Hi Dr. Nick | Issue 12
Thereís a column that I meant to churn out during our spate of sexual sicknesses, but Iíve been sidetracked by other topics (poo is funny, donít listen to housewives). This week I was determined to finish off the column about horses and thrush when I saw the ODT article ďTherapy hope for young boyĒ (10/5/13).
For those who donít read religiously read the Otago Daily Times while taking your morning dump, the article outlined a Dunedin manís planned $15,000 journey to Hong Kong so his developmentally-delayed son could receive tongue acupuncture.
Now I do have the deepest empathy for the family of the boy in question Ė itís an incredibly trying situation that nobody could understand from an outside point of view. That being said, yíall are fucking idiots.
Thereís always a bit of a tension when complementary medicines get brought up in consults. The general resolution is that the doctor politely sidesteps the issue with a line like ďit probably wonít hurt, but we need to know about it.Ē
The awkward thing with alternative medicine is that itís absolute rubbish, but we canít just ignore them as some do have an effect. Things like St. Johnís Wort, ephedra and ginseng do have documented (mild) effects on a range of diseases and disorders. They also have well-documented side effects, risks and interactions with medications (particularly the Wort), which you wonít hear about from the hippie at Health 2000.
The problem with alternative medicines begins with the fact that they arenít regulated. When you buy 500mg Paracetamol pills from Countdown, there are a heap of laws saying that the pills have to work, they have to actually contain 500mg of Paracetamol, and the side effects have to be clearly displayed. Alternative medicines are usually classed as ďfoodĒ and therefore have no such legislation.
There are plenty of studies demonstrating that alternative medicines donít play by those rules. One study from the Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that only two out of 54 brands of St. Johnís Wort contained within 10% of the level advertised. Even more disturbing, an older study showed 85% of ginseng products contained absolutely no ginseng whatsoever. Ginseng is clearly the Ribena of the supplement world.
Coming back to our Dunedin berk du jour. Hopefully, as educated students, you realise that placing 40 pins on a kidís tongue will not fix a chromosomal abnormality, but weíre comforted by the thought that it might. Thatís the thing about alternative medicine: it comforts us. It paints a picture of a life without pills, drips, surgeries and appointments. It vindictively makes us pay $15,000 for the hope of a better life.