The Time an Entire Conference of Homeopaths Poisoned Themselves With Hallucinogenic Drugs
It took a 160-strong response team of paramedics, firefighters, and rescue workers to get the chaotic scene under control.
Simon Oxenham covers the best and the worst from the world of psychology and neuroscience. Formerly writing with the pseudonym "Neurobonkers", Simon has a history of debunking dodgy scientific research and tearing apart questionable science journalism in an irreverent style. Simon has written and blogged for publishers including: The Psychologist, Nature, Scientific American and The Guardian. His work has been praised in the New York Times and The Guardian and described in Pearson's Textbook of Psychology as "excoriating reviews of bad science/studies”.
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An astounding event occurred in Germany in September 2015, when 29 participants at a conference of homeopaths and alternative medicine practitioners were hospitalised after overdosing on a psychedelic drug believed to be 2C-E. The attendees were rushed to a hospital with many suffering delusions; five were treated in intensive care.
— BILD Hamburg (@BILD_Hamburg) September 4, 2015
Even experienced doctors were shocked by the severity of the symptoms, which ranged from uncontrollable aggression to complete apathy, along with pain, seizures, cramps, and twitching “as if they were receiving electric shocks.” Eyewitnesses reported how individuals “tumbled through the garden without any orientation" while a woman on a stretcher was reported to be screaming: “Now I understand it, now I understand it!" It took a 160-strong response team of paramedics, firefighters, and rescue workers to get the chaotic scene under control.
— n-tv (@ntvde) September 5, 2015
An initial report in The Independent gave the false impression that the attendees of the conference were drugged unknowingly, but local news reports are now painting a different picture, suggesting the participants were willing.
The participants initially refused to tell doctors what had happened or what they had taken — likely a consequence of the drug’s illegality. However, many have now admitted that a preparation was taken intentionally, allegedly as part of a meditation session that went wrong.
The great irony of this story is, of course, that it is impossible to overdose on genuine homeopathic medications for the simple reason that homeopathic pills contain nothing but water and sugar.
Homeopathy is the idea that we can make medicine by taking a substance that causes the symptoms we want to prevent and diluting it in water until the mixture is 99.9999999999% water, and 0.0000000001% actual substance. At this point it is probable, due to a principle known as the Avogadro limit, that the water contains absolutely nothing of the original substance. Indeed, to quote the 10:23 campaign against homeopathy, taking the example of a homeopathic sleeping pill at a commonly sold dilution: “You have more chance of winning the lottery five weeks running than you have of finding a single caffeine molecule.”
For the beliefs of homeopaths to be true, nearly everything we know about science would have to be false: “We would have to toss out practically everything we have learned over the past two centuries about biology, pharmacology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics”. There is simply no evidence water has a memory — the core belief of homeopathy.
The 10:23 campaign’s mass homeopathy overdose attempts have been conducted several times, by hundreds of people in cities around the world and are of course always unsuccessful:
In this rare case, it is only the homeopaths themselves that have been hurt by their ignorance — perhaps, as some have suggested, they were attempting to create a new homeopathic remedy without any understanding of what they were doing or the risks involved.
Whenever someone chooses a homeopathic remedy instead of a real medication or prophylactic, they risk being hurt not by overdose, but through lack of real care. Unlike this freak accident where homeopaths, for reasons unknown, actually used real drugs — which they were clearly, woefully unprepared for — normally the casualties don’t make the newspaper.
Thank you to Jens Foell for translating news reports from German.
Image Credit: Getty/ullstein bild
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