Anti-depressants are now the most commonly prescribed drug in America. They are prescribed more than drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, or headaches. Between 1998 and 2002, the use of antidepressants had risen 48%, and this trend has continued at an astounding rate. And this does not even include other similar forms of medicine that ward off anxiety, anger, and compulsive “disorders.”
Pretty soon, we are going to have a pill that will take care of every disorder and sin. Think about it. This is the way medicine is heading. And to be truthful, there is nothing more that I would like than a pill that would make me a better person. A better father, husband, and friend. Maybe a generosity pill. Yeah, that is it. Wake up each morning, take the pill, and, as a result, I am more kind, forgiving, and selfless…besides the fact that I am not depressed! Or how about one that suppresses antagonism and disbelief. It relaxes the part of the mind that has a tendency to be circumspect and critical. “Here, I am going to give you the Four Spiritual Laws, but take this pill first.” We could call it the “Billy Graham Pill.”
Wow! Complete sanctification, from beginning to end, in a bottle . . . literally.
Oh, and fellas, if there are problems in the romantic area and fulfilling 1 Cor. 7:3-5 (my all time favorite passage btw), we have the “little blue pill.” (Sorry women, no quick cure for you yet . . . Blast it!)
Wait…I am way ahead of myself. Slow down.
(NOTE TO SELF: Remember, Michael, this is a very sensitive subject. You are going to label yourself as a “Tom Cruise” right at the beginning. This is not where you are going. You are just trying to get a discussion started. Your end-game is unclear, even to yourself.)
Let me come clean. I don’t take any mood altering meds. I never have. I completely understand why people do. I am not against them (necessarily). So don’t go there . . . yet. My wife takes two types of pills for anxiety. They have helped. She is not so mean to me (!). My mother is on anti-depressants. Maybe that is why she does not recognize her pitiful condition and can smile from time to time. For this I am glad. My father takes them too. It may be the only reason he can face each day and not blame himself after losing his daughter and his wife. For this, as long as I don’t over think it, I am grateful.
Let me come cleaner. My sister Angie committed suicide after having been on Zoloft (and every other anti-depressant and anti-anxiety you can imagine).
There . . . Now let me continue with a story.
Kristie, my oldest sister (not my wife Kristie), has been experiencing depression off and on for the last few years (again, due to my other sister and mother). She went to her general practitioner (a Christian of the fundamentalist variety). During the check-up she told him that she had been experiencing some depression here and there and it was affecting her relationships with her husband and kids. Without any further consult, he arose and began to write out a prescription for Paxil saying, “Let’s make mommy happy.”
Alright. Lets get started…
Here is my initial proposition:
If Martin Luther had lived today, the Reformation may never have happened. Luther would have been diagnosed with four problems:
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): For this he would have taken Paroxetine. This would have helped him as he was compulsively obsessed with theology.
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OCC): For this he would have taken Ritalin. This would control his rebellion and kept him more compliant with the institutionalized church of the day. The result of the night and day at the Reichstag zu Worms in 1521would have resulted in his compliance and recanting.
- Anxiety Disorder. For this he would have taken Xanax. This would take care of those sleepless nights of anfechtung(a nightmare of the soul) concerning God’s wrath. No more need for him to adjust his theology and understand and experience God’s grace.
- Clinical Depression. For this he would have taken Zoloft. This would have prevented the concern of John Staupitz, Luther’s superior in the Augustinian order, who sent Luther off to study the New Testament as a solution to Luther’s depression. This, in turn, would have prevented Luther from coming to his epiphany while depressed (“on the toilet”) concerning Romans 1:17 and salvation by faith alone.
There, now we have a sterile Luther. Now we have a “happy” Luther. Now we have a “normal” Luther. Yet, we don’t have Luther. Without him, we don’t have a Reformation.
(I know, nothing can ward of the hand of God, not even Zoloft—I am a Calvinist after all. But I am looking at this from a human perspective and assessing our need to be responsibly critical in an area that most are ignoring.)
Enough for now.
Final questions: Is it possible that depression is often something that accomplishes the will of God more than being “happy”? Is it possible that anxiety is a tool God uses to help us recognize our need for him. Is it possible that giving kids meds to control their attention could be sterilizing their giftedness. Are we replacing the will, personal dedication, and comittment with little blue pills of absolution. Are we taking a preimptive strike on a God sent “dark night of the soul.” Could it be that our obsession with “normality” is keeping us from representing the image of God? Is it possible that these mind altering drugs are causing much more harm than good?
Wherever you are on the issue, it simply must be discussed. I believe it represents one of the greatest moral dilemmas that we are facing today, and, in my opinion, it is only going to get worse.