The Army is using quack "battlefield acupuncture" based on junk science


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/29/weaponized-placebos.html


#2

From the looks of things, it’s not actually being practiced in any sort of widespread way, and is just being promoted by one guy, Richard Niemtzow, who invented it. Virtually every article about it is the same “hey! it’s quackery!” article reiterated from several years ago.


#3

Link above explains the military’s evidence/rationale for going with acupuncture. (Cost benefit is given three sentences out this comparatively lengthy report.)

If nothing else, this should help clear out some government warehouse of its surplus thumbtacks.


#4

Placebo works, even when you know it is a placebo, however you have to establish some sort of ritual.


#5

IIRC, the discipline of “auricular acupuncture” was invented de novo by a French conman in 1957, based on an imagined magical-thinking parallel between the shape of the human ear and the shape of a fetus. He may not have thought through all of the implications, like “How are we going to extend this lucrative scam to veterinary acupuncture?”


#6

Stuff like this sources from the US military’s habitual neglect of soldiers’ health, which in turn comes from habitual pork barrel corruption involving suppliers and contractors shooting up all the defense money into corporate arteries for long lasting highs.

And so on.


#7

And for every soldier who falls on the battlefield, their ears will grow into two new soldiers to continue the fight! Hail Hydra! Onward Christian Soldiers! Merica!


#8

I’m pretty sure that IS hydra’s real power: they have an unlimited supply of semi-skilled volunteers to be redshirt #3.


#9

That’s not an ear-stud, it’s my cognitive-enhancing augmentation.


#10

#11

I’m curious. I can see how you could give someone a pill with nothing in it making them believe they ingested medicine and thus providing the placebo. But how do you convince someone that you’re sticking them with a needle when you actually aren’t? How are they supposed to supply a placebo/blind study on something like this?


#12

Sham acupuncture and research:

It is difficult but not impossible to design rigorous research trials for acupuncture. Due to acupuncture’s invasive nature, one of the major challenges in efficacy research is in the design of an appropriate placebo control group. For efficacy studies to determine whether acupuncture has specific effects, “sham” forms of acupuncture where the patient, practitioner, and analyst are blinded seem the most acceptable approach. Sham acupuncture uses non-penetrating needles or needling at non-acupuncture points, e.g. inserting needles on meridians not related to the specific condition being studied, or in places not associated with meridians. The under-performance of acupuncture in such trials may indicate that therapeutic effects are due entirely to non-specific effects, or that the sham treatments are not inert, or that systematic protocols yield less than optimal treatment.

A 2014 Nature Reviews Cancer review article found that “contrary to the claimed mechanism of redirecting the flow of qi through meridians, researchers usually find that it generally does not matter where the needles are inserted, how often (that is, no dose-response effect is observed), or even if needles are actually inserted. In other words, ‘sham’ or ‘placebo’ acupuncture generally produces the same effects as ‘real’ acupuncture and, in some cases, does better.”


#13

But is it properly certified organic holistic placebo?


#14

Big pharma placebos make you feel like you’re having so many harsh side effects.


#15

Have they tried homeopathic dilutions to increase the strength of the placebos?


#16

According to homeopathic principles, the more you dilute something, the more powerful it becomes. I think the most effective dilution would probably be nothing at all. So to answer your question, yes.


#17

For all my ailments, I simply glug a big glass of tap water. The homeopathic dilution should be incredibly effective.


#18

All I see is an old crone that image.

Wait, never mind it’s looking like a young lady now.


#19

Makes sense. I suppose if the supposed needle is in an area that can’t be seen by the participant, even prodding someone with a sharpened pencil could fool them into thinking they were actually being stuck with a needle


#20

There are multiple ways to measure this. You can have a control group that gets no treatment vs. those that do. You can go into it knowing there is a placebo effect and tell a control group that this does nothing but be a placebo. You can give actual evidence based medicine and measure it against this treatment.

Lots of ways to measure this.

It’s a pain reduction study. We know that quite a bit of pain is about perception, not the actual firing of a nociceptor. I use to do a party trick where people with migraines where I’d have them describe the shape, the texture, the color of their pain. I’d ask them to see if they could use telekinesis to move it around their head to push it into different parts of their brain. And once they could move it I’d ask them to move it to the crown and push through until they were wearing it like a hat. And then, I’d ask them to remove this hat and place it next to them and leave it.

I don’t know how many people would contact me a week or more later, telling me that I cured their migraines. It’s bullshit, but at the same time, it ain’t. We make our own pain and we grow accustom to wearing it to the point it is hard to imagine going out without putting it on. Sometimes we have to misplace it before we realize it is all in our mind.

There have been studies on these sorts of party tricks as well…and they work to some extent. Not in a lasting sort of way, but they do work. I’m a firm believer in trying a placebo before giving someone a narcotic.