that the nomenclature is a bit misleading; after all, how far is "alternative"? Is it simply using different herbs or plants in a carefully concocted formula that has been tested through the generations and has successfully worked, or is it the use of insect feces and orangutan hair mixed together in yellow matter custard from a dead dog's eye? Herbalism is still a viable discipline of medicine, largely because current western medicine derives many of its prescriptions from organic substances like poppy flowers and whatnot.

Granted, I'd still much prefer western medicine to other alternative medicine, but only because we're much more careful about what the substances are and what they can do than alternative practitioners.



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Old 02-23-2007, 02:01 AM   #15
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If something does work, better than the more accepted form of, in this case medication, shouldn't it be used? Would that include homeopatic medicine? The difficulty is that how the body would react to any type of treatment is as individual as the person who would get the disease in the first place. Now certainly conventional means has a proven track record, but if they don't work, it shouldn't be a simple case of tough luck, the option for unconventional means should be open.
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Old 02-23-2007, 02:19 AM   #16
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If something does work, better than the more accepted form of, in this case medication, shouldn't it be used?
If it works, it *is* medicine. Like Tyrion said, there is no "alternative." Herbal remedies are drugs. Period. Some work. Some don't. Very, very, very few work better than their pharmaceutical analogs. Why take an herbal compound of unknown quantity, unknown concentration, and unknown purity, when evidence-based medicines are available. Aspirin is a compound that occurs naturally in plants (tree bark I think). If you take two aspirins, you're taking a medically proven and tested dose of a pure compound of known quantity and quality. Who knows what's in an unregulated, untested, herb that may or may not be the advertised product. It isn't pure. It isn't controlled for concentration or quantity. It's likely no one has tested it efficacy for the purpose you're taking it for nor for contraindications (interactions with other compounds, substances or drugs).

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Would that include homeopatic medicine?
Homeopathic "medicine" isn't medicine. Its water. Read the links I left above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
but if they don't work, it shouldn't be a simple case of tough luck, the option for unconventional means should be open.
Pure poppycock. Why subject someone to additional risks if they are already faced with a malady? That's called magical thinking.


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Old 02-23-2007, 02:22 AM   #17
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If someone is sick, and none of the conventional methods work, what then?
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Old 02-23-2007, 02:28 AM   #18
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Make them comfortable as possible and stick with evidence-based medicine. It makes no sense to try things that aren't demonstrably effective, safe or viable just because the person isn't responding to the best medical treatment known to science.

That's not to say that there aren't situations in which experimental treatments aren't worth trying, but these are treatments that medical science is already working on. Researchers have hypotheses about new treatments all the time and occasionally they are given opportunities to test these with terminal patients or with patients where other treatments aren't working.

But this doesn't mean they are calling in witchdoctors and shamans or sacrificing chickens. That's what most so-called "alternative" methods amount to.


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Old 02-23-2007, 02:33 AM   #19
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That's exactly what I'm saying, we should not throw up our arms, throw it into the too hard basket and allow someone sick to suffer just because we have too much of an ego to only accept our ways.

I'm not sure if you're a medical expert, but wasn't there some type of placebo or homeopathic medication that was looked into recently that was discovered to be benificial in some form or another?
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Old 02-23-2007, 01:56 PM   #20
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That's exactly what I'm saying, we should not throw up our arms, throw it into the too hard basket and allow someone sick to suffer just because we have too much of an ego to only accept our ways.
It's got nothing to do with "ego", Nance. Doctors reject homeopathy because it's been proven to not work, not because they "only accept their own ways".

And they aren't "throwing it in the too-hard basket", they're spending fortunes on researching actual medicine that actually does work, rather than resorting to ineffective and potentially dangerous drugs.

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Old 02-23-2007, 08:35 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``
That's exactly what I'm saying, we should not throw up our arms, throw it into the too hard basket and allow someone sick to suffer just because we have too much of an ego to only accept our ways.
The reason doctors don't prescribe everything outside the box once traditional methods fail to work is because they follow the model of "to help, or to at least to do no harm." The latter portion is crucial to what you're saying, as it doesn't take much foresight to realize the potential danger of prescribing things to patients without knowing what the outcome could be.

Quote:
I'm not sure if you're a medical expert, but wasn't there some type of placebo or homeopathic medication that was looked into recently that was discovered to be benificial in some form or another?
Er, a placebo should not have been beneficial in and of itself, as it contains no other substance other than perhaps sugar. If it works, it's most likely the result of a stronger willpower that the patient gained from believing the pill was working, rather than anything actually based in chemistry. Homeopathic would fall under the same thing.



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Old 03-19-2007, 06:44 PM   #22
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Answering a bunch of stuff here....

Homeopathic medicine--just open a bottle of Perrier and hand it to the patient, you'll get the same result.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dictionary.com
placebo effect
n. The beneficial effect in a patient following a particular treatment that arises from the patient's expectations concerning the treatment rather than from the treatment itself.
Placebo effect works about 30-35% of the time. It does not mean the placebo pill itself is effective (because it's usually nothing more than a sugar pill). It just means the patient got better because he a. believed the pill would make him better or b. his body healed itself.

Believe me, docs do not just throw their hands up in the air because of ego if the usual treatments aren't working. If I have a person who's just not responding to a treatment appropriate for their condition, I send them to the appropriate sub-specialist. If the specialist can't figure it out, that person ends up getting sent to one of the university centers that are researching that particular condition, and they go from there.

Why don't doctors prescribe alternative treatments on a regular basis? There are several reasons.

1. We don't want to make the situation worse (or keep it from getting better) by using something that may have no value. Sometimes people discover things on accident that make a particular condition better, but those things go through a lot of study before they become part of the standard of care.

2. We often don't use herbals because the potency can vary tremendously, ie the amount of the effective ingredient can vary wildly from plant to plant, which means it can vary wildly from pill to pill as a result. You don't want someone getting varying doses, and especially don't want doses that aren't enough to be adequately effective or worse are too strong and cause overdose damage.

3. In the US, at least, using alternative 'treatments' that are outside the acceptable standard of care makes us wide open to malpractice lawsuits. If I try to prescribe a homeopathic or herbal medicine for an aggressive bacterial eye infection, and the person's eye infection gets so bad that he ends up losing some portion of his sight in that eye, I would be held liable, because use of homeopathic eye drops is not considered an acceptable standard of care.

How are these standards of care developed? They're created by the academic leaders in that particular medical specialty based on the tons of research going on in the field, and standards are usually established only after studies show the various medications or other treatments are effective. Some treatments get fast-tracked in the US if they show a reasonable effectiveness rate (AIDS treatments being the most noteworthy), but they're still subject to a lot of study, and some standards of care may change again based on later research. Every common condition has a set of treatments that are considered acceptable/efficacious. For extremely rare conditions that don't have an established standard, or for those patients who are not responding to the conventional treatments in established standards, what happens is the specialist will usually study the condition, confer with other experts in the field, study the disease, how it works, its cause, etc., and in conjuction with pharmacologists (or other experts for non-drug remedies) develop a potential treatment plan. Those get tested to see if they work, and if so, further studies are developed from that. There are standards on how experimental treatments are established and tested, so it's not a 'let's throw x at the problem and see if it works'.
I take a couple vitamins/herbals myself, but only because I've seen some decent studies indicating their benefits, have seen they have a low risk profile, and chatted with my doc about it.

Aspirin--is a derivative of the active ingredient found in willow bark.

Marijuana--in the past has been used for a. treatment of nausea in chemotherapy and b. treatment of glaucoma. I don't know much about oncology other than to say the treatments have gotten much better and the anti-nausea meds have improved tremendously, so it's not as useful as it may have been at one time. With glaucoma, 40 years back the only real treatment was pilocarpine, and if that didn't work the patient was screwed. Marijuana does have the effect of lowering pressure in the eye (high pressure contributes to the damage), and so some people did find a benefit from it when the one conventional treatment failed. However, the number of effective treatments for glaucoma have just exploded over the last 10-15 years, and so even if it was legal, I'd probably never even suggest it as an option.

Codeine--can cause deadly reactions in those who are allergic, just like any medication or herbal remedy can cause such allergic reactions. Codeine and its analogues are great pain relievers for those who are not allergic, however.


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Old 03-20-2007, 12:38 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spider AL
Belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy is not supported by evidence, therefore it is irrational, and like all irrational beliefs it is intrinsically worthless and may well result in negative consequences for the person who holds it, and for those around them.

Beliefs must be based on reason and evidence to be valid. End of story.
I would like to hear your take on the placebo effect, Spider. Placebos are irration and yet to some extent, they are effective. I know science often uses placebo as baseline for measuring effectiveness, which is to say it defines the effectiveness of placebo as zero. However, if the symptoms have been reduced by placebo, isn't that something of a benefit that should not be discounted?
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:56 PM   #24
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But the placebo affect has nothing to do with the actual effectiveness of the 'drug'. In general the people who get better while using a placebo would have gotten better had they done nothing.

I cannot imagine a doctor would ever ACTUALLY prescribe a placebo for a patient who was genuinely sick, because the only benefit a placebo may have is causing the patient to THINK they will get better. However, they can still get this benefit by receiving ACTUAL medication, as well as the benefits of the medication itself.

It is also not irrational that placebos do have a percentage of effectiveness, simply because some people do get better, and it is known that a persons state of mind can have an effect on their health.



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Old 03-20-2007, 02:19 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by ET Warrior
But the placebo affect has nothing to do with the actual effectiveness of the 'drug'. In general the people who get better while using a placebo would have gotten better had they done nothing.
Given a fixed length of time in which changes in symptoms are studied, placebo decreases symptoms. Of course a doctor would use whatever is the best choice of medication, that's not my point.
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It is also not irrational that placebos do have a percentage of effectiveness, simply because some people do get better, and it is known that a persons state of mind can have an effect on their health.
Thank you, that's what I was looking for. The irrational belief here then is not intrinsically worthless is it?

And a step farther... if there is no other known medical option, is it moral to take away someone's belief in a placebo just because it is an irrational belief?
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Old 03-20-2007, 03:54 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

I would like to hear your take on the placebo effect, Spider. Placebos are irration and yet to some extent, they are effective.
As ET points out, you're incorrect. The placebo is not effective at all. The patient may become more positive and think more positively if they believe that they're taking an effective pill... but that does not make the pill effective.

Positive thought can help someone's morale during an illness. But you don't need to lie to yourself and you don't need others to lie to you in order to achieve a positive mindset. Therefore placebos are not useful, therapeutically speaking.

Furthermore positive thinking by itself has never been shown to remedy serious illnesses in any meaningful way. I think that effectively addresses your assertions concerning that particular issue.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

I know science often uses placebo as baseline for measuring effectiveness, which is to say it defines the effectiveness of placebo as zero.
The effectiveness of a placebo is zero. The point of such blind tests is that it negates the effect of positive thinking (among other factors) upon the test-subjects. Such tests are ALL that placebos are useful for.

In such a test, ALL participants are taking a pill. They cannot tell whether the pill is real or a placebo. Thus they all have the same level of positivity/negativity regarding said pill. Thus the only effect that is measured in the results is the effect of the real drug.

Thus the therapeutic factor is basically isolated and can be relied upon with more certainty.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

However, if the symptoms have been reduced by placebo, isn't that something of a benefit that should not be discounted?
As stated before, positive thinking is good, and you don't need a placebo (a homeopathic remedy for instance) to achieve it. So of course the "benefit" you're describing can and should be discounted. Why lie to people when you can tell them the truth and achieve the same results?

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

And a step farther... if there is no other known medical option, is it moral to take away someone's belief in a placebo just because it is an irrational belief?
Yes, of course it's moral. Their time would be better spent searching the world for medical trials and cutting-edge experimental (but scientifically based) treatments rather than drinking a bottle of magic water on the say-so of some swami or other. It would be moral to show them that truth. It would be immoral to perpetuate the lie.


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Old 03-20-2007, 04:20 PM   #27
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I remain completely unconvinced, but thank you for answering.
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Old 03-20-2007, 04:26 PM   #28
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You're quite welcome.

If you'd like to give some logical reasons to explain the fact that you're still unconvinced, I for one would be most interested to read them, as I can't for the life of me think of any such reasons myself.


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Old 03-20-2007, 04:33 PM   #29
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I don't know of any condition where a placebo is given as part of the standard of care.


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Old 03-20-2007, 06:40 PM   #30
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I have benefited as a diabetic from many alternate/natural medicines and therapies.

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Old 03-20-2007, 06:43 PM   #31
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First to clarify what I am not arguing:

I'm not arguing that a placebo pill has an inherent effectiveness in and of itself, nor am I arguing that placebos should or should not be used as a baseline to measure other drugs against. I'm not arguing that the placebo effect has been shown to remedy serious illness.

What I am arguing against is the stance the belief placebos is inherently harmful, and by the nature of its irrationality, bad in all cases.

Positive thinking if defined as saying to yourself "I'm going to beat this illness...", is not the same as a placebo. The idea that you will in the future beat the illness is much different than thinking that you are presently beating the illness. This a distinction worth noting. If you will do something, then it means are not doing it now. Thus your symptoms are not improving. Maybe in the future they will. Now, if the positive thinker affirmed and believed "I am beating this illness through the power of my positive thinking," that would be the same as a placebo, would have the placebo effect, and would be labelled the same way by some as "lying to yourself".

I acknowledge that if a medicine, scientifically shown to be effective in a double-blind study, is available for a treatment of course it should be used. However, if there is no cure for the treatment, I argue that it is immoral to try to take away a person's belief in the placebo. You would rather that person not use the irrational power of their own mind to improve their condition simply because it is irrational. (It seems to be a recurring theme throughout this forum that belief without evidence is irrational and must be abolished.) Because belief is required, the placebo effect cannot be rationalized. By being completely rational, you cannot have the placebo effect unless it accompanies something that you believe is an effective treatment.

If you take away the belief of someone, you give them little else except what? Positive thinking for something to happen in the future? It is better instead to help someone keep looking for a scientifically proven effective treatment while not discouraging their use of the placebo. That is the best of both worlds.
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Old 03-20-2007, 08:59 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

What I am arguing against is the stance the belief placebos is inherently harmful, and by the nature of its irrationality, bad in all cases.
Well then you're certainly not arguing against me, because I for one have certainly never stated anything so silly. In fact, reading through this thread I can't see that anyone has stated anything so silly.

I mean, please direct me to a quote if I've missed it.

What I for one stated (in my first post) was: "Belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy is not supported by evidence, therefore it is irrational, and like all irrational beliefs it is intrinsically worthless and may well result in negative consequences for the person who holds it, and for those around them. Beliefs must be based on reason and evidence to be valid. End of story."

Let's examine that:

1. "Belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy is not supported by evidence, therefore it is irrational ..." (obvious)

2. "... and like all irrational beliefs it is intrinsically worthless ..." (Indeed, irrational beliefs have no intrinsic worth. A rational belief has worth because it enables one to operate efficiently within the world, it enables one to predict likely outcomes with a certain degree of accuracy. Your contention is that an irrational belief that one is getting better may have positive effects on oneself if one is sick. This ignores the fact that any perceived positive effect can also be attained through rational means, therefore there is no need for the irrational belief, as you imply. More on this later.)

3. "... and may well result in negative consequences for the person who holds it, and for those around them. ..." (Once again, obvious. An irrational belief in homeopathy for instance may result in a sick person eschewing conventional treatments and/or giving up the SEARCH for experimental- but still scientifically based- treatments for their ailment.)

4. "... Beliefs must be based on reason and evidence to be valid. End of story." (And again, uncontestable. A belief without evidence to support it is merely chaotic conjecture, without foundation, it is not logical, robust, nor reliable.)

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

Now, if the positive thinker affirmed and believed "I am beating this illness through the power of my positive thinking," that would be the same as a placebo, would have the placebo effect, and would be labelled the same way by some as "lying to yourself".
Firstly, with all these hypothetical distinctions between different types of positive thinking, you have missed a rather important chain of reasoning.

1. Placebos by their very nature do not cure illnesses.
2. The "placebo effect" is merely psychological.
3. Therefore it is not the placebo that is responsible for the psychological effect, but the person themselves.
4. People taking dummy pills often convince themselves that their symptoms are less severe as a result.
5. Therefore a person is capable of mentally controlling their perception of their own symptoms to an appreciable degree. (And this is the absolute best one can hope for from either placebos or isolated positive thinking)

And your contention that the only way of accomplishing this is by lying to yourself (and/or being lied to by some swami/guru) is flatly false. Meditation, visualisation, repetition of positive phrases are all fairly good at managing pain, etcetera. They don't require falsehood.

As an example, I don't need to say: "my wound is spontaneously healing due to this badger-nose-pill I just swallowed (false) therefore I feel no pain".

To accomplish a very positive result, I merely need to repeat to myself: "I am in control of my pain (which is true), I am compartmentalising my pain, I feel no pain." Irrational beliefs are not required, by any stretch of the imagination.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

I acknowledge that if a medicine, scientifically shown to be effective in a double-blind study, is available for a treatment of course it should be used. However, if there is no cure for the treatment, I argue that it is immoral to try to take away a person's belief in the placebo.
As far as I can see you have no basis for this argument. First of all, as stated before, a belief in homeopathic quackery can only distract a sick person from seeking experimental scientific treatments for their ailment. It can only distract them from campaigning for more research into their ailment.

And even in the most dire hypothetical, if I found I was terminally ill and there was literally NO possible scientific treatment for my disease... and NO possibility of finding ANY experimental scientific treatments... I wouldn't want to spend my last weeks convinced that the glorified bottle of spring water that Dr. Quacko gave me was beating my illness. (Something you earlier stated was necessary to engender a really positive placebo effect.)

Instead I would want to know the truth, that I was doomed... and I would want to know this so that I could soberly and carefully prepare for my own demise. False hope, after all, is merely escapism.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

You would rather that person not use the irrational power of their own mind to improve their condition simply because it is irrational.
I for one would rather they used the RATIONAL power of their own mind to improve their condition, rather than believing in ghosts and shadows, and thereby making themselves:

1. vulnerable to snake-oil salesmen,
2. open to the effects of mass hysteria &
3. prone to poor decision-making in general.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

(It seems to be a recurring theme throughout this forum that belief without evidence is irrational and must be abolished.)
Belief without evidence is irrational, and people in general would be better off if they discarded their blind faith and replaced it with critical thought and rationalism. That's not really up for debate, it's axiomatic. However nobody on this forum has been advocating the abolition of people's right to hold irrational beliefs, as far as I'm aware.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

If you take away the belief of someone
On a side-note, I have to comment on your perrennial usage of terms like "take away their belief". I would like to contrast this type of language with my own terminology, namely "take away their delusion", or "reveal to them the truth", or "show them the facts, and the logical arguments". Just a point to consider.

Quote:
Originally posted by tk102:

It is better instead to help someone keep looking for a scientifically proven effective treatment while not discouraging their use of the placebo. That is the best of both worlds.
That doesn't make much sense, TK. If as you stated earlier, the person taking the placebo MUST BELIEVE IT'S EFFECTIVE in order for the placebo effect to occur in its most positive form... How motivated is this person going to be to find a scientifically based remedy? I mean they already believe that their bottle of water is curing their ailment. Why go looking for something else?

No, I'm afraid that rationalism and irrationality cannot comfortably co-exist in the real world.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoxStar
I have benefited as a diabetic from many alternate/natural medicines and therapies.
I'm not doubting your honesty Rox, but frankly without more detail I for one can't really accept nor address your assertions. Many people believe that their alternative therapies have helped them... belief doesn't constitute viable evidence of efficacy.

But perhaps if you were to elaborate we could examine any evidence you wish to put forward.


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Old 03-22-2007, 12:14 PM   #33
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I had asthma when I was young, and it didn't go away no matter what my parents tried. Then they tried homeopathic medicine and eventually I had asthma no more.

Now was it homeopathic medicine that cured me, or was is just coincidence that it went away at the same time? I don't know, but due to this I have no negative feelings towards alternative medicine.

If there is no regular medicine that works for me, I would not hesitate to try out alternative medicine that sounds somewhat reasonable to me.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:02 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Vaelastraz
Now was it homeopathic medicine that cured me, or was is just coincidence that it went away at the same time?
I'm not trying to belittle your experiences with homeopathy Vael, and I'm fully aware that this question was rhetorical... but it begs an answer.

The answer is: All the evidence would suggest that it was merely coincidence that your asthma improved. Homeopathy is ludicrous. It really is. It's ludicrous. There is literally NO logical reason to believe that it helped you.

Did you eat ice-cream at all while you were taking homeopathic remedies? If so, you may as well credit your recovery to the ice-cream as to the watery goodness of the homeopathic "treatment".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vaelastraz
If there is no regular medicine that works for me, I would not hesitate to try out alternative medicine that sounds somewhat reasonable to me.
Are you suggesting that homeopathy sounds reasonable to you? Things like treating insomnia with unbelievably diluted caffeine sound reasonable? They certainly don't sound reasonable to me.


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