By Ox Drover
The other night my son and I went to a rodeo with a a couple who are our friends to watch another friend ride in the rodeo roping contest.
My friend is currently somewhat “down in her back” and will be going to a neurosurgeon for treatment this coming week. When we got up to go to the concession stand she asked me to go over and talk to this man who was selling some “pain relief patches.” She wondered if they would help.
We walked toward the man’s stand, where he had a sophisticated electronic display up and pamphlets to hand out. He immediately started his spiel and he started with the bouncing four-month old border collie pup I was holding on the end of a leash. “Do you want me to calm that puppy down? Here, let me put these on her face.” He reached down and took a couple of peel-and-stick patches, one on each side of her face, which of course did nothing to calm down the bored pup who wanted off the leash to go sniff and smell all the new and exciting things.
Then he started working on selling my friend this “new and exciting, scientifically proven” patch that she could put even on top of her clothing and it was guaranteed by “double blind studies” to raise the level of some “hormone” in her blood that would fix her pain in no time!
She looked at me and said “What do you think about this?” Well, being a medical practitioner (retired) I do “believe in” the placebo effect helping some ailments, and I do believe in some “alternative” therapies which are being recognized in real-double blind studies as helpful for various things, but what I do not “believe in” is “snake-oil salesmen.”
First , even if applying these patches to the skin would “raise the level of X hormone” (one I had never heard of by the way) in your blood, where is the evidence that that hormone would relieve your pain, or that it was safe for you? I remember back when I was a child they would X-ray our feet when we bought a new pair of shoes to make sure they fit and didn’t warp our feet. Well, obviously they stopped that practice because there are definite negative side effects of X-rays, and using them to size shoes correctly isn’t enough of a benefit to offset the negative effects of too much radiation on a kid.
Secondly, I saw no way that these patches, applied over the clothing, could have any effect on the hormonal level of the body, of either dog, horse or human.
He was giving a rapid fire speech on how these patches would eliminate my friend’s pain from her severely pinched nerve (which will require surgery to correct and is scheduled for next week). I know my friend truly dreads the upcoming surgery (I’ve had that same surgery) and the associated pain from the surgery and the recovery, and she would love to grasp at any straw that she thought for even one second might give her some relief from the severe pain and disability she is having from the problem.
She looked over at me and I lip read her say, “What do you think?” I shook my head to indicate to her that I wasn’t buying a single thing he said as anything close to “scientific” or “double-blind” or pain relief. Then I turned to the salesman (one of the most pushy I have encountered) and said, “You know, if you are going to sell snake oil, you aren’t dressed properly, you need a black tuxedo and a top hat.”
The man was somewhat startled by my snotty remark, I think. He stopped in mid-sentence and said. “I resent that remark; I am offended.”
I replied, “Well, good, I actually intended to offend you.” His face looked almost like I had hit it with a bucket of cold water, because he was surely not expecting me to say this. I think he probably thought I would become defensive and say something like, “Oh, I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just joking.”
But I meant what I said. He was a “snake oil” salesman preying on people who are in pain, people who want an “easy answer” to their pain. To stop the pain they can’t control.
Psychopaths, just like this pushy salesman, seem to offer us this “guaranteed” and “proven easy way to fix our life’s pain.” They will offer us “surefire love” to make us feel better and immediately cure our loneliness. They will hold out to us the prospect of all our dreams of life coming true just like a fairy tale. There will be no pain in life, and they will take care of us.
Unfortunately, just like there is no peel-and-stick patch that you can put on your puppy to make it calm, or put on top of your clothing to cure your herniated disk pain, or no special cream that will get rid of your wrinkles and make you look 20 again, or a special pill that will let you eat all the junk food you want and still lose weight 15 pounds a week … there is no other person who can cure all your ills, make you happy, and keep you from being insecure or lonely.
Back when I was in family medical practice, people would come to me for diabetic teaching and many didn’t want to hear what I had to tell them, because there is no amount of medication, either oral or injectable, that can control diabetes and let you “eat what you want when you want it.” Caring for diabetes is a combination of diet and exercise at prescribed times in prescribed amounts, and/or medication. There is no easy way out. Yet, just today on a website I saw an advertisement for a web site that guaranteed to “cure diabetes in 30 days.” Gosh, I wonder why the American Diabetes Association doesn’t know about this remarkable “cure?” Maybe I should call them and inform them about it.
Psychopaths take advantage of our desires for an “easy fix” in selling us the modern day equivalents of “snake oil,” whether it is getting us to invest our money in their business schemes, or to buy patches for pain relief, or to give them our hearts and love. None of their plans work out for our benefit though.
So, bottom line, “if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.” BUYER BEWARE. Not all snake oil salesmen wear a top hat and black tuxedo!