MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The story is all over: at a symposium last weekend, 29 German homeopaths ended up in hospital after ingesting the powerful hallucinogenic drug, 2C-E, also known as Aqua Rust. You can read it here or here or here or here, for instance.

The events are a bit nebulous, and most newspapers got it at least partly wrong. The group seems to have been composed of not just homeopaths but also ‘Heilpraktiker’, the German lay healers who usually mix all sorts of alternative therapies. They did take the drug – which one exactly has not yet been verified – and became acutely ill. A huge amount of ambulances and staff came to their rescue and took them all to hospital where they seem to be still recovering. Police is understandably keen to talk to them.

On Twitter and elsewhere, people have been making fun at these poor health care professionals. I think this is hardly called for and certainly less than kind. Other, more empathetic experts have suggested that these men and women have engaged in a self-experiment. I always like to see the good in people, particularly in homeopaths and therefore like this idea.

What if, as has been suggested, these people actually did a homeopathic proving on Aqua Rust? In this case, they are my heroes! Not just because they sacrificed their own health in the interest of medicine, but they seem to have found an important, I would even say ground-breaking new cure.

Homeopathic provings are the corner-stone of homeopathy; they are the tool used by homeopaths to identify which remedy is suited for which condition/patient. Provings work as follows: several healthy volunteers take a remedy in a high concentration; subsequently they record their symptoms in much detail; these symptoms then constitute the ‘drug picture’ of the remedy tested; and when a patient complains of similar symptoms, she will be cured with a high dilution of this very remedy. This is what the prime law of homeopathy is all about: LIKE CURES LIKE.

So what have our German pioneers discovered last weekend? They took the Aqua Rust (or whatever else the police will find in their system) and were reported to all start talking utter nonsense. But this is nothing short of sensational! According to the rules of homeopathy, the drug they took can now be highly diluted and shaken vigorously many times – and we have a cure…for what?

AGAINST HOMEOPATHY, OF COURSE!

The number one characteristic of homeopathy is that its proponents talk utter nonsense. Give them their newly discovered remedy and they will be cured. Simple!

In my mind, there is little doubt, these German homeopathic heroes need to be nominated for the next Nobel prize: homeopathy has plagued the world since 200 years, and nobody has yet found a cure for it. These courageous and dedicated healers sacrificed not just their weekend, but also their well-being and health to find one – and they have done it!

Homeopathy will finally be an oddity of the past – well worth a Nobel prize, I’d say.

41 Responses to Will these homeopaths get the Nobel prize?

  • Very funny. 🙂

  • Excellent this made me cry with laughter.

  • When the symptoms presented themselves, how was it determined that anything unusual was going on?

    • speaking as a homeopath, it must have been a ‘homeopathic aggravation’ – their normal symptoms were acutely exacerbated by the intake of the drug.

      • I was under the impression that various forms of alt-med refer to fast-onset acute reactions to a treatment/remedy using the term “healing crisis”.

        Hopefully at this event, the ‘toxin’ being released during the healing crisis is homeopathy.

  • Caution:

    Hahnemann tested potential remedies on himself and other healthy (male) associates. This method continues today, but the German word ‘pruefung’ used by Hahnemann (meaning ‘testing’ or ‘examination’) has been translated into English as ‘proving’.

    Both languages derive their words from the Latin ‘probare’, to test, but whilst in modern English usage ‘probability’ means ‘likelihood’ – ‘proving’ today caries a connotation of certainty which Hahnemann did not intend.

    Some may be misled into thinking there is an element of scientific truth in the procedure of ‘proving’ that is not merited (OED: to prove – to demonstrate the truth or existence of something by evidence). Any claims that Hahnemann ‘proved’ anything are deliberately misleading.

    The German for ‘to prove’ is ‘beweisen’ and that is not the word Hahnemann used. (I have asked Prof. Ernst).
    There is no reason why homeopathic writings in English should not refer to the investigations as ‘testing’, ‘experiments’ or even ‘research’, as the German ‘pruefung’ translates, but invariably homeopaths use the terms ‘proof’, ‘proving’ and ‘provers’ with the misleading certainty that implies.

    They would wouldn’t they?

  • Talk by emergency responders of a “multiple overdose” sounds very much like they were indeed undertaking a “proving”.

  • Edzard.. I don’t think you’re correct regarding homeopathic provings. They’re a test of a remedy, not the original substance. All provings are of homeopathic dilutions. If this was a proving, it was not being performed according to the protocols of the European Committee For homeopathy which states , regarding Serious Adverse Events (SAE) or Serious Adverse Drug Reaction (Serious ADR):

    “Since Homeopathic Drug Provings are done with only non-toxic dilutions of a proving substance, it is very
    unlikely to have serious adverse drug reactions.”

    The other problem is the blinding. The homeopaths were found wandering around, confused and “talking gibberish”. How were they to be distinguished from unaffected homeopaths who do exactly the same?

    • not true!
      many provings were and are done with ‘mother tinctures’ – it depends on the type of remedy.

    • @Lenny
      This thread has prompted me to re-google ‘homeopathic provings’ and read more about the wonders involved. Edzard is right that provings often involve mother tinctures (under Hahnemann I believe only mother tinctures were used, but there also seems to be a growing move towards using the ultra-diluted products (aka water), as you say. Is it possible that homeopaths (think also of psychopaths) are aware of the risk of liability they run if they poison people?
       
      But I don’t understand the point of doing provings with succussed dilutions. If these can induce symptoms, doesn’t this violate the principle that a substance that induces the same symptoms undiluted becomes a cure when diluted with succussion?
       
      The literature on provings really is a wonderful source of total idiocy. A couple of samples. “There was pain in the third eye, a tightness in the third eye, a scrunchy feeling in the third eye, and in one prover a delusion that there was a ruby spider on the third eye. There was also a collapsed sensation in the head that went down to her nose.” (From http://www.alternative-training.com/docs/SOH/Provings/Proving_of_Agathis_Australis.pdf). How often do sane people experience ‘pain in the third eye’, never mind the ruby spider?! Where the heck is the third eye: I can’t see it; do I suffer from ‘third-eye blindness’? And I loved this about provings… “Insects are used whole, which creates problems for vegetarian and vegans…” (From http://www.hominf.org/articles/posheal.htm). Only carnivores can benefit from some of the homeopharmacopeia. Talking gibberish, indeed!

  • I don’t wish harm on anyone, but this does have a degree of irony in it. If it was in fact a proving of some description that went horribly wrong, they required actual medical intervention to help them. No doubt homeopathy proponents will find some way to put a spin on it. Something along the lines of, “allopathic interference with homeopathic proving”. Sounds crazy, but it will probably happen.

  • As an ex-pharmacist I still marvel at the placebo effect which homeopathy is. Scientifically it is really just a dose of water. The mind does wonderful things in healing.

  • I had a feeling you’d cover this story, thanks for the laughs! 🙂

  • They might also have been testing an “isopathic” remedy. I’m not sure how well known isopathic treatments are among skeptics, but it’s a “branch of homeopathy” which directly contradicts the principles of homeopathy but homeopaths don’t realize it. The difference is fairly simple — with a homeopathic remedy, a homeopath doesn’t bother about what caused the problem and merely focuses on the symptoms (despite accusing mainstream medicine of doing this, that is in fact the whole basis of homeopathy). As we know, they look for substance that causes those same symptoms in a healthy person and prescribe that substance as a homeopathic preparation.

    With isopathic remedies on the other hand, they find the specific substance that causes a person to get sick (eg., pollen causing an allergy) and prescribe a homeopathic preparation of that illness-inducing substance (eg., the specific pollen) as a dilution, and give it to the sufferer. For some reason, this supposedly cures the sufferer.

    Theoretically (i.e. stupidly), people who are sick from a substance like 2C-E could be cured if they were given a homeopathic dilution of it. They may have taken the dilution, only to find that it didn’t work. Or they may have not been able to take it because they were hallucinating and thought it had turned into a giant white rabbit called Boris. Or, they may have been just about to take it when the Big Pharma shills turned up and forced them to go a nasty hospital where of course they couldn’t recover.

  • 29 German homeopaths ended up in hospital after ingesting the powerful hallucinogenic drug

    Thank you, Germany, for giving the world the beautiful word Schadenfreude. It’s so much better than the English one it superceded (a word I can’t even remember now), especially with regard to events like this!

  • There’s a new article (in German) which includes a video of an interview with the person who runs the seminar house. She describes her shock at finding so many people in distress, writhing and vomiting on the lawn, unable to speak. She sought out the person in charge of the event but that person was also incapable of communicating. She’s still shocked and deeply upset by the whole experience, and is also furious about the breach of trust and misuse/abuse of her premises. She’s careful of course of what she says, but seemed to imply that they were experimenting with substances as part of a homeopathy programme.

    https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/niedersachsen/lueneburg_heide_unterelbe/Tagungszentrum-will-Heilpraktiker-verklagen,handeloh130.html

  • Liked this one so much I had to translate it to german. No, no google translation, hand-written and well readable (at least I think so 😉 ).

    Die Geschichte ist überall zu lesen: Für 29 deutsche Homöopathen endete ein Kongress am letzten Wochenende im Krankenhaus, nachdem sie die starke halluzinogene Droge 2C-E – auch bekannt als Aqua-Rust – eingenommen hatten. Zu lesen hier, hier, hier oder hier zum Beispiel (Links siehe unten).

    Die Umstände sind etwas unklar und die meisten Medien haben es zumindest zum Teil falsch dargestellt. Die Teilnehmer setzten sich nicht nur aus Homöopathen, sondern auch aus “Heilpraktikern” zusammen – jene Art deutscher Laienheiler, die üblicherweise alle Arten von alternativen Therapien zusammenmischen. Sie haben die Droge genommen – welche genau ist noch nicht bestätigt – und wurden akut krank. Eine große Zahl von Rettungssanitätern und Helfern war vor Ort, um Ersthilfe zu leisten und sie in Krankenhäuser zu bringen, wo sie sich scheinbar immernoch erholen. Die Polizei ist verständlicherweise gespannt darauf, sich mit ihnen zu unterhalten.

    Einige Leute haben sich auf Twitter und ähnlichen Kanälen über diese armen Gesundheitsexperten lustig gemacht. Ich denke, das kann kaum als wünschenswert bezeichnet werden und ist sicherlich alles andere als nett. Andere, empathischere Experten denken, dass diese Leute sich an einem Selbstexperiment beteiligt haben. Ich möchte immer das Gute im Menschen sehen, vor alle bei Homöopathen, und mag deshalb diese Vorstellung.

    Was, wenn – wie angenommen – diese Leute wirklich eine homöopathische Arzneimittelprüfung von Aqua-Rust vorgenommen haben? In diesem Fall sind sie meine Helden! Nicht nur, weil sie ihre eigene Gesundheit im Namen der Medizin aufs Spiel gesetzt haben, sondern weil sie auch ein wichtiges, ich würde sagen bahnbrechendes neues Heilmittel entdeckt haben.

    Homöopathische Arzneimittelprüfungen sind ein Eckpfeiler der Homöopathie. Es ist die Methode mit der Homöopathen herausfinden, welches Heilmittel für welche Erkrankung bzw. welchen Patienten das richtige ist. Homöopathische Arzneimittelprüfungen laufen folgendermaßen ab: Einige gesunde freiwillige Probanden nehmen ein Heilmittel in hoher Konzentration; anschließend zeichnen sie ihre Symptome genau auf. Diese Symptome ergeben dann das (homöopathische) “Arzneimittelbild” der Substanz. Wenn ein Patient nun über ähnliche Symptome klagt, wird er mit einer starken Verdünnung genau dieser Substanz geheilt. Darum geht es bei der wichtigsten Regel der Homöopathie: GLEICHES HEILT GLEICHES.

    Was also haben die deutschen Vorkämpfer letztes Wochenende entdeckt? Sie nahmen das Aqua-Rust (oder was immer die Polizei in ihren Körpern finden wird) und begannen, blühenden Unsinn zu reden. Das ist absolut sensationell! Denn nach den Regeln der Homöopathie kann die Substanz nun stark verdünnt und kräftig geschüttelt werden und wir haben ein Heilmittel… gegen was?

    GEGEN HOMÖOPATHIE NATÜRLICH!

    Das bei weitem deutlichste Merkmal der Homöopathie ist es, blühenden Unsinn zu reden. Gebt ihnen das neu entdeckte Heilmittel und sie werden davon geheilt. So einfach!

    In meinen Augen sollten diese deutschen homöopathischen Helden für den nächsten Nobelpreis nominiert werden: Homöopathie hat die Menschheit seit 200 Jahren heimgesucht und niemand hat bisher ein Heilmittel dagegen gefunden. Diese mutigen und engagierten Heiler haben nicht nur ihr Wochenende, sondern auch ihre Gesundheit und ihr Wohlergehen geopfert, um eines zu finden – und sie haben es geschafft!

    Homöopathie wird am Ende nur noch eine Kuriosität der Vergangenheit sein – der Nobelpreis ist wohlverdient, würde ich sagen.

    http://www.kreiszeitung-wochenblatt.de/tostedt/blaulicht/grosseinsatz-in-handeloh-inzmuehlen-mehr-als-30-menschen-verletzt-d66166.html

    http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/heilpraktiker-auf-droge-grosseinsatz-bei-tagung-in-handeloh-a-1051602.html

    http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/psychedelische-homoeopathen-ausgetanzt-1.2635845

    https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/niedersachsen/lueneburg_heide_unterelbe/Tagungszentrum-will-Heilpraktiker-verklagen,handeloh130.html

  • Being a German researcher in Public Health with a special interest in costs incurred by ineffective and harmful therapy, I’m wondering if it might be possible to use this incident scientifically. Maybe it’s possible to use it as some kind of retrospective controlled before-after study: Two groups of homoepaths and lay healers, consisting both in approx. thirty persons with comparable demographics. One group has taken “awareness-enhancing drugs”, the other hasn’t. How many homoepath and lay healers are rethinking their choice of breadwinning profession baseline and after exposition? It’s a golden opportunity, because no ethics review board EVER will approve a comparably valuable trial.

  • In Sweden the minute homeopathic community is already blaming Big Pharma and/or the Skeptics as culprits of this intentional sabotage of a meeting uncovering the truth about how to achieve good health.

  • Did they get homeopathic treatment for their symptoms? All that would be needed was to collect some of what they ingested and dilute in and give them some. BTW “proving” or testing a remedy is till misleading unless it is already known to be remedial. The general public is mis-led as homeoquacks in English always say “proved” knowing that to most people this is interpreted as “proven to be effective.” Homeopaths think that testing to find out whether anything actually works is unnecessary, because if it can produce SOME OF THE symptoms , it WILL work, by the PRINCIPLE. And the principle must be true with no exceptions, which is known by…. well by nothing at all really, except that Hahnemann noticed that enough quinine can produce symptoms similar to malarial symptoms. Without the symptom of elevated white blood cell count of course.It doesn’t count.

  • A bit more news starting to come on on this. The Independent (but no German sources so far) reports that the police have confirmed they all took 2C-E. And one article in German suggests that drug taking wasn’t related so much to homeopathy but rather to the “therapy” cult run by Samuel Widmer. There’s no direct evidence of this reported, but ex-cult members say they recognised the whole situation immediately.
    http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/umstrittenes-verfahren-psycholyse-mich-haette-das-fast-das-leben-gekostet-1.2644059
    Two people died some years ago in Berlin at such an event when the event leader accidentally administered an overdose. If this is in fact the case, I hope the police really throw the book at these people and expose the abusive nature of the cult.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Widmer

  • More on this: Woman who discovered German homeopaths on hallucinogenic drug describes ‘scene of horror’

    Stefka Weiland found dozens of men and women writhing on the ground surrounded by blood-stained needles, she said

    • Anarchic Teapot informs, confirmed in Wikipedia that Aquarust is not taken by injection.
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2C-E

      Pictures at the scene taken with patients being transported to the ambulances show none of the cushions and mattresses that this woman also described.

      It is all getting weirder, if that is possible with alt medics.

  • It seems to me to be increasingly probably that they were indeed deliberately experimenting with the drug. Several writers in the German media suspect it has something to do with the aforementioned Samuel Widmer’s “psycholyse” “therapy” cult. Not just the writers, but the commenters on various news pieces, especially those sympathetic to the tripping homeopaths are becoming increasing about how drugs can open the mind etc, and how 2C-E was “legal until 2014” (as opposed to “illegal since 2014”!). From their comments you’d think it was a vicious drug bust by the cops, not an emergency with 160 medics and 30 people hospitalized.
    (For the record, comment’s I’m referring to are in this article in German.)

  • Dear Edzard,

    thank you for this very humane comment. Yes, human beings have been affected.

    Have some nice days!

    With best regards from Mainz, Frankfurt and Heidelberg,

    Stefan Dewald (gbs Rhine-Neckar)

  • A German news article today reports that the homeopaths “were involved in the production of homeopathic preparation that they tested on themselves.”
    (Includes 16 new photos giving an impresion of how disturbing it must have been for the seminar house owner to witness.)
    http://www.abendblatt.de/hamburg/harburg/article205702261/Berauschte-Heilpraktiker-hatten-voellig-Kontrolle-verloren.html

    • “Dieses Mal hätten sie sich mit der Herstellung homöopathischer Mittel beschäftigen wollen, die am eigenen Leib ausprobiert werden sollten .”
      this last sentence of the German article stated that the practitioners were due to engage in the manufacture of homeopathic remedies which they intended to experiment with on their own bodies.

  • Wait a minute. If I understand this like cures like business (which I’m not sure I do), wouldn’t that mean that these homepaths could be cured of the sickness caused by Aqua Rust overdose by an extremely dilute dose of … Aqua Rust? (Daniel Wellfleet suggested the same, above). After all, nothing could cause the symptoms of Aqua Rust overdose better than Aqua Rust itself.

    Obviously, it wouldn’t work. Why doesn’t that fact prove to these homeopaths that the whole idea behind homeopathy is barmy?

  • 2C-E was originally developed by Sasha Shulgin, and he and his peers did not consider it to have much potential for legitimate clinical or experimental use. For which reason I’m surprised to find that it apparently made its way into an underground drug subculture.

    There’s an additional problem here, which is that the illicit use of psychedelics and entactogens can cause public alarm, that leads to regulatory agencies becoming less willing to authorize legitimate human-subject research involving these compounds. In the United States, the epidemic abuse of psychedelics in the 1960s led to a 40-year period of essentially no new research, and the FDA has only recently begun to authorize new projects. Those of us with legitimate interest in this subject want the climate of cautious progress to continue, without any further outbreaks of popular abuse of these substances. The present instance with the alt med practitioners is a paradigm case of what we seek to discourage and prevent.

    The term “psycholytic therapy” originated with psychiatrists in the 1960s, referring to the use of psychedelic drugs in relatively small doses as an adjunct to psychoanalysis. (This in contrast to “psychedelic therapy” which was the use of larger doses of psychedelics as a shortcut to significant personality change. In either case, the drugs would be administered infrequently, such as once during a year’s course of psychoanalysis sessions.) But it appears that Widmer is using that language and certain substances in furtherance of his own agenda rather than for anything remotely resembling legitimate psychotherapy. He needs to face serious consequences for medical malpractice as well as the illicit use of controlled substances outside of an approved protocol.

    If there’s any good that could come out of this bad situation, it would be to emphasize strongly that safe use of these compounds requires cautious protocols carried out under the supervision of psychiatrists with track records of high integrity. That, and the possibility that some of those homeopaths might have had some insights into the relative value of alt med vs. science-based medicine, and might decide to change careers after all.

  • An update for anyone following this–
    It now seems fairly clear that this was indeed a drug-taking experiment linked to the “Psycholyse” cult. It’s unclear to police how much participants knew about what they were taking, but the head of the Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy is sees it as a criminal derogation of duty of the leaders. The other case involving this cult where two people died in 2009 was caused by the event leader preparing the drugs wrongly because he was himself under the influence.

    Article in German-
    http://www.abendblatt.de/hamburg/article205797861/Massenrausch-der-Heilpraktiker-war-eine-Therapie-Idee.html

  • As it is they are talking utter nonsense all the time. They don’t need to take a drug for that!

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