Drugs, not bugs
It was a very publicly orchestrated mass drug overdose.
More than 100 people took 15 times the prescribed dose of caffea cruda—a homeopathic medicine used to treat sleeplessness and … ahem … anal itching—at the SkeptiCal 2012 conference in Berkeley last Saturday.
The SkeptiCal conference, in its third year, is co-sponsored by the Sacramento Area Skeptics and the Bay Area Skeptics. There were a number of speakers, including a scientist with the NASA Ames Research Center, who spoke on the concerns about a 2012 apocalypse related to the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
You’d have expected mass narcolepsy.
Instead, a wide-awake crowd listened to Jay Diamond, founder of Reason4Reason, a group of Bay Area skeptics, explain how homeopathic medicines are produced.
Homeopathy, Diamond explained, is based on the Law of Similars and the Law of Infinitesimals, as described by the inventor of the process, Samuel Hahnemann, in the early 1800s. According to the law of similars, if a substance produces symptoms in a healthy person that are similar to the symptoms that a sick person is experiencing, then the substance can be used to treat the sick person’s illness.
Or, “put a man in a den with a lion and he will get brave,” said Diamond.
The Law of Infinitesimals holds that the more you dilute something, the stronger it becomes.
Of course, there’s more to it than just diluting the substance, Diamond said. “There’s the process of succussion,” he told the crowd, “which is shaking [the liquid] at every stage, including shaking vigorously against a leather-bound Bible,” which will give the water memory.
The caffea cruda—sold at many drugstores, supermarkets and natural-foods outlets—was produced according to precise directions from a crushed coffee bean and some cherry brandy, along with distilled water used to dilute the original substance to what homeopaths call 30C (1 x 1060 parts)—or a 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent solution.
Yeah, if you think that’s nothing, you’re right. It’s far beyond the Avogadro Constant (1023), the mathematical point at which there’s nothing left of the original substance. Seriously, try it with whiskey and see how drunk you get.
But, as Diamond pointed out, considering that other 19th-century medical practices including bleeding, purging and cupping—the practice of putting hot metal cups on the skin of the sick person—at least homeopathy is less painful.
Diamond and his accomplices—er, associates—passed out cups containing 15 doses each of the “medicine” for conference attendees, and a mass overdose ensued. Diamond himself drank one of the cups and followed it with several “professionally” prepared doses purchased from the local Whole Foods Market.
In the end, no one fell asleep, nor did anyone confess to a cessation of their anal itching.
“There is a side effect to this stuff, though,” Diamond told the crowd. “You may need to pee sometimes today.”