Monthly Archives: April 2016

On Naturopathy and Psychiatry

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Naturopathy, Homeopathy

I am growing intolerant.

Many of my patients over the years have attended Naturopaths. And I assume that for every 10 who confess this, the number must be closer to 20 or 30 for the 10 usually confess with a sheepish grin. I seldom react save for a slight smile and nod for it is usually a harmless event and most Naturopaths, I am pretty sure, do not recommend that their patients stop actual medical treatment.

One mother came back with the story that the Naturopath had studied the blood of her three sons under a microscope and found all three samples revealed high concentrations of parasites. I began to react but first asked what she had recommended. A good diet and lots of exercise was the prescription, so I let it pass. How long would it take to explain that if, indeed, her children did have parasites in their blood we should be heading to the emergency of the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.

Another told me his Naturopath had put him on Lithium. Now, if that were true I should monitor his serum lithium levels, his kidney and thyroid function. But I didn’t. Because I assumed if there was some actual lithium in the concoction he was given it was miniscule, less than might be found in a pistachio nut, or, in fact, embodied that other silliness of naturopathy and homeopathy: some distilled or diluted water that had fond memories of a lithium salt that once resided in it.

So naturopathy and homeopathy are mostly harmless. And it was a logical approach to some dis-ease in the early 19th century, based then on two extrapolations: 1. We thought a few dis-eases might be caused by deficiencies in diets so perhaps all dis-eases are caused by deficiencies. 2. We had no idea what those deficiencies might be so let us give each patient a concoction comprised of small amounts of many things and let his or her body choose which it needs. Not a bad idea at the time. Especially at a time when barber-surgeons and physicians were experimenting with drugs and procedures that could do more harm than good.

But we are no longer in the 19th century, and we know a little more about human and animal physiology now. And we can test for deficiencies if they are suspected. And we now know those deficiencies can occur from an absence in diet, or a genetic or acquired inability to absorb and use a particular vitamin, protein, amino acid, or mineral. And we know that a true deficiency leads to a specific clinical condition.

I forced myself to read an “award-winning” article by Jonathan E. Prousky from the Townsend Letter which purports to be the Examiner of alternative medicine. He starts by presenting two cases (fictional compilations he admits), and then proceeds to slander most medical care and all psychiatric care (with the exception of brief interventions for psychosis). In fact he lists psychiatric treatment and the “mental health system” as “oppressors causing a negative load on the allostatic system”. (meaning they are bad for you)

But then he goes on to list the alternatives that will make you well again and keep you well. They are:

  • Exercise
  • Good diet
  • Connecting with Nature (a walk in the woods)
  • Limiting computer/TV/video gaming time.
  • Religious involvement, or at least paying attention to this
  • Regular adequate sleep
  • And finally, supplements of vitamins and Omega 3

My mother would have agreed in the mid 20th century. Though she insisted on fruit and vegetables for Vit C and A, meat and beans for the B vitamins and iron, milk for calcium, playing outside for Vitamin D, a little extra D through the winter, and Cod Liver Oil for brain development. She would also talk of balance, a good nights sleep, and moderation in all things.

We medical doctors spend a lot of time reviewing exercise, diet, finding a balance in life, limiting gaming and virtual reality, seeking comfort and solace in nature (or vacations, dancing, music, art, work, hobbies, relationships, helping others) finding a way of accepting the realities of life and living with the unknowns, getting a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast, and taking Vit D and Omega 3.

All good advice providing that we don’t overdose on vitamin supplements, for excessive quantities can do damage.

But not as a replacement for medical or psychiatric treatment for illness. Not as a replacement for vaccination. Not as a replacement for real blood tests, scans, medical examinations and investigations, treatment with antibiotics, treatment with modern medicines, medical treatment for depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar illness. Not as a replacement or “alternative” for science.

The nonsense of naturopathy and homeopathy is not harmless when it convinces people to ignore or forgo real medical prevention and treatment for themselves and their children.

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On The Preventable Death of A Child – The Human Tragedy of “Alternative Medicine”

By Marvin Ross

It is a terrible tragedy and the focus of worldwide attention. Ezekiel Stephan was a 19 month old toddler whose parents are presently being tried in Lethbridge Alberta for failing to provide the necessities of life for him. Ezekiel was treated by his parents with various alternative products for what they thought was a cold and croup until he stopped breathing. He was airlifted to Calgary’s Children’s Hospital where he arrived brain dead and soon died of what was diagnosed as bacterial meningitis.

David Stephan, the father, is the son of one of the founders of Truehope – a supplement company that promotes its product, EM Power + (EMP), for psychiatric conditions and recommends that its customers go off medication. I have been writing about them for over 15 years and, along with Dr Terry Polevoy of Waterloo, ON and Ron Reinhold, a former Health Canada inspector and now private investigator in Calgary, we published an E-book called Pig Pills Inc: The Anatomy of An Academic and Alternative Health Fraud. Ron has done an excellent summary of the Truehope history on his website, Rainbow Investigations

Both David Stephan and his wife, Collet, took EMP and gave it to Ezekiel. And both parents worked at sales and marketing for Truehope.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just obtained and made available the medical interview/history done in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Calgary hospital. Aside from the history of Ezekiel’s symptoms and the emergency that precipitated his being airlifted to Calgary, is the family medical history. It is frightening in my opinion.

Collet had no prenatal care from a physician but from a family friend who is a nurse and who helped at delivery. Ezekiel had never been seen by a doctor and was never given any vaccinations. During her pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Collet took EMP. For occasional colds, Ezekiel was given olive oil leaf extract and garlic. According to testimony at the trial, the nurse did suggest that Ezekiel had meningitis and to take him to the ER. They did not but rather went to a naturopath to get some echinacea.

His medications from about 11 months on consisted of daily smoothies containing EMP, Omega 3-6-9, whey protein, FermPlus, and a digestive enzyme. The autopsy report is also available at the bottom of this article for anyone who can stomach the findings.

According to the label for EMP, pregnant and lactating women should consult a doctor before using the product and it advises that the product be kept away from children under 6. And yet seemingly Collet took the product without consulting a doctor and gave it to her child. When EMP was first used in a study at the University of Calgary, Dr Catherine Field, a nutrition researcher at the University of Alberta, told me that she did not know if this product was safe but felt that it could be used short term as long as the research subjects were monitored by a medical doctor. She further stated that it was unsafe for pregnant women or for women who might become pregnant and thus pregnant women were excluded from the study. (P 66 of Pig Pills).

I also have in my possession a freedom of information document provided by Health Canada to an investigative reporter at the Canadian Television Network (CTV) on the adverse events associated with EMP reported to Health Canada. The document is dated January 2007 and deals with “near misses” and reports of Truehope activities.

In one case, a family contacted the owner of Truehope (not named) and it was alleged the family was advised not to seek medical help from a doctor. In another case, a 50 year old woman with multiple gall stones was contacted by an unnamed owner and told to refuse surgery but to take large amounts of olive oil (which the report said is contraindicated).

Two reports to Health Canada were filed by Truehope employees but the information was redacted. In another case, a doctor reported that his pregnant patient was taking EMP and he cautioned her about it as it had an unknown safety profile. The woman checked with Truehope and was assured that it was safe although the doctor was concerned that the information she was given was inaccurate.

There was a great deal of discussion in these documents over safety in children and in pregnant and lactating women and Health Canada insisted that warnings be given about its use for those populations on the label.

Truehope, for psychiatric conditions, recommends that prescription medication be stopped. In 2012, I reported on a case in British Columbia where a man with schizophrenia replaced his psychiatric medication for EMP and became so psychotic that he murdered his father. The headline on one paper proclaimed that vitamin therapy contributed to murder. I followed up with an article asking why Health Canada allowed this agent to be sold and that question is still relevant.

For those interested in the type of advice that Truehope gives to the mentally ill over the phone, you will find these interesting. We had a doctor develop a number of hypothetical scenarios that were then checked for accuracy by a psychiatrist. Frightening is all I can say.

And undoubtedly Tony Stephan will threaten to sue me for this blog. He once threatened to sue The Scientist for an article I wrote about his company and  he has threatened me  with legal action more than once in the past. More recently, he threatened to sue mental health writer and advocate, Natasha Tracy.

More on Improving Police Confrontations with the Mentally Ill

By Dr David Laing Dawson

A comment on our recent blog arrived from a police officer via Linkedin. This is an excerpt:

“However, a law enforcement officer arriving on scene has no way of knowing if the behavior of an individual is due to anger, being distraught, being intoxicated or on a controlled substance or if the person is mentally ill. What the officer will observe is that the individual may present a danger to himself or herself, the officer, or others. At this point officer safety and the safety of the public remains a priority. Therefore, the officer cannot, as you suggest “decrease the volume, lessen the threatening, provocative stance, back off…””

He is right. An officer does not know, upon arriving at the scene (this being of course between 10 and 30 minutes since the call went in) if the behavior of the person is “due to anger, being distraught, being intoxicated or on a controlled substance or if the person is mentally ill”.

Precisely. And in all these situations my guidelines still hold. Anger is driven by fear, and increased by threat. Intoxication adds an unpredictable element but now time is even more on your side, and high volume, threats, demands are falling on deaf ears. The guidelines still hold.

And another excerpt from the same officer: “the individual may present a danger to himself or herself, the officer, or others”

“Threat to self or others”. Okay. For “threat to self” the guidelines hold even more. Shooting the person in question is hardly a good prevention for “threat to self”, and moving too quickly will ensure that person jumps or stabs or shoots. Remember, 10 to 30 minutes has elapsed since the person was first seen to be, or heard to be, threatening harm to him or herself.

“Threat to others”. Yes, if the “perp or unsub” is holding a knife to someone’s throat, you may, with my blessing, shoot him. As police so often do (successfully, with pinpoint accuracy) on television.

But does that ever happen in real life? Do police officers ever arrive on the scene at the precise moment when someone is in the act of (not threatening to, but in the actual act of) killing, stabbing, shooting someone? It must be very rare. Of course if that actually happens, the officer must act quickly if he or she can do so safely.

But in all the recent incidents of tragic outcome, there was no one else on the trolley, no one else in the apartment, no one else in the airport lounge, no one else in the backyard, no one else in the park. No other lives were in imminent danger. And for the officers to have remained safe themselves they need have only slowed down, backed off, calmed down, talked softly.

So, yes, with no other lives in truly imminent danger, the guidelines still hold. Back off to a distance at which the officer and the subject both feel safe. Slow down. Time is on your side.

On Improving Police Confrontations with the Mentally Ill

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago, quite by coincidence, I was at the police station when a call came in about a situation, a stand-off of some sort, someone in a house in the east end of town, perhaps armed, not coming out as requested. I witnessed the preparation. Bulletproof vests and weapons and helmets were brought out quickly and placed on a large table. Men came in through a couple of doors, summoned from whatever they were doing before. They moved around the table claiming the vests, choosing the long guns, checking the load. They milled about. They moved in a circle around the table.

And standing there observing, I (if you will pardon a little poetic license) could smell the testosterone, the adrenaline in the air, the excitement. I could almost hear war drums; I could see this as a dance, a war dance in preparation for a charge on the enemy or a defense of the barricades.

I am not criticizing. It is a human moment. A call to arms. A call to a crisis and the possibility of facing danger. A call to haste and focus. A task at hand that overrides all others.

And it is a situation that requires haste at that moment, that requires some arousal, some adrenaline.

But once these police officers have arrived at their destination, what then?

In every single one of the recent tragedies involving police officers and a mentally ill person, it is clear there would have been a different outcome if the officers (or the one officer in question) had slowed down, had found a way of taking a breath, had, if not relaxed, at least moderated his arousal system, had backed off.

Once there they must slow down. The resolution of a crisis requires that one person not be in crisis. Once there the situation seldom requires haste. Haste is now the enemy. Time is on the officer’s side. Slow down, slow down. At the very least, slow down.

If the situation allows (a boy with a knife on an empty streetcar, a young man alone in his apartment screaming and breaking things, a distraught man in an empty airport lounge, a man on his own property threatening with a hammer), decrease the volume, lessen the threatening, provocative stance, back off, keep a safe distance, a distance at which you and he both feel safe. Take your time. Address the subject as “sir”, in a calm voice, by his last name if you have now acquired it. Not Bob, or Tim, but Mr. Smith.

At this point if you want to move – come closer to talk, stand, or sit, ask questions – ask the subject for permission to do this. (“Sir, is it all right if I move over there so I can talk with you?”) He needs to feel he has some control.

Do nothing to frighten him further. No threats, no demands. Wait. Talk calmly. Talk about what? Well, it doesn’t really matter, does it? The purpose of the talk is to try to bring this person gently back to reality and to reduce his fear. The reality of family, friends, hockey teams, good movies, a fine cup of coffee.

All you really may know about him is that he is frightened; he is in an aroused state; he may be misinterpreting reality; he may be fully delusional. Hence the calm simple talk.

But again, slow down. Time is on your side. The subject’s fear and anger will gradually subside if he is not further threatened or provoked.

Police Chiefs and Trainers, please teach the above, and if you find an officer who cannot do these things, who, for whatever reason, cannot slow down, take his time, take a breath, subdue his own fear and threat response, he should not be on the front line.