Opioids: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Opium, a dried latex collected from the opium poppy, was the original “wonder drug.” It effectively relieved pain and had other medicinal effects – and incidentally produced euphoria and addiction. There is archaeological evidence that it was used as early as 5700 BC. It was the active ingredient in laudanum and paregoric. For decades, these

National Geographic Book Is A ‘Natural’ Disaster

Nature’s Best Remedies: Top Medicinal Herbs, Spices, and Foods for Health and Well Being, by Nancy J. Hajeski. National Geographic. 318 pp. $35.00. The National Geographic store proclaims, “This authoritative guide to the foods, herbs, spices, essential oils, and other natural substances that alleviate common ailments will enhance your life—from treating illness to sharpening the

Science Envy in Alternative Medicine

One definition of alternative medicine is medicine that is not supported by good enough evidence to have earned a place in mainstream medicine. Comedian Tim Minchin asked, “What do you call alternative medicine that works?” His answer: “Medicine.” That’s a simplistic answer good for laughs, but the truth is more complicated. Alternative medicine embraces many

The care and feeding of the vagina

The status of women in our society continues to improve. As the cigarette commercial says, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Indeed, it seems we now have Equal Opportunity Quackery. Este artículo está disponible en español. Sex sells. It’s always been a popular target for quackery, but the quackery used to be directed mainly at

Unintelligent Design

A review of the book The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not, by Abby Hafer Intelligent Design (ID) maintains that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause (presumably God?) rather than by the natural process of evolution. That’s nonsense; evolution explains the natural world

Too Many Tests

Doctors order too many tests. Some are useless, some are harmless (except for the cost), but some can lead to serious bodily harm. Misconceptions about tests Many people, even doctors, tend to think of tests as giving consistent, reliable, yes/no answers. They think a test can make a diagnosis, but that’s not how it works.

Fake News about Health Products

One of my biggest pet peeves is advertisements for bogus health-related products that are deceptively presented as news stories. These appear regularly in many newspapers, including my own local paper The Tacoma News Tribune, and they typically fill a full half page. They usually include the words “advertisement” or “paid advertisement” in small print that is

Cómo creemos

En el clásico artículo de James. E. Alcock, que se publicó en el Skeptical Inquirer en 1995, The belief engine (La máquina de creencias), el autor escribió: “Nuestros cerebros y sistemas nerviosos constituyen una máquina generadora de creencias, un sistema que evolucionó, no para asegurar la verdad, la lógica y la razón, sino la supervivencia”. Ahora amplió