August 05, 2008

Smoke in the Water

Self distilledNicotine Water is giving me a headache. Not directly, since I have never tried it, but because of the sheer amount of rule-bending going on around it.

My general standpoint is that adult people should be allowed to consume whatever drugs they like if they have informed consent. Putting nicotine in water removes the secondhand smoke issue, definitely avoids the lung cancer and probably most of the other cancer risks, and even removes the unattractive aesthetics of snuff and snus. The volume makes abuse difficult. So I think the FDA were wrong when they banned it in 2002, just like a lot of other bans on smokeless nicotine products are excessive. Harm reduction tends to work better than zealous insistence on abstinence.

But the producers have found a way around the ban, or rather two ways. One silly, the other truly headache-inducing. Since the 4mg version now contains tobacco, it can be sold in the same manner as other tobacco products. It is no longer a drug, but just very dilute tobacco. The other one is a "homeopathic formulation" that contains less than half a milligram of nicotine, but through the magic of homeopathy (i.e. placebo) it is claimed to be 75% as effective.

Homeopathy is bunk, as demonstrated every day in every chemistry lab since the most common way of making dilute solutions is to dilute them - if homeopathy had worked the results from practically any experiment in biochemistry would have shown increasing efficacy for increasing dilution, which they don't. However, it is bunk that is widely believed and has regulator approval, which means that it is OK to sell homeopathic nicotine.

What I expect is that the FDA will claim the water is not dilute enough to be really homeopathic - it actually contains an active substance! (GlaxoSmithKline, a major manufacturer of anti-smoking aids, sent this letter to the FDA to warn them about the homeopathic gambit) At the same time I expect the homeopathic community also to attack it because it is not done in the right way (i.e. theirs), and besides they want to sell their anti-smoking products too. By the logic of homeopathy, a real homeopathic dilution of nicotine (which is in their pharmacopoeia already) would remove the effects of nicotine from the body - so they ought to think this is a great anti-smoking treatment. So they ought to argue that selling the water at a low dilution is false marketing, since it needs to be more dilute to get full effect.

What probably will get the company is the apparently scientific claim that it only releases 1/6th the amount of dopamine that would be normal for the dose. Maybe they have actually done the experiment, but it certainly sounds like out-of-context data.

The advertisements for NICLite water (a competitor) claims: "The procedure essentially scrubs and polishes the nicotine molecule leaving it more water miscible, palatable and less irritating to mucous membranes." AARGH! My head! Either the homepaths have invented picotech, or their marketing types are simply lying. "Our process produces an organic nicotine molecule..." OK, normal nicotine C10H14N2 apparently doesn't contain carbon. The stupidity burns - and the worst thing is that they think everybody else is more stupid than them.

Actually, I wonder if believers in homeopathy thinks it is possible to make recreational drugs using their method. According to Hahnemann's law of similarity we should take a substance that would produce symptoms of what we want to "cure". So let's take something that makes us drowsy, like valeriana. Then dilute it a large number of times with intermediary shaking, and - voila! - you get a powerful stimulant. Great news for any would-be drug pusher: it is cheap, undetectable and safe. But no doubt the believers will just shake their heads and claim their remedies can only restore balance. Which would imply that they are totally useless as enhancers, and that taking the entire homeopathic pharmacopoeia ought to make you extremely healthy. I wonder how many athletes in Beijing who are on homeopathic doping?

Posted by Anders3 at August 5, 2008 03:49 PM