3:55pm

Mon February 7, 2011
Shots - Health News Blog

Homeopathic Medicine Overdosers Survive Unscathed

To make a point, some skeptics around the world are making massive drug overdoses a habit.

Their target: homeopathic remedies. Their method: consume huge amounts of these treatments to debunk them altogether.

Homeopathy purportedly works by diluting substances, such as sulfur, to almost nothing and then using them to spur the body to heal itself.

But the skeptics say there's no proof, and what's more the extreme dilution of the ingredients means the remedies are nothing more than, say, sugar water. As the federal National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine put it in an overview:

Homeopathy is a controversial area ... because a number of its key concepts are not consistent with established laws of science (particularly chemistry and physics). Critics think it is implausible that a remedy containing a miniscule amount of an active ingredient (sometimes not a single molecule of the original compound) can have any biological effect—beneficial or otherwise. For these reasons, critics argue that continuing the scientific study of homeopathy is not worthwhile. Others point to observational and anecdotal evidence that homeopathy does work and argue that it should not be rejected just because science has not been able to explain it.

Over the weekend, hundreds of skeptics in more than 25 countries took megadoses of the remedies to demonstrate they do nothing. It was the second annual event organized by the 10:23 Campaign. One bunch in West Virginia took 1 million times the recommended dose of a homeopathic sleep remedy and didn't die — or even fall asleep.

Now, there's a $1 million challenge on the table to makers of homeopathic remedies from magician and professional skeptic James Randi. If a rigorous double-blind, controlled study finds the remedies work better than plain water, Randi's educational foundation will fork over the money. Check out the video for details and the other part of his challenge to retailers to label the remedies accurately. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.