Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

by Simon Singh

Whether you are an ardent believer in alternative medicine, a skeptic, or are simply baffled by the range of services and opinions, this guide lays to rest doubts and contradictions with authority, integrity, and clarity. In this groundbreaking analysis, over thirty of the most popular treatmentsacupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic, and herbal medicinesare examined for their benefits and potential dangers. Questions answered include: What works and what doesn't? What are the secrets, and what are the lies? Who can you trust, and who is ripping you off? Can science decide what is best, or do the old wives' tales really tap into ancient, superior wisdom?In their scrutiny of alternative and complementary cures, authors Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst also strive to reassert the primacy of the scientific method as a means for determining public health practice and policy.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Science
  • Rating: 4.09
  • Pages: 352
  • Publish Date: August 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company
  • Isbn10: 0393066614
  • Isbn13: 9780393066616

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People need to know why alternative medicine doesn't work, and they need to know how we can tell that it doesn't work. The book is at the same time ruthlessly scientific and ridiculously accessible. The result is a rigorous, honest and well-researched book, and the fact that it's a little lightweight is probably its greatest strength.

The authors take an in-depth look at the four most popular modalities in the alternative medicine world: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine. While chiropractic may be effective for certain types of back pain, it has not been shown to be more effective than conventional therapies, is usually much more expensive, and carries a rarely discussed but very real risk of stroke, leading the authors to recommend against it.

I really thought this book was going to take a more neutral, and scientific based approach to exploring the efficacy of alternative medicines. The book stereo-typed users and practitioners of alternative medicine, and even said that conventional medical doctors take a more holistic approach to treating patients than alternative practitioners. On page 204 the authors write "If a herbal remedy does not appear in the table, then it is probably safe to assume that there is no convincing evidence to support its use". There are many books, scientific journals, articles, etc out there to read.

In my continued exploration of alternative medicine, I turned to Drs. Edzard Ernst and Simon Singhs Trick or Treatment. While rife with medical history and science, unfortunately it reads somewhat like stereo instructions. The one highlight of Trick or Treatment is the synthesized glossary.

So, Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine was written by Simon Singh, who I used to respect, and Edzard Ernst, MD, who calls himself "the world's first professor of complementary medicine" and immediately relative to this I have heard people who know him clear their throats and add: "Although, I have never heard where he studied any complementary medicine." (See what I just did there? I cast aspersions upon one of the authors by relating an anecdotal and therefore spurious source.) The book has a single goal to prove through repetition that complementary medicine is invalid because it can not be proved through that golden standard of medicine the double blind trial to lead to "evidence-based medicine". The introduction states: The contents of this book are guided entirely by a single pithy sentence, written over 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates of Cos. Recognized as father of medicine he stated: 'There are, in fact, two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.' which says it all and I need explain nothing further. For example, the first first chapter "The Truth About Acupuncture" begins with the bold statement that it was not the Chinese who invented it because in 1991 two German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon discovered a frozen corpse 5,000 years old covered in tatoos that resemble conventional acupuncture points. Next the authors discuss "ch'i" and frankly, anybody who studies Chinese medicine knows that what they say is wrong wrong wrong. Here are some thoughts about the difficulties posed by studies of acupuncture efficacity: 1) Double blind tests with acupuncture protocols where there are no reduction of symptoms don't prove acupuncture doesn't work they just prove that that protocol doesn't work; 2) The first thing a student of Chinese medicine learns is: "Same symptoms different treatment, different symptoms same treatment." This means that even when the symptoms are same over a group of people you treat them differently because they have different presentation, age, sex, robustness. The Japanese-style of acupuncture called Toyohari, for example, developed by blind practitioners, do not (for obvious reasons) insert the needle into the dermis--they just use needles to stimulate the surface of the skin. When was the last time you left a doctor's office and felt like a million freakin' bucks? Ernst and Singh do the same thing for chiropractic therapy (thank god for chiropractors, my "doctor" wanted to cut open my back for exploratory surgery. I guess Ernst and Simon have forgotten all those years when female patients were given unauthorized pelvic exams by residents and students while under anesthesia--a practice that continues today. By awarding profitable degrees in these alternative therapies they are creating false hope and real profits; alternative gurus are, e.g. charismatic MDs like doctor Oz. This really cheeses me off: when I've been telling patients for four years their Raynaud's symptoms would improve if they stopped smoking inevitably they come back to me and and say Dr. Oz says such and such!; the media, well look at the bullshit that's happened in the last 16 months there. When the authors talk about biomedicine moving out of the "dark ages" I think they refer to biomedicine moving away from: "how are you today?" towards an Orwellian world where your physician faces a screen (Electronic Health Records, anyone?) instead of her patient. One area the authors never touch upon is the importance alternative medicine has for society: in a world in which doctors are priests standing between a man and his own health, and only care about that small slide from ill health to death, alternative medicine allows for a place in which a person can go to learn about self care to augment the quality of his healthy life and prevent an odd situation from becoming a chronic situation. Written for: Stephen--dead at 23, from a fatal drug interaction prescribed by a medical doctor Elizabeth--currently blind, crippled and brain-damaged by a routine allergy shot administered incorrectly by a medical doctor Egan--survived pneumo-thorax caused by medical doctor using acupuncture (incorrectly) while attempting to treat his shingles William--saved from sepsis by a phenomenal surgeon and an extraordinary team of physicians, nurses, and techs at Yale Teaching hospital We need each other, guys.

Singh and Ernst dont set out with any malice Ernst has worked for many years in alternative medicine but they show devastatingly how proper trials have shown these alternative treatments to rarely be better than a placebo, and often to have negative or even life-threatening consequences.

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine falls into the title-construction format the I find personally aggravating; a clever title and then an aggressive subtitle that cannot be denied. Outside of the feeling of being punched in the face with the subtitle, I knewbecause Ive read articles and books by Simon Singh beforethat I was already in the same boat about homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicine as the authors: Chiropractors who manipulate the neck can cause stroke, which can be fatal. But Trick or Treatment isnt ideological, it just dumps facts on your face: There have been attempts to isolate the key active ingredient in St Johns wort, thought to be either hyperforin or hypericin, but when these have been tested, however, it appears that they are not as effective as the plant itself. My expectation of constant, confirmation-bias-based personal validation was brought up short, but it is affirming to be reminded that scientific testingconventional medicinewill check whatever alternative bunkum spills forth from the mantra-and-placebo industry and use what is proven to be relatively safe and effective. It was not until 1832 that placebo took on its specific medical meaning, namely an insincere or ineffective treatment that can nevertheless be consoling. The ethical discussions contained near the tail end of Trick or Treatment are predicated on a working comprehension of the placebo effect: For some conditions, such as back pain, conventional medicine struggles to offer a reasonably good solution, which means that a homeopathic remedy might be as good as anything else. I cant really tell you how an ardent supporter of alternative medicine would view Trick or Treatment, but if you want to know more about acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, and chiropractic, this is a reliable place to become informed. Even if you dismiss the conclusionsthat alternative medicine is often outright dangerous, or, at the least obfuscatory in finding effective treatmentthe historical background and functional detailing is informative and at times fascinating. Mao did not care whether traditional Chinese medicine worked, as long as he could keep the masses contented. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from worthless ones.

Sono rapito da stronzate profondissimi concetti quali la memoria dell'acqua. Mi piacciono i prodotti omeopatici: imbrogli farmaci costituiti di sola memoria, talvolta un po' di zucchero, di solito tanta acqua (memorabile). E allora non posso che stimare gli omeopatici, intesi come pazienti dell'omeopatia: ci vuole una mente succussata aperta, apertissima succussatissima per pagare fior di soldi (quelli non succussati, né dinamizzati, tantomeno diluiti, ma tutti interi, fruscianti, tanti) per una pastiglina di zucchero o due goccioline d'acqua.

His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptography and its history), Big Bang (about the Big Bang theory and the origins of the universe) and Trick or Treatment?