Tag Archives: American council on Science and Health

Group Dementia, Anti-Science, Anti-Vax and Anti-Psychiatry

By Marvin Ross

An individual I look after who has Alzheimer’s and is in a dementia care home called because he can no longer tolerate the Covid-19 restrictions. He has been locked in since the beginning and can no longer go for his daily walks (with his Personal Support Worker) to various coffee shops in the area. The arguments he used were quite similar to the arguments used by the anti-lock down people in the US. They were:

  • there is no pandemic
  • people die all the time so what’s the big deal
  • who are the public health officials and medical officers of health to tell me what I can and can’t do
  • my freedom is curtailed and it is my business

He can be excused because he has dementia which trumps (no pun intended) his doctoral degree and his knowledge of science and medicine. But how can we account for those views in people who do not have dementia? The answer, I think, is our anti-science views that are not restricted to just the groups mentioned in the title and the conspiracy theories they breed. For example, someone in Quebec is torching cell towers because they believe that 5G technology is spreading the virus. The towers do not have 5G technology.

A doctor in France, for some reason, decided to do a small study of a malaria treatment drug called Hydroxychloroquine to see if it might help with Covid-19. Why, no one seems to know since the drug is used to prevent malaria and to help with the symptoms of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The study has few people in it and is badly designed but he claims some efficacy. Trump latched on to it, Huffington Post suggested, when he was influenced by a “philosopher who tweets anti-semitism, two bitcoin bros and right wing media” Suddenly, numerous universities around the world decide to conduct full scale clinical trials. Right now, there are 199 trials of this drug listed with the clinical trials registry.

The rationale for conducting a clinical trial is that there is a viable hypothesis to suggest the drug might be efficacious. I do not think there is one in this case so why are we wasting our resources?. The clinical trial process is lengthy and takes years to complete before a drug is finally approved. The steps are laid out in this article from the American Council on Science and Health .

Remdesivir, an anti-viral agent, may show some promise but the one study found no reduction in mortality from its use and a reduction of time to cure reduced by about 4 days from 15 days. Production is being ramped up despite a marginally positive result in one small trial. The American Council suggested that the one study with results is no cause for celebration.

As for vaccines, the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed is 5 years and yet there is tremendous hype for a vaccine with one small trial involving only 8 patients. The stock market response to this one very small trial added $29 billion to the value of Moderna stock.

“Several vaccine experts asked by STAT concluded that, based on the information made available by the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, there’s really no way to know how impressive —or not — the vaccine may be.”

There were 45 subjects in this trial but the company only released data on 8. What were the results for the other 37 subjects? No one knows and that is just one problem with the data.

The anti-science attitude is not new nor is it confined to certain segments of society like the uneducated. This attitude is surprising given that the last 50 or so years has seen incredible scientific advances that have enhanced our lives and allowed us to live longer than before. The anti-vax movement is as unscientific and stupid as can be and is not confined to those with little education. The same goes for the anti-psychiatry group as I have been writing for a number of years.

I still cannot get over the scholarship for anti-psychiatry studies established at my alma mater the University of Toronto a few years ago. I wrote about it here and here.

Just recently, a long list of supposedly respected people and disability groups wrote an open letter to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the US because they showed a documentary on serious mental illness called Bedlam done by a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, I did not see the film because my local PBS station across Lake Ontario in Buffalo, New York did not show it. The letter demands that PBS give them airtime and criticized what they think are the fallacies in the film.

Unfortunately, those who oppose modern psychiatry and the treatment of serious mental illnesses are either ignorant or unaware of the advances in the neurosciences and in the treatment of these illnesses. Their letter decries the lack of discussion of such treatments as Open Dialogue from Finland, the Hearing Voices movement and Sorteria. As I wrote a few years ago, Open Dialogue has yet to be proven to be efficacious. My blogging partner, Dr Dawson covered this in this blog. Hearing Voices was discounted by me in the Huffington Post and by Dr Dawson in this blog as well. Sorteria, a drug free program founded years ago and abandoned years ago is getting a bit of a resurgence in a drug free treatment program in Norway.

Properly applied pharmaceutical therapy for serious illness saves lives. To ignore this is folly.

Given the extent that scientific advances since the mid 1950s have enhanced lives, it is surprising that anti-scientific views attract so many people.

Pets, Mental Illness and Lived Experience

By Marvin Ross

Sophie Ross

And I don’t mean pets as service animals although they can be very helpful. I’m talking about trauma as a purported cause of mental illness, addiction and all other negative things. Dogs and cats can teach us.

It suddenly dawned on me that our latest dog, a rescue, and her rescue friends can provide an example. Sophie was adopted 8 years ago when she was three. I don’t know all that she went through in her traumatic early years as she is reluctant to talk about it but she was so matted and her hair so long that she could not lift her tail to pee. She had to be shaved and one of her toenails had to be surgically removed from neglect. It had curled into her paw.

She does not like the noise that equipment trailers hooked onto cars and trucks make but, other than that, she is fine. She is an extrovert who loves people and especially kids and babies. She exhibits no signs of her early life and the trauma and abuse she suffered.

Most of her friends in the building we moved into are rescues as well. Reggie, for example, is a large and not cute dog with many scars. Reggie was rescued from a dog fighting ring thus the scars but he is a very calm, placid and friendly dog.

I have no doubt that there are rescued dogs and cats who do exhibit strange behaviour as a result of their maltreatment but they are the exceptions. Most people who have rescued cats and dogs report no problems. And dogs and cats do remember.

Now this may not be scientific in the true sense of scientific proof but a great deal of the tripe that I see is not either. The American Council on Science and Health just published a delightful essay on the anti-medical rant that Scientific American  published against Dr Jennifer Gunter which Scientific American had to delete. Seems that this is the third unscientific article they published in the past little while.

Dr Gunter is a gynecologist and the author of the Vagina Bible. The op ed attack against her took the position that

“women don’t need medical doctors because the lessons learned from staring at each others’ vulvas while sharing anecdotes about herbal remedies is every bit as legitimate as the lessons doctors learn in medical school.”

The author of the op ed critique went on to say that she:

goes on to denounce “authority” (which apparently means anyone with an evidence-based opinion) because it ignores “people’s lived experiences.”Lived experience is simply a different way of saying “anecdote.” Block clearly believes that scientific research is just one opinion among many. Sure, doctors might believe one thing, but Karen on Facebook disagrees. And her opinion counts too.”

And I love what he says about lived experience which I put in bold. That is the argument that we hear so frequently in mental illness. We must listen to those with lived experience even though they have no training. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everything a doctor tells us is written in stone and we can’t discuss treatment strategies because we can. But there is a huge pile of evidence out there (or should be) telling us what the best strategies are.

Our failure to listen to evidence over anecdote is the cause of so many kids dying from the very preventable measles. So far 53 kids in Samoa have died from measles (Since writing this, the number of deaths has gone up). One of many such outbreaks in the world. Measles, a very preventable disease has increased  1100% in the Americas since 2000. Its vaccine has saved more than 20 million lives since 2000.

And, for psychosis, one comment on David Dawson’s blog on the topic suggested that “As for Robert Whitaker, he is one of the many experts on mental illness who have (sic) researched psychiatric drugs and found them to be harmful.”

Wonderful! That man is a journalist as I pointed out a few years ago in Huffington Post, journalists are not medical experts.  Let’s all look to journalism for our evaluations of diseases and their treatment. Who needs doctors and scientists?

Vaping, E-Cigarettes and Schizophrenia

by Marvin Ross

A number of times over the past few years, I’ve written about the need for people with schizophrenia to smoke. Yes, it is dangerous to their physical health but it does help calm their brains. I’ve also written about the cruelty of hospitals that do not accommodate smokers with serious mental illness. It would not be that difficult but they refuse and, in one case, patients cannot even possess tobacco.

As a healthier alternative, I’ve suggested e-cigarettes that provide the needed nicotine but by the safer alternative of vaping. E-cigarettes enables  smokers to get their nicotine fix without the dangerous chemical byproducts of burning tobacco. Now, thanks to the FDA and the CDC, that option appears to be on the way out. Fortunately, Health Canada is reserving judgment and I hope that good sense and science will prevail.

At issue is the increase in the number of young people vaping who are developing serious lung problems resulting in seven cases, at time of writing, of death. We are now looking at a ban on e-cigarettes which would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Vaping nicotine should not be done by young people who do not smoke cigarettes nor should they be vaping coloured, flavoured products as it can lead to smoking. But, vaping nicotine may either help people who want to quit or be a healthier substitute for smoking cigarettes. An English study from 2018 found that “e-cigarettes may be a unique harm reduction innovation for smoking relapse prevention. E-cigarettes meet the needs of some ex-smokers by substituting physical, psychological, social, cultural and identity-related aspects of tobacco addiction.”

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK found “E-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than tobacco and could be prescribed on the NHS in future to help smokers quit,” But what about the lung damage and deaths? According to Alex Bezerow, vice president of scientific affairs for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), the damages and deaths caused by vaping were the result of people vaping THC infused oil that they got from the street. “THC is not soluble in water, so it has to be dissolved in oil. The oil of choice is vitamin E acetate” and “Inhaled oil can trigger lipoid pneumonia.”

As these products are purchased from the black market, they may contain other impurities. The FDA and the CDC, he suggests, are allowing myths and fear-mongering to govern their policies. If you are interested in the chemistry of how this damage and deaths is coming about, then Dr Josh Bloom with ACSH provides a simple explanation of the process. If nothing else, Bloom explains how PEZ was initially developed as a means to help people quit smoking.

Why ban e-cigarettes after 6 people died from using the device improperly according to the evidence available now when so many in the US are dying from gun attacks? Guns have killed far more than 6 people and yet the US refuses to do what every other civilized country has done.

Where is the logic?