Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Drug Culture"

We live in a drug culture. Setting aside all the illegal ones for the moment, there are advertisements everywhere--on movies, on TV, in magazines--for perfectly legal remedies to whatever ails you. Modern medicine has a pill to fix everything. Pharmaceuticals is a multibillion dollar industry, with constant research and development, scientists and doctors working to come up with more pills, more effective pills, better pills. We have over-the-counter medicines, doctor prescriptions, and highly-controlled substances that pharmacies keep in safes under lock and key.

The message in our society is clear: if there's something wrong, take a pill to fix yourself. Just don't take any of those 'evil' illegal drugs. Those are bad. Our drugs are good! Sure they are. As comedian Bill Maher once said, "they don't want you to not use drugs, they just want you to use their drugs; Prozac can't go up against marijuana--it will lose."

I saw a therapist once who didn't really buy in to the whole 'brain chemistry' thing. He liked to say that brain chemistry was easy to change. Do vigorous exercise for an hour or two and *BOOM* dopamine all over the place. I've read some very interesting research being done right now that the only reason pharmaceuticals work for psychological conditions is because people think they do. In the field, we call that the placebo effect. Personally, I tend to hedge my bets when it comes to this subject. I've known some people who really seem to be helped by being on medication. I've known some people I think need to be on medication. And I know that psychiatric drugs are vastly over-prescribed. My feelings are, if you think you need the help, and your doctor thinks you need the help, and it seems to help when you take them, then by all means take the meds.

My problem is with the bigger picture. The very culture we live in is all about finding something outside ourselves to 'fix' ourselves. Feel bad? Take a pill to feel better! We're all happy, happy, happy over here. But, oh, don't deal with your problems; don't look at what's actually upsetting you; don't address your own issues. We've got a fast-food solution, right here: it's a little pill to... fix you.

Thus implying that there's something wrong with you to begin with.

All day long, all our lives, we are told that we are supposed to be a certain way, feel a certain way, think certain thoughts. If we don't, then something is wrong with us and we need to be fixed. Children see adults take pills to fix themselves all the time, then they’re for some reason surprised to learn that their kids are all on drugs. But if you take a pill to make you happy, you aren't really happy. You haven't solved anything. Therefore, you need to keep on taking the pills. And that makes the pharmaceutical companies very happy. I mean, wealthy.

The real solution is to give up the fast food way of dealing with life. Real problems need real solutions. You have to do the deep work, face the hard truths, and move through them. We have issues to deal with, and some of us more so than others, but that's called being human.

We don't need to 'fix' ourselves--we're not broken, just human.

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