Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Politics Quackery

Quackery promotion zones?

I hate to write about that woo-meister supreme Mike Adams more than one time in a week. For one thing, his website,, is a font of pseudoscience and quackery rivaling the infamous, which makes it powerfully seductive to go back to that well again and again for blogging material. Although taking on an Adams screed is almost always a lot of fun for me, it’s also too easy. Mike’s craziness is so strong that, while it almost guarantees an entertaining piece for my blog, going back to that well too often risks making me fat and lazy as a skeptic and potentially boring you. On the other hand, sometimes Mike just drops a couple of bombs so entertaining in close proximity to each other that I’m willing to take this chance. This is one of those times.

Last week, Adams launched a hilariously paranoid attack on Obamacare (i.e., the health insurance reform bill that President Obama signed into law last week). As you probably know, though, Adams is nothing if not all about massive crank overkill, and this issue is no exception. In fact, this time around, he paints his vision of what he would like to see politically in the U.S. in an article entitled The real health reform solution: A Health Freedom Zone in America. I’ll give him credit. This time around, he’s completely honest. A complete and utter loon, but an honest complete and utter loon. In his previous post, Adams envisions Obamacare as being due to the “medical mafia” and a “pharma-funded betrayal.” In his most recent post, he continues on that theme and proposes his woo-tastic solution. What is this woo-tastic solution, you ask? It’s something called a “health freedom zone.”

Yes, it’s as bad as you think it is:

Here’s how it would work: All it takes is just one state — such as Oregon, Washington, Arizona or Hawaii — declaring itself to be the “health freedom zone” for America.

It would openly allow naturopathic physicians and “CAM” practitioners (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) to treat (and help cure) serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many others. It would openly allow Chinese Medicine doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors and other well-educated health practitioners to offer nutritional therapies to prevent and cure serious disease. At the same time, it would allow nutritional supplement companies to tell the truth about the truthful therapeutic effects of their products right on the product labels, so that consumers buying such products at retailers within the state could make informed decisions about how to prevent cancer with vitamin D, for example.

If just one state were to step up and much such a declaration, it would instantly transform itself into the natural health capitol of North America and patients and natural health practitioners would flock to the state from all across North America to experience natural medicine that really works.

Certainly there’s little doubt that if any state were to do this, it would instantly become a magnet for quacks, cranks, and supplement manufacturers. The only thing is that Mike’s forgotten something. We already have a “natural health capital of North America,” where pretty much anything goes when it comes to medicine. It’s called Tijuana. A host of cancer quack clinics safely ply their trade on unwitting, desperate, and credulous Americans who cross the border to pay cash on the barrelhead for quackery like the Hoxsey Therapy and who used to flock to Hulda Clark’s Tijuana clinic. Let’s see what sorts of benefits Mike thinks should have already been bestowed on Tijuana:

The results of this would include all the following:

#1) Your state would experience a booming economy from the huge influx of new natural health businesses and customers engaged in “natural health medical tourism” from all across the country.

#2) Potentially millions of new jobs would be created in your state in the support of these businesses, including office staff, logistics, administration, marketing and much more.

#3) Your state’s population would get healthier because they would now have access to naturopathic medicine, honestly-labeled nutritional supplements (instead of the supplement censorship that is now forced upon us by the FDA), and natural therapies that are safer, more affordable and more effective than drugs and surgery.

#4) Because your state’s population is now getting healthier, your state expenditures on Medicaid would plummet. So even while your economy is booming from natural health care tourism, you’re also spending less on sickness and disease.

#5) Your workforce becomes highly productive and desirable. As your population becomes healthier and regains strong cognitive function thanks to nutrition, your workforce becomes sharper and healthier. Corporations experience higher productivity and reduced losses due to sick time of staff, and your state gains a reputation as a place where companies can hire smart, productive and healthy people who have far lower health care costs. Can you imagine the huge influx of corporations and the massive job creation that would follow?

#6) As all of this is going on, your state would also see dramatic increases in happiness and longevity among the population. And that translates into quality of life that gets your cities named as top choices for places to live in America.

Funny, but I hardly see this as a description of Tijuana.

But maybe I’m being unfair. After all, we’re Americans, dammit! If we do it, we’ll certainly have the awesome results Adams predicts. As I mentioned, I have no doubt that #1 would immediately come true, as quacks from all over the U.S. set up shop in the lucky state to create such a “health freedom zone.” Ther’es little doubt that #2 would also be at least somewhat true, although I highly doubt that millions of jobs would result from these businesses. Hundreds, certainly. Thousands, probably. Tens of thousands, maybe. But millions? Whatever natural herb that Adams is smoking, give me some of that!

Or maybe not. He obviously got some bad stuff if he thinks that the state’s population would get healthier (#3) because of naturopathic medicine and permitting supplement manufacturers to exaggerate and lie about the health benefits of their supplements. Never mind that he has zero evidence to support his claims that all this quackery health freedom will result in increased longevity, fertility, and even cognitive functioning. In fact, I find it rather amusing that to Adams (and many CAM boosters), even the minimal restrictions enshrined in the DSHEA of 1994 are far too strict. Truly, “health freedom” does mean exactly what I’ve said all along: The freedom to sell all manner of quackery without any pesky interference by the government and the freedom of quacks to say whatever they want to sell their supplements and nostrums. Not that that stops Adams, as you can see in this video:

What is it with Adams walking along as he talks through the entire video? It’s damned distracting, as is the sound that seems to fade in and out at random. Maybe that’s for the better. I also resent his little swipe at my hometown of Detroit, as though its problems were due to a lack of quackery being practicied within its borders.

In any case, a lot of what’s on the video is the same old nonsense about how supposedly conventional medicine “only treats symptoms” and “doesn’t treat the cause” of disease. Particularly galling to me is Adams’ claim that he “personally knows” many doctors who treat cancer by “natural means” and can cure it. Really? I haven’t seen any evidence of that on his website. Certainly I haven’t seen anything resembling scientific evidence to show that any of the quacks Adams promotes can treat, much less cure, any cancer. Amusingly, he laments how these “physicians” and “healers” can’t practice in the U.S. but then points out that, if a state were to declare itself a “health freedome zone,” they could all flood into that state. What Adams considers a dream, any practitioner of science-based medicine would consider a nightmare. Be that as it may, the funny thing about Adams’ rant is that one of the doctors he holds up as an example, Dr. Julian Whitaker, practices in California.

D’oh! How is it that this “natural healer” seems to be practicing just fine without interference in California! In fact, all of the forms of woo that Adams celebrates, including chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine, and orthomolecular medicine, can be found in most cities of medium size and above throughout the United States. This little fact seems to have eluded Mr. Adams.

What’s more disturbing is that Adams appears to advocate violence:

Washington won’t like it, of course. But that’s what the National Guard is for: To defend your state against threats both foreign and domestic. And right now, the FDA and its criminal conspiracy with Big Pharma is a very real and present danger to the health and financial solvency of every single American. Pharm-O-bamacare will destroy America’s health and finances, and that’s perfectly fine with the FDA and Big Pharma because the drug companies are pocketing money while America collapses. It will take a visionary leader in a courageous state that’s willing to take a stand against the health care tyranny of Washington and declare itself to be a Health Freedom Zone, but I believe that day is coming.

I believe there is a new movement of states’ rights gaining ground across America. I believe states are tired of being dictated to by a hopelessly corrupt U.S. Congress (and President) that has betrayed the American people time and time again by selling out to corporate interests. And I believe that we are fast approaching the day when states will take a stand against Washington. Some, like Texas, may even decide to simply declare themselves to be their own sovereign nations.

That’s right. You read it right. Adams is advocating having states secede from the union and use their national guard to defend themselves against the U.S. military. Although I’ll grudgingly give him credit for coming up with a wildly wingnutty term like “Pharm-O-bamacare,” he appears to be made of the same cloth of various militia movements that have sprung up over the last couple of decades. Only the motivation for wanting to resist Washington and possibly even secede from the union is different.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

36 replies on “Quackery promotion zones?”

Ah, the burgeoning quackopath movement foreshadows a new stratagem?

As the states with the slowest-recovering economies are targeted by the snake-oil lobby, might one or more prove desperate enough to inhale the pipe-dream of the “health freedom zone”?

This will not end well.

Don’t laugh, Orac — a large number of the militia loons are very into CAM, especially crap like colloidal silver and black salve. Woo is easier to understand than real medicine, which takes an actual education to comprehend, and a lot of these folks have been given a religious homeschooling which is not exactly conducive to getting academic scholarships at any accredited college.

Truly, “health freedom” does mean exactly what I’ve said all along: The freedom to sell all manner of quackery without any pesky interference by the government and the freedom of quacks to say whatever they want to sell their supplements and nostrums.

I would additionally add:

The ‘freedom’ to have one’s woo of choice paid for by the taxpayers.

Definitely comes up a lot.

The only thing is that Mike’s forgotten something. We already have a “natural health capital of North America,” where pretty much anything goes when it comes to medicine. It’s called TijuanaArizona.

Fixed that for you.

I really love the way Adams is into every CAM method out there, no matter how crazy or incompatable they are, while still attacking the only form of medicine supported by robust scientific and statistical evidence. As Orac says this is not really about the freedon to practice but about Adams wanting quacks to be free to make whatever claims they like on labels and in advertising and not be bothered by regulations or regulators.

The similarity of his diatribe to militia statements or the rhetoric of the nuttier tea-baggers is not that surprising to me, you see those kind of deluded demands and threats all the time on animal rights extremist websites, and it might not be a coincidence a lot of AR supporters are also big fans of CAM.

I like to think of the place where all the right- and left-wing loonies, the CAM fans and the anti-vaxers meet on the internet as the “crazysphere”, and is it just me of has it been getting a bit crazier lately?

In the past year or so, Adams'(like fellow idiot,Null’s) rants and screeds have taken a decidedly political/economic bent,probably because he wants to cash in on all that tea party anti-government/anti-authority fervor by being considered “like minded”(more accurately, showing “like mindlessness”)but seriously, I wonder how much the economic meltdown of 2008-9 and recent slow recovery have impacted sales for internet salesmen like Adams, Null, and Mercola? They have a need perhaps to drum up persecutory fantasies and tales of oppression purely as an advertising mechanism: saying that BigPharma/doctors are “so corrupt”,”dangerous”,”evil” you absolutely *need* me to *survive*!!! If you look through either of the aforementioned charlatans’ products’ prices,you’ll find that so-called “health freedom” is certainly not free or even reasonable.What will they do if states (because of economic difficulty) decide to levy taxes on internet sales? “Let’s secede from the *state*!”

As a new state anthem for the Quackzone, may I suggest Death Don’t Have No Mercy?

The states Adams lists are already very quackery-prone. Has he been to any of these places? Seattle (my hometown) has Bastyr “College”, which is huge and people DO flock there to attend. They all want to “heal”–there’s one on every bus ride I take when I’m home, anxious to tell me all about the evils of “allopathic” medicine and the wonders of “natural healing”. In Oregon, you can get acupuncture paid for on insurance if it’s done by an MD. There used to only be a couple of chinese immigrant MD’s doing it for lots of extra cash, but now there are tons of them. Even here in Wisconsin, there is a College of Oriental Medicine where you can get a “PhD” in something or other. Someone already mentioned Arizona (home of Andy Weil). A better question would be: Where are these practices NOT allowed? Let me know because I’d love to move there!

Every drugstore and Wal Mart Whole Foods and co-op is chock full of supplements and homeopathics–complete with hundreds of books on all types of woo. There are compounding pharmacies everywhere I’ve lived (several states) where you can send your “saliva tests” and get “prescriptions” for all kinds of woo filled. Even small towns in the Northwest have “complementary or alternative” MD’s offering everything from TM to bee pollen to chelation “therapy”. Then there are the chiropractic “colleges” and the naturopathic ones as well.

What more does Adams want for crissake? He doesn’t even live here as I understand it!
As with the rest of the crap he spews, he simply does not know what he is talking about.

If I remember correctly, before his move to Ecuador, Adams had had operations in AZ and in FL.Recently, Null has been ragging on about all of the prohibitory laws in NY-he wants to set up a “homesteading project”(he already has a “ranch” in FL where he does “retreats” and gets volunteers to work his organic farm)so is considering TX.

I thought Ecuador was the ultimate Quackery Zone; at least it sounds like a cozy refuge for Adams.

“I wonder how much the economic meltdown of 2008-9 and recent slow recovery have impacted sales for internet salesmen like Adams, Null, and Mercola? They have a need perhaps to drum up persecutory fantasies and tales of oppression purely as an advertising mechanism”

They and the other supplement promoters are always fueling fantasies of terrible plots against Health Freedom (Codex, anyone?). The marks customers must always be kept stirred up, writing and calling their representatives to defeat any sort of regulation that might have the slightest impact on profits Health Freedom.

Mikey might have something, though – is it impossible that some state like Michigan might have lawmakers desperate and stupid enough to make their state a magnet for a quackery industry by creating a legal climate conducive to a Tijuana del Norte?

Anthro said:

What more does Adams want for crissake? He doesn’t even live here as I understand it!

I was wondering about that also. It makes as much sense as me trying to seceed from America here in Ontario.

Why don’t all his fellow CAMers meet him in South America? They can move into the ruins of Jonestown, build forts and play at being on the lam, persecuted by the FDA, Big Pharma, the Mossad, and people of sound judgement everywhere. They could call it “persecution complex as an alternative lifestyle.”

@ Scott Cunningham: but you see, he wants American *business*, even though our economy is not wonderful, it’s still better than other places.He’ll get a small *colonia* going down there and still *sell* to the woo-obsessed here.

Adams should get a clue. Mainstream media already knows that all you need to be healthy is the Right Diet, Exercise, and to Not Be Obese. If you do these things, you won’t even need all this CAM nonsense because you’ll never get sick.

See, it’s all so simple. That’s why CAM wasn’t included in the health bill. It isn’t about this “science” stuff. If we just follow directions, no one will ever need health care again.

One doesn’t need to look far for quackery. It’s on the front page.

@Denice Walter: You’re right. You’re more than right. That’s essentially what he already does.

The trouble is this whole mess is like the arguments I have with friends and family who adore Fidel Castro. I might convince them for today with figures about how many gay men and academics Castro executed, but tomorrow they’ll have forgotten overnight.

Adams’ suggestion might work if the state that opts for becoming the “freedom zone” also refuses to allow any evidence-based medicine within its borders. It wouldn’t take long for the “wonders” of CAM-only to become evident. Of course, a few innocent people might suffer, but hey, isn’t that the price of freedom?

Has he ever described the color of the sky on his planet?

. . . often risks making me fat and lazy as a skeptic and potentially boring you.

Orac? Boring? Never.

And I second that Denice is more than right.

Why is health so susceptible to woo thinking in the first place? I have an atheist friend who rejects all religious woo, but believes in the power of suggestion. Example: even though she’s 65, she’s never had a screening colonoscopy, and refuses to do monthly breast self-exams, because she believes the “power of her mind” will create colon and breast cancer if she “goes looking for them.” Isn’t that like believing the conscious mind can control the body at the cellular level?

I don’t get it . . .

I can see the signs springing up along the highways:


@18 Consider the opposite and equally baffling belief:

“Submitting to regular screening for cancers means I won’t get them.”

A thing to remember about the National Guard that those who advocate its use against the Federal government is that its members’ salaries and benefits, and the retirements of its former members all come from the Federal government. In a war between the Federal government and a state, you can rest assure that the bulk of the National Guard’s loyalities will remain with the government that pays their salaries.

Also, National Guard equipment is the property of the Federal government, specifically the USAF and the United States Army. If say the DC Guard decides to back succession, the United States Air Force will take their planes back. The Army will repossess the weapons it gave the DCARNG.

Finally, if a National Guard outfit decides to back their state doing something stupid like Adams suggests and manages to maintain control of their equipment, they still will face the combined power of the United States military, which is scattered throughout all 50 states and frequently has more firepower in each state than that of the National Guard. It, unlike the rebellious state in question, can call upon active duty military in each of the surrounding states.

In short, using the National Guard in a war against the Federal governments and its vast military is futile and delusional. It won’t support you, and if for reason it does, it will lose and lose big.

A few corrections about the National Guard:

“If say the DC Guard decides to back succession,” — The District of Columbia is not a state. It is a federal enclave and governed by laws enacted by Congress (which has delegated much power to a municipal government). All employees of the District of Columbia — including members of its National Guard — are federal employees. Since the District of Columbia is not a state, even under the doctrine of Disunion, it could not secede from the Union. First, the federal government would have to agree to return it to the state of Maryland (like the portion of the original District of Columbia south of the Potomac River was returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia). Then, if Maryland seceded, it could secede, too.

Although the federal government provides the lion’s share of the money for pay, operations, training, maintenance, etc., for the states’ National Guards, it does not provide 100%. In any event, it was established in the 19th century (when one year Congress failed to appropriate funds to pay the Army) that the obligation to perform one’s military duties is not dependent on receipt of pay. Accordingly, National Guard service members called into state duty by their respective Governors must serve, whether or not the state arranges to pay for them. This is one reason that U.S. military personnel cannot be considered mercenaries, since they do not serve only for pay.

When the states’ National Guards service members perform weekend drill, annual training, and most other activities, they do so in state status as state employees. However, the President has statutory authority to mobilize National Guard service members into federal service. You may recall the famous example of Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the 1950s. The whole sequence of events had been negotiated in advance between Gov. Faubus and the Eisenhower administration. Faubus called out National Guard Soldiers to stop integration — rather than calling out State Police, who were nowhere around that day. The Soldiers were lined up facing the children to keep them out, with their backs to the crowd. After a short statement on behalf of the Governor, a senior Army Officer walked up and handed the Soldiers’ commander an order mobilizing the Soldiers into federal service. The Soldiers’ commander there upon ordered the Solders to perform an about face, and they then cleared the way through the crowd for the children to enter the school.

If someone thought of mobilizing National Guard Soldiers into federal service to accomplish integration, then doing the same in the case of insurrection would likely cross the minds of senior military Officers.

You are correct that generally the equipment used by the National Guards is owned by the federal government. However, it is provided pursuant to lease agreements (accounting entries are made against federal appropriations for supporting the states’ National Guards – no money actually changes hands). However, one of the recognized missions of the states’ National Guards is to repel invasions of their respective states, and so using that equipment for that purpose is an authorized use. It would be an interesting breach of contract question – whether a state could use federally owned, but state leased, equipment to repel an invasion by federal military and civilian personnel attempting to prevent the state from seceding from the Union. Further, since U.S. District Courts are not courts of general jurisdiction, the replevin action might have to be brought in the state’s courts.

Finally, due to some reorganizations of the Reserve Components over about the past 15 years or so, Combat and Combat Support units were moved to the states’ National Guards, and the Reserve units (which are federal units and their service members are federal employees) became Combat Service Support units. In other words, most of the firepower within the U.S. is in the hands of the states’ National Guards.

Accordingly, it is possible, in theory, to use the states’ National Guards as a military force against the federal government. But, it is also possible, in theory (and possibly more likely) to travel backwards in time – and either idea sounds like the plot for a really bad movie.

@18 Consider the opposite and equally baffling belief:

“Submitting to regular screening for cancers means I won’t get them.”

Does anyone actually believe that one, though? I don’t think those who submit to regular screening for cancers believe it means they won’t get cancers; I think they expect that if they get screened regularly, any cancers they do get are likelier to be detected at a stage where something can still be done about them.

But it’s possible that you know about people who really do think that screening actually prevents cancers; if so, please tell us.

I am grateful to HP and WFJAG for an insight into the statutory and legislative mechanisms involved in using the National Guard to defend the Health Freedom Zone. However, I am more concerned about some of the practical issues.

It goes without saying that the medical corps of our guards will shun medicine in favour of Homeopathy , etc. But what weaponry will our brave guards use? I had thought the obvious answer was to equip them with a range of high powered water pistols. Ammunition would be produced by succussion i.e. shaking lead in water and diluting.

I then realised I had made a grave error. Like cures like, my “ammunition” was actually the cure for gun shot wounds. Simply sprinkle the lead based homeopathic remedy on the wound and the brave guard would be restored to health, ready to fight another day.

So what to use? If like cures like, then surely opposites would be very dangerous and could debilitate opposing forces. Is there a substance that imbues a sense of well being and euphoria in soldiers and makes them feel life is better? The answer must be beer.

Simply dilute beer down through the homeopathic succussion process and we will have potent ammunition for our water pistols. The good news is that in the US the ammunition is already available over the counter in many outlets and it has already been diluted to the optimum levels. Care is needed to avoid undiluted products from small micro and independent breweries, and ammunition must be taken to foreign countries as their beer is generally not pre-diluted.

T. Bruce McNealy,

A good choice! But, the one I’ve been thinking of lately is Don’t Fear the Reaper by The Blue Oyster Cult:

Two thoughts Phil:

One — diluting a Soldier’s beer is much more likely to start a rebellion than any idea Adams has come up with. Diluting the beer of a guy with a gun is unwise. Accordingly, I suggest using Soldiers’ kidneys as the mechanism of dilution. If it is ingested at an establishment that has dancing, the necessary succussion could be accomplished in situ with the subject, as well.

Two — under current military medical standards, Soldiers deploying to any area in which they may come into contact with contagious diseases, even diseases present due to low vaccination rates so that the herd immunity effect cannot be relied upon, must receive vaccinations for the diseases to which they may be exposed. Accordingly, Soldiers deploying into Health Freedom Zones will have to be vaccinated before going there. This will create a large demand for those vaccines and a resulting shortage, likely causing a spike in their prices, and also likely creating large profits for the vaccine manufacturers. Are you sure that Adams isn’t secretly working for Big Pharma?

Why is his hair gray? Shouldn’t he just live forever like that guy on Lost?

Well I suppose that’s one way to have a vax/unvax study without risking the general public (as much)!

@Antaeus Feldspar

One has only to read the comments on MSM in response to the publication of new mammogram guidelines last year to find this very belief. Some respondents actually stated that “the government wants me to get cancer!” when informed of the recommendations to reduce the number of mammograms given. One would think they’d celebrate rather than panic, but instead, the majority of respondents proved to be good little service consumers instead of smart patients.

There was also a particularly memorable anecdote by a woman who, when declining repeated mammograms, had a radiology technician retort, “Well you don’t want to get cancer, do you?”, as if the mammogram were designed to prevent rather than detect cancer. It’s a common response. It’s particularly troubling when the people applying the procedure themselves misunderstand it’s purpose and capabilities.

Thanks so much DayOwl and Antaeus. Great radiology technician story! Yeesh.

Why Washington, Oregon, Arizona, or Hawaii? I like those places.

He can have Ohio or Nebraska or Utah, damn it.

Better yet, Texas. I guess he can have Sedona County as well, just partition that out of the surrounding area.

“strong cognitive function thanks to nutrition”

Clearly, whatever Mike Adams is eating isn’t working.

Surely there is an underutilized piece of Canada we can lease for the alt-med crowd. Anyone using Baffin Island for anything? What say you, Great White North? Loonies for loonies and toonies?

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