This weekend people from all across Canada participated in the international 10:23 campaign, staging “overdoses” of sugar pills and water in order to protest the absurdity of homeopathy. There were participants in over 28 countries, including an event held in the Antarctic , and the events in Canada also included demonstrations of the manufacture of the extremely dilute solutions pushed by homeopaths.
Organisers in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa and Montreal all reported successful events, including 35 participants who braved the Ottawa winter to stand in front of the Parliament buildings and down dozens of useless pills to show there was nothing in them.
The story generated some press, with this perfunctory piece from the Canadian Press, and a short story for the local CTV affiliate in Ottawa, but the success of this event can be counted in other metrics besides media attention. This was the first national effort made by promoters of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to engage with the public and inform them about the perils of pseudo-science. Instead of monthly pub meetings or closed-door ranting sessions, skeptics from across Canada came together publicly to speak out with a diversity of voices in order to counter the bad science and misconceptions of alternative medicine. The momentum gained by working together will continue to build into the future so that the story of science can gain prominence in the media and in the minds of Canadians.
It is important to note that not a titch of an effect was reported by any of the over 100 participants, no matter if they were taking sleeping droughts made from caffeine, or depressants from alcohol, or any one of the hundreds of useless types of sugar pills available from Boiron and their ilk. Many in the crowd sourced their preps to match symptoms and conditions from which they suffered and reported neither relief nor exacerbation of their conditions – one participant in Toronto still reported nervousness despite having taken preps for “stage fright.”
The one message that was very clear from all of the events across Canada is that Health Canada and provincial regulators need to stop giving legitimacy to the sham medicine that encompasses homeopathy. All groups were calling on a second look by politicians and regulators at the “traditional use” guidelines for homeopathic preparations and demanding that the same rules that protect us from bad and useless pharmaceuticals also be extended to protect us from bad and useless natural remedies, like homeopathy.
Finally, though this was a demonstration and not an experiment, all participants and groups involved were convinced of the fact that although homeopathy does not contain any useful medication and indeed has no side-effects, its promotion as protection against vaccine-preventable diseases like the flu, polio and the measles, as well as it’s promotion as an effective treatment for cancer, pose a real risk for the health of Canadians. Consumers should not be relying on homeopathy to do anything but mislead them into thinking they are better for a time, while the disease has a chance to gain a foothold and cause some real harm.
Don’t believe the hype. Homeopathy: there is nothing in it.