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Most of the people I know are relatively smart and intelligent folk who you'd expect to be aware of and avoid the silliness of snake-oil medical treatments.
But apparently not.
I was rather shocked to find out that a couple of my friends were busy wasting their money and risking their health by taking some uber-snake-oil medication that even the most gullible person would likely write off as a scam.
The particular treatment I'm talking about involves drinking chlorine bleach.
Yeah... I'm not kidding... people actually drink this stuff in the belief that it will cure just about every disease known to man.
In fact, under the name MMS, it's being touted by idiots all over the world as a cure for cancer, HIV and a raft of other nasty afflictions. And other idiots are lapping it up.
Of course it's not just a case of downing a 2 litre bottle of Janola with your rice crispies at breakfast time, oh no. The snake oil merchants have made it seem all magical and technical, so as to extract inordinate amounts of money for one of the cheapest chemicals on the planet.
Here's >the Wikipedia page on MMS and it gives a pretty good background as to the chemistry and the folly of believing the crap being spouted by its proponents.
Now as rational, intelligent, sensible people, most reading this would immediately recognise the signs of a scam that plays on the desire for people to be "cured" of nasty afflictions. When traditional medicine seems slow to act or isn't providing the necessary relief, it's perhaps natural however, that some folk will grasp at straws.
I have one friend who has been taking this stuff for a stomach ulcer -- seriously!
He has meticulously added a couple of drops of "part A" to water, waited the prescribed amount of time, faced East, sung the requisite song, turned clockwise four times then added the magic "activator", before shaking allowing to stand for 30 seconds (so that all the evil Chlorine dioxide gas can drift away) then sculling the whole lot.
The really worrying aspect is that he believes this stuff is working.
There's potential to think that maybe the antibacterial effect of a dilute bleach solution may be killing "bad bacteria" in his stomach and as we know, there's a strong link between certain bacteria and ulcers.
However, I tend to think that perhaps the traditional medications are simply starting to kick in and it is coincidence that his condition has improved by ingesting snake oil at this late stage.
Another mate started taking this stuff and he was chuffed to bits that it was working because he vomited and coughed up all sorts of "bad stuff" afterwards. This, he told me, was a clear indication that MMS was working because it got rid of all those impurities from his system.
Most of us would realise that vomiting and coughing fits are more likely a symptom of ingesting a nasty substance such as bleach.
What's more... if this stuff really worked then none of us on town water should get sick in the first place -- since all town supplies are chlorinated with a dilute form of this substance so we're getting a preventative dose every time we have a drink of water or a cuppa.
How sad it is that there are people out there who'd endanger the health and lives of others by charging the equivalent of $200 a litre for what is effectively common household bleach (available at your supermarket for about $80c a litre) and suggesting people drink it.
If the people I'd seen doing this were of sub-average IQ then I would consider it to be simply Darwinism at work... but these people aren't really that stupid in other aspects of their lives.
So what the hell is going on?
For what it's worth, a number of organisations, including the NZ AIDS foundation have issued warnings about MMS but some folk clearly choose not to listen -- much to the glee of the snake oil merchants.
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