Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Alternative" Treatments

I missed the big kerfuffle on Friday over the alternative treatment article in the WSJ. Althouse had a nice takedown and I couldn't really wade through the comments.

On the other hand, I don't believe that the path modern medicine follows is comprehensive or exclusive. Sometimes it's just plain wrong. (They like to pretend that all the drugs have been double-blind tested and shown to be effective, but they haven't. And drug interactions have hardly been exhaustively explored. My problem with vaccines is that there are live-organism and dead-organism vaccines, and a multitude of other chemicals, and you can't really switch or add these other factors again and claim that you have science on your side.)

In 1994, after the Northridge quake, I developed serious, debilitating allergies for the first time in my life. I used a thing called a "zapper" and found that when I used it, my sinuses cleared up. When I had finished one set of "zaps", though, my sinsues clogged up again.

I hated having my sinuses clogged, so I used it around the clock for a day, then half the next day, then a third of the next day. My allergy cleared up and never returned.

Now, I realize this isn't science, though the stuff I did around it and building up to three-day jag is about as close as one can get when self-treating. There's a theory behind how the device works and what its limitations are, and there are elements of that theory I find dubious.

And it may be that it was just a great big placebo, but one that was sufficiently convincing to cause the awesome healing powers of my mind to handle a serious condition.

To which I say, so what? Placebos are underrated. They work better than the anti-depressants doctors hand out like candy, and have fewer side-effects. When my friend was dying of cancer, I often thought I would happily sacrifice a chicken and dance around in a big mask, if I thought I could be convincing enough.

There are ways to handle disease other thand drugs and surgery. These would be "alternatives". It doesn't have to mean a bunch of mush-headed pseudo-science.

Would I want the government supporting it? No, but I'd sure like the government to decriminalize it!


  1. I was wondering where you were on that thread.

  2. Watching horror movies.

    Which is probably more productive.

    But I have a lot of firsthand knowledge which, while not scientifically obtained, needs to be respected (by me, others shouldn't).

    Hell, the ketogenic diet, though it's practically a "cult" medical treatment, being forwarded by just one or two people, saved one of my kid's lives.

    So, you know. It doesn't have to be New Age mush.

  3. What you say about the placebo effect, yes. So that when the doctor administers a "wonder drug," who is going to have it chemically analyzed, and find out that it's only a chunk of chalk?

    If it works, that's what counts.

    Robert Anton Wilson has written, or do I mean spoken, at some length about how his childhood polio was not cured, there was no curing that, but to a great extent ameliorated, by the "Sister Kenny method," which was not highly regarded by the medical profession at the time. So much for scientific consensus. The scientific consensus at the time put kids in an iron lung. Thanks to vaccination, we don't have to see these so much any more.

    I would be interested to see what kind of results might follow from the release of a "chunk of chalk" placebo, marketed as an antidepressant, were it given all the marketing that new pills commonly receive now.

    About allergies: never suffered from them that I can recall; but used to have horrifyingly bad sinus headaches. Apparently it was in infection; the ENT doctor (otorhinolargyologist, if you must) stuck amazingly long wires with swabs on the end of them up my nostrils, and gave me a lot of brightly colored pills, antibiotics I suppose. All this was more than 40 years ago, so please excuse the vagueness. Not much sinus trouble after that.

    About your child: I remember that post. I thought about commenting on it at the time, but couldn't figure out a way to send a hug through the Internet. Good work, blake.

  4. Thanks to vaccination, we don't have to see these so much any more.

    Is that true? The anti-vaccine guys insist that the disease was on its way out when the vaccine was administered.

    I think the anti-vaccine guys tend toward the hysterical (though if my kid had been harmed or killed by a vaccination--something which indisputably haappens--I probably would be, too) and I think it can be ruled out as a cause for autism (though I notice both the pro- and anti- sides cite the Quakers as evidence, heh).

    But I look at the "autism epidemic" and if someone tells me that this isn't the first time the CDC has redefined a disease for political purposes, I can hardly claim surprise.

    couldn't figure out a way to send a hug through the Internet. Good work, blake.

    Ah, well, the beauty of this particular bit of snake oil is that I do usually get a hug every day as a result.

  5. When I try to show off by doing fancy spelling tricks, I should be sure to nail the landing. That's "otorhinolaryngologist." Of course.


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