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Why are antidepressants “bad”?

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“Why are antidepressants ‘bad’? Why are so many Adventists against them? My friend was diagnosed with depression, but her dad threw away her prescription pills from the doctor.”–Worried Friend, NE


Shayna Answers:

Dear Worried Friend,

As we’ve discussed in other columns, depression is a real medical condition and can be a serious one. It’s not always viewed as such, because not everybody understands psychiatric illness. There’s still a social stigma attached to mental healthcare.

Hearing that your child is suffering from any illness, let alone depression, can be unsettling. I imagine this influenced the reaction of your friend’s dad.

The absolute worst thing for him to be doing in this situation, though, is throwing away the prescribed medication! By giving a doctor inaccurate information about your friend’s treatment, he is seriously compromising her medical care.

Worse, because antidepressants must be taken consistently and then gradually ended, your friend is probably experiencing some uncomfortable side effects and feeling worse than if she would’ve been able to stop taking the antidepressants under her doctor’s care.

Some Adventists erroneously believe that depression is a result of a weakened spiritual relationship. This is why they consider antidepressants “bad.” However, you’d be surprised at the number of believers in the church (myself included) that have had very successful recoveries from depression as a result of taking prescribed antidepressants.

When it comes to taking any drug, Adventists usually prefer natural methods that give the body the ability to heal itself. Because depression affects spiritual, emotional, and physical functioning, though, it can be very difficult to get better without the assistance of modern medicine.

Taking antibiotics, aspirin, or in this case, antidepressants, should never be viewed as being weak, failing God, or sinning. God does heal illness, but it doesn’t mean that He always has to supercede natural law to do it.

Unlike herbs, prescription drugs are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration to determine exactly how much of an active ingredient you are taking. On prescription drugs there is also more clinical research done, which tells us side effects and effectiveness. For both reasons modern medications can actually be safer than self-treatments.

You need to encourage your friend to talk to her doctor with her parents present. Most physicians are willing to respect the spiritual beliefs of their patients. So even if your friend’s doctor is not Adventist, he or she can discuss alternative treatment options.

The doctor will also be able to answer the questions that probably caused your friend’s dad to throw away her medication. Without being honest, though, the doctor has little ability to help your friend get better.

The Bible calls us to be discerning (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Proverbs 10:13), meaning we always need to be responsible patients and consumers. We also need to be realistic about the expectations that God has for us.

By asking questions, getting second opinions, and eventually making informed decisions about our health, we are honoring God as much as we do when we live temperate, healthy lifestyles.

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