Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Post by InfiniteSummer » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:08 am

My experience...
I take an anti-depressant and mood stabilizer & have been on this regimen for the last two years. When I first started, it felt like night and day. The meds lifted me out of the apathetic gloomy haze of depression I'd been stuck in for over a decade. It's kept the depression at bay and I'm very grateful that I found the right cocktail for me. If I get lazy with my regimen, my mood dips within a few days and I start to see the effects in my daily life.

In the time that I've been medicated, I've purged my life of unhealthy relationships, got in a 12-step program which rejuvenated me spiritually, started really working deeply with my therapist, got a job that I like quite a bit & got promoted, sat two 10-day courses, and committed myself to The Path. More or less in that order.

I may have gotten to this point eventually but there's little doubt in my mind that it would have taken a lot longer. And that I might have been dead before it happened. No exaggeration.

At my last retreat, I got severe anxiety during deep meditation and my AT prescribed a meditation technique and sent me to my room. It worked and staved off a panic attack which is great because I'd left my anti-anxiety meds at home. :tongue:
Anyway she later told me to take prescribed meds if I needed to because that is what they were prescribed for. No big deal and it doesn't reflect on my discipline.

So here's my take on this debate. If medication is taken with the right volition (vs. abusing medication for instance) and if it aids in developing dhamma and one's practice, it is all good.

IMHO, the beauty of Dhamma is its universality. Sila is universal, samadhi is universal, panna is universal; all three are no-brainers if one is aware. Dhamma is grounded in practicality, not in dogma.

So the middle path may be to do what you need to do in order to develop in Dhamma. True, a fully enlightened being wouldn't be rocked by psychosomatic stuffs but in my case it's a long walk before I hit that point. Along the way, I'm going to use whatever tools I have been gracefully given (including 12-step, meditation, and therapy) to get there.

There may be a day when I can feel this normal without my meds but if I'm in it for life, that's cool too. They help me stay balanced so I can focus on my top priorities. Helps me cultivate samadhi, check. Keeps energy/life/connectedness-sucking depression at bay, check. Allows me to get out of bed so I can meditate and go to work, check. Makes me a non-liability for ten-day retreats, check. That can't be a bad thing.

As for the pain-killer thing, is the loving action to give balm to a feverish child / AIDS or cancer patient / someone suffering severe pain? Or to tell them to observe bodily sensation and detach?

Maybe the most loving thing would be to leave the choice to them. This applies to anyone who has chosen to take refuge in Buddha as well.

Just my two cents.

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Post by ChrisN82 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:43 pm

I am sort of new to buddhism and thinking about it, but most of it appeals to me greatly.

I had wondered about painkillers, and have read this thread and found it very interesting.

I have hurt my back, which is extremely painful and I don't think it is caused by bad karma but rather by a lot of bending and heavy lifting at work.

I have been given co-codamol by my doctor and have been told to take it for the next 6 weeks or so until I get a physio to hopefully sort it.
I am also on light duties.

I am a bit dubious about taking it because :-

1. Pain is there for a reason, If I am feeling it at work then I am probably doing something which will make my back worse and should stop it. If I wasn't feeling the pain then I would not be aware of this.

2. It s an opiate and makes me a bit spaced out, This seems to be against the Buddha's teachings because it stops the mind being clear.

Although there have been a few occasions where the pain has made me feel very nauseous, also I have a family to support and so I need to be able to do my job. If I am off sick I do not get paid and cannot support my family.

Also, If I lost my job. I would be on benefits and other people would have to work to support me. Which would not be fair on them.

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Post by philosopher » Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:18 am

Hi everyone,

I did not completely read all the replies, but only skimmed them, so please excuse me if I am repeating something that's already been said before.

I've not done any formal study of the scriptures, but intuitively I feel that our mutual goal is to reduce our suffering. With that in mind, I think it can be fruitful to try to learn to "hold" physical or emotional pain and notice it as a part of life, transitory sensations that come and go. That being said, I believe that we have varying degrees of tolerance for pain at different moments and stages of our lives. If the pain - emotional or physical - is leading to despair which gets in the way of continuing with one's practice (whatever that entails - formal meditation, reading, etc) then it seems to me it would be more effective to take the minimum effective dose and "strive on," as heedfully as possible. :)

I have struggled with severe physical pain and mood disorders my entire life, but I have resisted taking antidepressants in favor of observing how diet, exercise, sleep, the environment, etc affects my moods, as well as going through psychotherapy which I have found to be incredible helpful, especially if you work with a therapist who uses a method based on acceptance, such as dialectical behavior therapy (which is based on many Zen principles) or good psychoanalytic work. For my physical pain, I occasionally use painkillers if the pain is becoming "overwhelming" (subjectively, of course) and I have exhausted all my other strategies for enduring it. I try to be as mindful as possible during the process of deciding to take something, being under the influence of it, and the after effects.


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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Post by jonno » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:37 am

Hi all. Just a few thoughts.on antidepressants.not all depression/mental illness is caused by our actions, many are the result of chemical imbalances ,not caused by diet,karma etc but by the body either underproducing or overproducing certain chemicals,hormones etc.medications can in certain illnesses eg bipolar disorder , psychoses , and depression restore the correct balance. Ok it can be argued that our actions can have negative results for ourselves and others, but when you are depressed or in a state of severe anxiety you are in no fit state to practice therefore the medications can help to alleviate the symptoms so that you are in a fit state.

Likewise in physical illness,there are many factors which lead to illness and most are outside of our control, and have little to do with diet,excercise ,or our mental/spiritual state, but may be from infections, genetics etc. denying medications or treatments only adds to suffering.In my voluntary work in a hospice I encounter many beautiful beings who through no fault of their own are suffering, so anything which relieves that suffering,is an act of compassion and love. Jonno

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Post by corrine » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:38 pm

Sometimes pain is caused by environmental issues. The library where I work is full of book dust. I am allergic to book dust. I have three choices - I can not work there, I can take allergy pills every day to try to avoid the headache that results from the dust, or I can take an aspirin when the headache becomes so bad that I can no longer function. I chose the third way because working at the library allows me to make a real contribution to my community. I do not like to take pills every day, so instead of allergy pills I chose to take the aspirin when necessary to keep on working.

Pain can kill you. Yes, it absolutely can. My late husband was treated for a stage four cancer for ten years. He survived but went through all treatments from radiation to chemo and surgery. He avoided pain killers at all costs but occasionally had to use them. I spent a lot of time on the cancer ward and there were patients screaming from pain. Often bone cancer patients. They were allowed only so much pain medication because of legal obstacles. So they would scream until they passed out. In my humble opinion, this is a barbaric way to treat patients. Cancers can develop from environmental poisons that have nothing to do with one's own choices. Until recently, every where I went, people smoked. So I was exposed to that poison for years. Still in many states, waitresses are exposed to second hand smoke. One must make a living so the individual is often exposed to things that one would avoid if possible. Factories often have poisonous atmospheres but we have to work.

I think it is more a matter of using reason (the middle way) and using medications only when absolutely necessary. A friend of mine spent a life living in a dark room until he finally agreed to take anti-depressants. They changed his life. He had tried everything else but ended up non functional. For him, the medication was necessary as the issue was physical. He had been that way from childhood.

Common sense should come into play when deciding what to take and problems that can be helped by modifying one's life style. But medication is not always self indulgence. Sometimes it makes the difference between living a life and just existing.

corrine :)

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