Autism Quackery

February 16, 2009 at 7:26 pm (Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Quantum, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve come across a couple of examples of autism quackery over the weekend, which have prompted me to write this post. I read about an offer of Patch Therapy from a homeopath. [Caution: the blog post I link to contains extracts from an email sent by someone claiming to understand quantum physics - and to be able to cure autism with homeopathy. Check with your doctor before reading this email if you suffer from high blood pressure.] I looked up patch therapy and found a site claiming to sell “aura patch therapy”. The website states that:

We were taught that the molecules that we administer to you, drugs, vitamins, hormones, co-factors, etc., “work” by binding to specific receptors on the cell membrane, triggering a change within the cell – a “drug” or biological effect. This is the structural matching paradigm [Note: if you're playing Bad Science Bingo, you can mark off "paradigm" now]. When you think about it, it makes sense for our cell membranes to have specific receptors for hormones, vitamins, and other “normal human” substances, but does it makes sense for our cells to have receptors for drugs? Why should Mother Nature or Evolution provide us with receptors for molecules that haven’t been invented yet?

OK, so how do drugs work then? Apparently: “Drugs work not by binding to the cell, but by getting close enough to the cell such that their resonance frequencies can be picked up and responded to.” As far as I’m aware, drugs tend to mimic natural substances and use receptors in the same way. As an example, morphine and related drugs act on or affect the same receptors in the brain used by endorphins. The Wikipedia page on Beta-Endorphin points out that:

It is an agonist of the opioid receptors, with evidence suggesting it serves as the endogenous ligand of the μ-opioid receptor, the same receptor to which the chemicals extracted from opium, such as morphine and codeine, have their analgesic and addictive effects (indeed, the μ-opioid receptor was named based on its most renowned ligand, morphine).

The Patch Therapy people seem to think that because it doesn’t make sense to them that synthetic substances would have a specific receptor in the human body, drugs must work by resonance frequencies. That simply does not follow (apart from anything else, an assumption that “A does not exist” does not imply that “B must therefore exist”). Patch Therapy may find the Merck manual useful here: Drug-Receptor Interactions. They might also find this example useful: “A number of drugs bind to the GABAA receptor. They bind at sites different from the spot where GABA itself binds…” GABA binds to the GABAA receptor, as the Patch Therapy vendors might expect, but there are synthetic drugs that bind to the same receptor at different sites. This example helped me to understand how the thinking of those selling Patch Therapy is flawed. I hope it may help them too. How do Patch Therapy salesmen think that drugs work?

Because vibrational exchange is the language, the mechanism, of our biochemistry and physiology, then it follows that giving you a therapeutic molecule would not be necessary, if we could instead give you the resonance frequency of that molecule.

So… Patch Therapy can transfer the resonance frequency of a molecule to a person? I’ve no idea how they propose to do that and I predict that they have no idea either. Using the physics of waves and vibrations to explain the effects of homeopathy has been done before. Never successfully, though – and probably never by an actual physicist. Which reminds me: “Why is it that people who probably can’t even differentiate exp(x), much less understand quantum theory, love to spout this nonsense? No doubt, as usual, it is a matter of making money out of the gullible. Surely they don’t really think it means something?” [DC on Quantum Bollocks.]

And what are the boys and girls from Patch Therapy selling?

Dr. Richard Hunt developed a system (Aura patch therapy) whereby specific frequencies could be impregnated into a skin patch. You wear the patch, the frequencies cross through your skin, and are then conducted along your “energetic” nervous system (accupoints, meridians, chakra, and nadi), from there to signal the cells of your body to carry out the activity for Autism Spectrum and other Brain disorders as “coded” by the frequency.

That final quote from those flogging Patch Therapy should have enabled some of you to complete your Bad Science Bingo cards. Meridians and chakras? These were invented to explain the purported mechanism(s) of acupuncture, reflexology, and reiki and thus make money for people practising Alternative Medicine. There is no reason to believe that they exist – not least because there is no reason to believe these Alternative therapies actually work. I was trying to work out what it meant for the frequency to “signal the cells of your body to carry out the activity for Autism Spectrum and other Brain disorders”, but I think it is in fact meaningless. It’s mumbo jumbo made up to sell worthless, useless patches. Link: Digital Homeopathy.

This is possibly worse. “Autism’s Causes And What You Can Do To Help Reverse It” is the title. It begins:

If you or a loved one has an autistic child, you are likely very educated on all sorts of theories about this terrible disease. [jdc: I seriously doubt the authors would have written this sentence if they were educated about autism.] You’ve been to dozens of doctors, read endless reports and researched until your brain hurts. So why should you read this one? Because…

Unlike doctors who tell you there’s nothing you can do, this report provides real hope and concrete steps you can take to reverse your child’s autism.

No, it doesn’t provide real hope – it provides false hope. These people don’t know better than doctors and the webpage seems to exist primarily to tout for business on behalf of online food supplement stores, EFT practitioners [Emotional Freedom Technique - it's endorsed by Deepak Chopra, which should ring alarm bells for those alert to woo.], an anti-GM website selling conspiracy theory DVDs and books. The recommendations on this page are to buy supplements costing from about$40 to around $100. It states “Using all of these products should take about 4 to 7 months to see huge improvement in, and hopefully a complete reversal of autism. This time may vary naturally.” It would cost over $400 for someone to order all the recommended supplements – money that could be spent on something worthwhile instead of on quack remedies.

The webshite goes on to state that:

You will learn how to improve, and perhaps even reverse autism in your child. I know it may seem hard to believe right now, after all, you’ve probably tried so many things already. But if you stick with me, read the whole report, and try the recommended treatments-you could be living with a completely different child in just a matter of a few weeks.

Reverse autism? I doubt very much that the authors know anything about autism. Helpfully, they confirm this by sharing their thoughts on the causes of autism:

By and large, the medical community still promotes the belief that autism is a genetic brain disorder, and as such, there is nothing you can do to reverse it. Nothing is further from the truth. Intensive research continues to prove it is caused by a combination of some pretty horrendous things, and you can do something about it, even reverse it. But first you need to understand what’s going on inside your child’s body.

Uh huh. So what does cause autism if it is not genetic? “1) Vaccinations May Cause 70% of Autism. 2) Lyme Disease May Cause 20% of the cases of Autism. 3) Environmental Toxins May Cause 10% of Autism.” Let’s look at just one of those statements. Do vaccines cause autism? In the case of the MMR vaccine it has already been shown to be without basis. Andrew Wakefield claimed a link between MMR vaccine and autism. The paper that was published in the Lancet was later retracted, subsequent research has shown that MMR is not linked with autism [see APGaylard's summary of the studies referred to in Offit's book Autism's False Prophets], and disturbing details of Wakefield’s research have been made public [News story: "MMR Doctor Andrew Wakefield Fixed Data On Autism"; this was also covered by Holford Watch here and Left Brain/Right Brain had a post up last year titled "The Truth About Andrew Wakefield". There's a more detailed piece on the news that Wakefield fixed data written by Brian Deer in the Sunday Times here.]

To sum up: people selling miracle cures that are claimed to reverse autism [AKA: "this terrible disease"] are ignorant, exploitative, money-grubbing quacks. I’m not sure what’s more offensive, the idea that someone with no knowledge of autism feels happy to label it as a “terrible disease” or the idea that these same people are ripping off those parents who are desperate enough to try dubious “remedies”.

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17 Comments

  1. dvnutrix said,

    Every aspect of this is so deplorable that it is difficult to know where to start: the quackery, the demonisation of autism, the abuse of quantum physics, the exploitation of parents. Actually, that’s a mistake, I probably meant despicable.

  2. hammiesays said,

    Cancer is a terrible disease; my sister went through hell 2 years ago with chemotherapy and drug therapy uses whammies like Herceptin and Tomoxipan (sp) along with 2 masectomies and a semi hysterorectomy. All of which were free under the state health service as they are based on peer reviewed, empiricle research based methodologies which offer a higher percentage of either putting the cancer into remission, or causing it to retreat entirely, when compared to not doing it.
    She is doing great – has 2 boobs again after a reconstruction, her hair grew back and she is getting more sleep now as her body learns to tolerate the big drug hits she will be taking for the next 5 years.

    Thats why I find it so insulting and lets face it exploitively cynical to have first my kids neurological condition referred to as a “terrible disease” and then have some snake oil salesman tell me that I have to put my kids through hell to eradicate this “disease”.

    I think these people should be thinking about karma when they are telling us how to re-balance our chakras. They know what they are doing, they know that shit they are selling doesn’t really help that many people that much of the time. Sure even the priests at Lourdes know that most of the people who come there go home just as ill.

    And the worst part is when someone you thought you knew, someone you actually thought was a bit of craic, starts telling you about Jenny Macarthy or Thimerosol (or whatever its called)

    Its like finding out they are scientologists!

    Well done for your research.

    xx

  3. The Daily Gonzo said,

    Oh.My.God. (and I’m an atheist, a speechless one…)

    “…to signal the cells of your body to carry out the activity for Autism Spectrum…”
    What??? Cell activity for Autism spectrum?
    That is so utterly nonsensical.
    Also to promise parents a “completely different child”, in such a blatant way, like exorcists…
    utterly mind-boggling.

  4. Sharon said,

    I like your ‘caution’ about that email. I still have not replied to the sender, perhaps I should send her the page link with my comments and those of the blog readers. She may have already read it because (I’m not sure if this makes me a cranky conspiracist believer) since I wrote it the email account she wrote to has been bombarded with “let me store my millions in your bank account” spam. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but I’ve had the account for years and now this happens…(cue Twilight Zone music.)

    The Aura Patch site you found is what she sent me before I adapted the url. They make some astonishing claims. dvnutrix sums up well the reasons why these sites are so wrong.

  5. Sceric said,

    May I raise everybody blood pressure a bit more?? Germany has some lunatics too: http://62.75.219.232/shop2/index.php?user=tachyonhaus&clang=uk

    I introduce the concept of

    Tachyon activated zeolite!!

    That zeolite has effects (I’m working for a company selling it for water treatment, biogas application, soil remediation, etc), probably even on the health I get, but Tachyon activated?

  6. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I’m tempted to try and do something about these sites, but not sure what can be done. I may contact them to make them aware of my concerns. The second site was one I spotted via Google ads so I may also complain to Google about that one.

  7. doazic said,

    I was just at a lecture where a Doctor said she used Nicotine Patches on kids with autism.

  8. Jean said,

    I love this piece!
    My son and my nephew both have autism and , like the previous parents, I find it deeply offensive that it is assumed i would ever want to “change” or “cure” them. It takes a painfully long time to come to terms with your child’s diagnosis, and in those dark days many desperate, grieving parents will jump on any passing bandwagon that promises a cure. The damage these odious sales people are capable of inflicitng is destating on mnay levels.
    It’s great to have people like youself who has the will and the way to expose these hideous charlatans.

  9. jdc325 said,

    Thank you for your comment Jean. As dvnutrix said in the first comment, there are elements in these sales pitches of demonisation of autism and exploitation of parents that are deplorable. I think odious is another good description of these practices.

  10. Michelle said,

    My son has autism and his autism is a medical problem. Yes, he is physically sick. We’re doing biomed and he is getting better. We are now doing digital homeopathy with patches and the results are wonderful.

    Open your minds. Do your homework. Talk to actual parents doing biomed, walk in our shoes, and then go ahead and tell me it’s quackery.

  11. jdc325 said,

    Thank you for commenting Michelle.

    When trying to evaluate a treatment, gut feelings, trial and error and anecdotal evidence are all valued more highly by patients than scientific evidence.
    Unfortunately, trying a treatment or a therapy oneself or relying on testimonies from others is not the best way to figure out if it really works.

    There are many factors in the “perceived therapeutic response”: the specific effect of the therapy; the placebo effect; the interaction between clinician and patient; natural history; regression to the mean; social desirability; concomittent therapies; and other context effects.

    The only way to know if a treatment/therapy really works is to conduct research into that treatment/therapy. Given the implausibility of digital homeopathy and patch therapy, I would want to see some pretty robust evidence that they worked before I decided to use them.

  12. Michelle said,

    I can understand your skepticism especially since there are no robust studies to date. I would not have believed in any of this either if I were not in this situation and said to hell with studies. My son and my family don’t have time for studies to come out. I’ve spent a year researching and have only scratched the surface.

    I will say that what many don’t know about autism is that, in many cases although not all, it is a multifaceted medical problem. Children in the biomed community are getting better and even recovering when they treat viral, bacterial, fungal, food allergies and sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies. You can go to the DAN! site. It is an eye-opener for people who believe that autism is a psychiatric problem.

    This is the video that introduced me to biomed and made me realize that my child’s autism was being caused by a slew of medical problems.

    http://www.recoveryvideos.com/video/ethanweb.mov

    I guess one of the many lessons I have learned in this journey is to always question authority because the people who seem to know it all, in fact, don’t. My pediatrician would have scoffed at the notion of digital homeopathy. And yet, it is helping my child in the way she couldn’t.

  13. paula said,

    IT IS YOUR UNEDUCATED POINT OF VEIW THAT HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES DON’T WORK. BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO ABILITY TO VEIW THING OUTSIDE THE BOX OF WESTERN MEDICINE WHICH IS TO GIVE A DRUG OR CUT IT OUT THIS DOES NOT CURE MOST OF THE TIME. SO YOU SHOULD NOT VOICE A VEIWPOINT BASED ON LACK OF UNDERSTANDING.
    SOMEONE WHO DOES UNDERSTAND,
    PAULA

  14. Martyn Norris said,

    Please then Paula tell us how it does work because we would love to know. Should we shake or bash the vile? How many times should we do this? Why do you no longer bash the vile on a leather bound Bible as Hahnemann did? Come on, details please.

  15. Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE said,

    Thanks so much, Michelle, for posting that link to the video. They have other great videos on that site as well — I am really enjoying watching them. I know the GAPS diet works for autistic kids — it’s essentially helping them to restore good gut flora. If you haven’t read “Gut & Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Campbell McBride you might want to check it out.

    I found this post by doing a Google search for Aura patch and Richard Hunt. I’ve been trying the patches for less than a week. I’m amazed at the results.

    I had mononucleosis when I was a teenager, and about 5 years later I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. I was able to reverse my symptoms about 95% through a radical change in diet. However, that 5% was always there. Over the years, I have had frequent viral infections, low energy — which doesn’t make sense considering how well I take care of myself.

    I had no idea the arthritis could be connected to the mono but now I think there is a connection. I have been wearing 2 of the patches since last Sunday. I expected to see an increase in energy. I did see that, but in addition, I also had something incredible happen. The dull, constant pain that has been in my knees (I always assumed it was damaged cartilage) completely disappeared within 24 hours of wearing the patches.

    I don’t care if people say this doesn’t work. It’s working for me.

    Oh and PS: Science is based on observation. Dismissing something out of hand just because you think it *sounds* like quackery is no better than quackery itself.

  16. kieran said,

    I must say, this article is quite funny. Skeptics really are good people, at the heart – They believe everything they’ve been taught and everything they see, but not that which they have not been taught, nor that which they can not see, deeming it, therefore, as unreal. I can tell you one thing – Dr. Hunt, I would be honored to meet you. You are a man way ahead of his time, and soon digital medicines will be all that we know, delivered simply through the application of frequencies emitted via holograms.

    Coming across this post is quite amazing timing, as I was just reading a wonderful book called A Practical Guide to Vibrational Medicine, wriiten by Dr. Richard Gerber, M.D. This book sat on my shelf for two years, and I on;y just picked it up tonight. It discusses the typical Newtonian mechanistic approach to medicine, treating us as magnificent biomachines, Western Med as we know it. It discusses the validity of receptors, and molecular science and the place for pharmaceuticals – howver, it discusses those subjects deemed nebulous, such as the one’s you are forgetting and poo poo. – Chakra’s, aura’s, energy systems – whether you would like to recognize it or not is of no consequence. The truth of the matter is that we are more than organs functioning biomechanically. Each and every one of our cells communicate, is coded, pulses light (frequencies) that carries information. Those frequencies then transmit messages of a nonchemical kind. This helps coordinate actions within the organs. “Our cells communicate through coded messages carried by hormones, biochemicals, electrical signals, and light.”

    What Rick’s products are doing is emitting a constant frequency that has been captured, or programmed, inside a hologram. The energy tries to escape from the confines of the alloy’s in the hologram, but it can’t – It is trapped. As it bounces around inside, it creates a field. Anything within, say, a six inch range of that field will be effected by the frequency being emitted. Each frequency has been selected through scientific exploration to carry specific encoded information. Wear it, and you get that information? How? Through the field of energy. But how how? The energy carries the frequencies. So? Then what? It then moves into your body’s energetic field. If there is a field that is our of harmony, these frequencies correct it – to put it simply. Sort of like recalibrating. If you have static on the radio, you turn the dial until there is a clear frequency coming in, static free, right? The ancient practice of Acupuncture does the same thing, but using a different vehicle… but that’s a different subject. If Rick has encoded a hologram with the frequency of 528, anyone in the 6 inch radius of that hologram will experience a sensation of LOVE – 528 is the frequency at which love resonates. If he has been able to discover frequencies that restore balance and mental health in people with Autism, he deserves a Nobel Prize, hands down. Why wouldn’t he get one, then? It’s no that he is for lack of people benefiting from it, I am certain – It is more than likely because it is invisible and therefore hard to want to believe. Because if we believe this, we have to believe that maybe there is more to this world than meets the eye. And then, our entire reality shifts. And some people just don’t like change.

    My recommendation, try it. Open your mind. You are far more than you realize.

  17. sue seiler said,

    Patches contributed to my son’s autism healing. I don’t understand how they work, I just know they did. At age 5, unable to play with other children, would become overstimmed and bite, kick, punch, pinch within 5 minutes. 2 rounds of patches (6 days) and he played with bribed “friends” for 20 min, 60 minutes, Then a couple of hours. This was 8 years ago. He now plays football at a typical junior high. This was ONE of many strategies to improve his overall health status. I’m researching again for menopause…glad the autism is no longer inhibiting my son’s life. Open minds.

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