Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Radman622 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:59 pm

Since Buddhism teaches that all pain and suffering is a result of Karma, I had an interesting thought about the use of medications designed to lessen or eliminate bodily pain. Obviously Buddha does not teach that you should not take medicine that will help you to recover from a sickness, this would be in violation of the Middle Way he taught. The Buddha himself became sick and accepted medicines to recover.

However, medicines which are not required in order to recover from sickness, but only so that one can experience comfort and not have to confront the suffering caused by the symptoms of an ailment - whether it be a headache, or a muscle pain... I am wondering if from a certain perspective, one might see this as trying to "dodge Karma" by diminishing or not experiencing the pain. If perhaps, you are trading the Karmic consequence of the headache or what have you for a different consequence, and in so doing, "delaying" bad Karma.

A similar perspective could be taken on anti-depressants, that the reason the person is depressed is because they have not followed the Dharma, and that instead of relieving their suffering, the drug will only create new suffering, or displace the Karmic consequences of their actions elsewhere.

I am not an authority on Buddhism, just a curious learner trying to gather a variety of perspectives and thoughts, so feel free to point out any case in which I am wrong. :)

:namaste: -Conrad
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:15 pm

The pain killers question is an interesting one. I'll let the debate unfold to see where it goes.

However, regarding depression, depression is not just sadness. It's also, among other things, a behavioural change where it's very easy to be heedless, due to lack of will power. So, anti-depressants should not be put on the same level as pain killers.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Radman622 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:26 pm

Radman622 wrote:...Buddha does not teach that you should not take medicine that will help you to recover from a sickness, this would be in violation of the Middle Way he taught. The Buddha himself became sick and accepted medicines to recover...


I suppose this ^ could be applied with reference to anti-depressants, if one takes into consideration that depression is at least as much chemical and/or psychological as emotional, and could be regarded as a "sickness." However, it is also true that depression is never in and of itself life-threatening, only the actions which can proceed from it, such a suicide, self-mutilation, etc. So one might argue that the depression is most likely a result of desire, and that a drug to treat it is only addressing the symptoms of the suffering that results from desire, and not addressing the underlying cause as the Buddhadharma does.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:33 pm

Radman622 wrote:Since Buddhism teaches that all pain and suffering is a result of Karma, I had an interesting thought about the use of medications designed to lessen or eliminate bodily pain. Obviously Buddha does not teach that you should not take medicine that will help you to recover from a sickness, this would be in violation of the Middle Way he taught. The Buddha himself became sick and accepted medicines to recover.

All suffering is a result of the akusala-mūla, the three unwholesome roots of greed, hatred, and delusion. Pain or discomfort may be caused by other things, but the suffering itself only arises with the indulgence of an unwholesome mindstate.

The five Niyama, or processes, which control the universe are:

1. Kamma Niyama, order of act and result, e.g., desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results.
2. Utu Niyama, physical (inorganic) order, e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains.
3. Bija Niyama, order of germs or seeds (physical organic order); e.g., rice produced from rice-seed, sugary taste from sugar cane or honey etc. The scientific theory of cells and genes may be ascribed to this order.
4. Citta Niyama, order of mind or psychic law, e.g., processes of consciousness (Citta vithi), power of mind etc.
5. Dhamma Niyama, order of the norm, e.g., the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisatta in his last birth, gravitation, etc.

As you can see, kamma is only responsible for some things; diseases or other painful bodily phenomena can indeed be caused by past actions, but they can also be chalked up to seasonal effects, hereditary disorders, poor diet, etc.

Kamma is important but it is not the root of all possible pains. So I would encourage taking all possible medication or other preventative measures in order to stave off diseases caused by the other four Niyamas; after all, if you are due to suffer from a kammic misdeed, then a pill isn't going to stop the working of the universe.

Antidepressants are much the same way, although I would encourage those who suffer from depression to augment any chemical approach with an equally attended-to spiritual approach. I take a small antidepressant but I know that the real power player, so to speak, in my mental health is not Prozac but meditation :)
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
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Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Radman622 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:41 pm

See, this seems to me to be a more reasonable and moderate approach akin to the spirit of The Middle Way. Is there anyone who disagrees?

I had always heard and seen it as "Karma" but it "Kamma" a more widely accepted form, or does it not really matter? I also noted "Nirvana" represented as "Nibanna" in the forum. Is this difference linguistic, sectarian, or simply a matter of preference?

Sorry for the quick off-topic question. ^
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:54 pm

Radman622 wrote:See, this seems to me to be a more reasonable and moderate approach akin to the spirit of The Middle Way. Is there anyone who disagrees?

I had always heard and seen it as "Karma" but it "Kamma" a more widely accepted form, or does it not really matter? I also noted "Nirvana" represented as "Nibanna" in the forum. Is this difference linguistic, sectarian, or simply a matter of preference?

Sorry for the quick off-topic question. ^

Karma, Nirvana, Dharma, Sutra, Bodhisattva, etc. are all Sanskrit translations of the original Pali terms Kamma, Nibbana, Dhamma, Sutta, and Bodhisatta, etc.

Pali is the liturgical/historical language that the earliest Buddhist scriptures are recorded in. Theravada Buddhists tend to use it while Mahayana Buddhists usually go for the Sanskrit. You can usually tell if a person or organization is one or the other depending on which language they use, but it's not like a point of contention.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:06 pm

Radman622 wrote:Since Buddhism teaches that all pain and suffering is a result of Karma, I had an interesting thought about the use of medications designed to lessen or eliminate bodily pain. Obviously Buddha does not teach that you should not take medicine that will help you to recover from a sickness, this would be in violation of the Middle Way he taught. The Buddha himself became sick and accepted medicines to recover.

However, medicines which are not required in order to recover from sickness, but only so that one can experience comfort and not have to confront the suffering caused by the symptoms of an ailment - whether it be a headache, or a muscle pain... I am wondering if from a certain perspective, one might see this as trying to "dodge Karma" by diminishing or not experiencing the pain. If perhaps, you are trading the Karmic consequence of the headache or what have you for a different consequence, and in so doing, "delaying" bad Karma.

A similar perspective could be taken on anti-depressants, that the reason the person is depressed is because they have not followed the Dharma, and that instead of relieving their suffering, the drug will only create new suffering, or displace the Karmic consequences of their actions elsewhere.

I am not an authority on Buddhism, just a curious learner trying to gather a variety of perspectives and thoughts, so feel free to point out any case in which I am wrong. :)

:namaste: -Conrad


Interesting.

I don't take painkillers when I have a headache or muscle pain....however, for other reasons...

Pain killers have side effects .
They are always more work for the liver and kidneys.

Pain however, is telling me that I made a mistake in my life style like too much stress, not enough to drink, etc.

So I don't want to turn off the warning bells, but listen to them, and respect the message.

Karma:

Of course sickliness can be a part of karma.

Often it is also an indicator that we making mistakes right now!

And we can stop making them! A quick fix won'r solve the root problem, it veils it.

Of course if it's really bad pain from severe illnesses, tooth ache or an injury, absolitely yes, medication.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Radman622 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:35 pm

Well, for that reason, and because one of the ingredients in many pills is Gelatin, which I find to be in contradiction with my vegetarian ethics, I have decided to avoid painkillers and unnecessarily over-the-counter medication whenever possible.

I think you make an important point about how pain exists for a reason! When a child places their hand on a lit stove burner, they feel pain and pull their hand away by instinct. Apart from a mental handicap, you can be sure that child will not touch a hot stove again. Even though in that moment, they did not like the pain, it was very important for that pain to exist to warn them about the bodily dangers of excessive heat. In the same way, other pains may be messages from our bodies about how to adjust our lifestyle for greater health.

Oh yes, I did not mean to imply that someone in severe pain or undergoing a medical operation of any kind should refuse pain medication or any medication prescribed by a licensed physician. I believe that this would not be in keeping with the Buddha's teaching of the Middle Way.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:09 pm

Radman622 wrote:
Radman622 wrote:...Buddha does not teach that you should not take medicine that will help you to recover from a sickness, this would be in violation of the Middle Way he taught. The Buddha himself became sick and accepted medicines to recover...


I suppose this ^ could be applied with reference to anti-depressants, if one takes into consideration that depression is at least as much chemical and/or psychological as emotional, and could be regarded as a "sickness." However, it is also true that depression is never in and of itself life-threatening, only the actions which can proceed from it, such a suicide, self-mutilation, etc. So one might argue that the depression is most likely a result of desire, and that a drug to treat it is only addressing the symptoms of the suffering that results from desire, and not addressing the underlying cause as the Buddhadharma does.


What keeps you away from practice with antidepressants? On the contrary. Taking antidepressants alows someone with depression to have more energy to practice.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:28 pm

It's interesting that there seems to be a level of pain we find tolerable or acceptable, where we won't take ameliorative medications--we tough it out--but when we cross a certain threshold we will. This threshold varies from person to person I imagine. My grandfather died from a painful form of cancer, yet he refused painkillers, because he said he wanted to meet Jesus with a clear mind. Furthermore, he remained pleasant and grateful to everyone who helped him to the very end. I remember him giving a piece of candy to a nurse's aide who brought him a glass of juice.

We never know what we'll do in a situation until we're in it, but I wonder if I had the same or similar condition if I'd have the will power to refuse painkillers. I suspect I'd hit the morphine pump as often as I could.

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Maarten » Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:41 pm

In my view getting I'll is the result of bad kamma, and being fortunate enough to have medicine available is good kamma. Refraining from taking the medicine could be good / bad kamma depending on the results.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:54 pm

Interesting replies, for sure...

I once had 2 teeth pulled and a piece of jawbone cut out, to get at the root of one of them...I was given lots of painkillers and was supposed to return the next day.

The operation was between 2 and 3 pm and the anestetic stopped around around 9 pm at which time I was in unspeakable pain, but a close, spiritual friend called and talked to me and told me to breathe a certain way and to listen intently and so I did.

I can't remember what he told me, only, that I slowly emerged from the panic of pain and calmed down and accepted that there is pain now, and that it shall pass, and after 30 minutes, I felt it going away. I waited a bit to make sure ...and then said; "It stops...

I listened some more, then I felt sleep coming ....and went to sleep at 10 pm and had a painless night...

the next morning the dentist looked at me very concerned and compassionate and asked if it had been very bad....and I said that I was in pain for 30 minutes and then it stopped, without painkillers....he could hardly believe it.

The only medication I took was Rescue Remedy drops by Dr. Bach. And shepherds purse tea to stop the bleeding...

It was very surprising for me it worked out this way and I don't know if it would work this way again...
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:58 pm

Bubbabuddhist, I am impressed by your grandfather.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Radman622 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:51 pm

Annapurna wrote:...I once had 2 teeth pulled and a piece of jawbone cut out.. the next morning the dentist looked at me very concerned and compassionate and asked if it had been very bad....and I said that I was in pain for 30 minutes and then it stopped, without painkillers....he could hardly believe it.

The only medication I took was Rescue Remedy drops by Dr. Bach. And shepherds purse tea to stop the bleeding...

It was very surprising for me it worked out this way and I don't know if it would work this way again...


It is interesting, the idea of homeopathic medicines, meditation, and willpower to treat pain... I'm sure for most it would depend on the level of pain.

BubbaBuddhist wrote:It's interesting that there seems to be a level of pain we find tolerable or acceptable, where we won't take ameliorative medications--we tough it out--but when we cross a certain threshold we will. This threshold varies from person to person I imagine. My grandfather died from a painful form of cancer, yet he refused painkillers, because he said he wanted to meet Jesus with a clear mind. Furthermore, he remained pleasant and grateful to everyone who helped him to the very end. I remember him giving a piece of candy to a nurse's aide who brought him a glass of juice.

We never know what we'll do in a situation until we're in it, but I wonder if I had the same or similar condition if I'd have the will power to refuse painkillers. I suspect I'd hit the morphine pump as often as I could.

BB


Please be assured I mean no disrespect to your departed grandfather, this certainly sounds courageous, and no doubt took unfathomable willpower and conviction, but I also must wonder about the ethics of choosing to experience significantly more pain than one must... One might compare it to a form of masochism. :\
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Annapurna » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:54 am

Radman622 wrote:
Annapurna wrote:...I once had 2 teeth pulled and a piece of jawbone cut out.. the next morning the dentist looked at me very concerned and compassionate and asked if it had been very bad....and I said that I was in pain for 30 minutes and then it stopped, without painkillers....he could hardly believe it.

The only medication I took was Rescue Remedy drops by Dr. Bach. And shepherds purse tea to stop the bleeding...

It was very surprising for me it worked out this way and I don't know if it would work this way again...


It is interesting, the idea of homeopathic medicines, meditation, and willpower to treat pain... I'm sure for most it would depend on the level of pain.




Yes, it is interesting, but allow me a small correction; Bach flower remedies are not homeopathy. But I am sure I later took homeopathy as well, to help the healing process.

I'm sure for most it would depend on the level of pain.


Yes, and I think having gotten a piece of bone sawed out is extremely painful to most of us civilized folks, but I think if you are used to passing through headaches etc without painkillers, you will probably develop a higher pain tolerance, quite like indigenous people, who also don't use any.

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby theY » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:30 am

At risk.

Although, this case may be right on precept, but when you use the drug, you may lose your consciousness.

Consciousness losing is dangerous.

We should control our eating folow to Nutrition facts label to avoid hypertension, etc., except: accident case.

In thailand, we should eat rice 8-12 ladles per day, 6-10 spoons of fat-less meat, etc.

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:45 am

Nurse to Patient: So, you are in some pain?
Patient: I can't sleep. The pain in my spine [from cancer metastasis] is excruciating.
N: Well, it is your karma, most likely. Somewhere along the line you acted rather badly and now you are paying the price. I would recommend that for your own good that you just bear it. You'll be better off in your next life for it.
P: What the hell is the matter with you. I AM HAVING PAIN!!! GIVE ME SOMEYTHING FOR IT!!!
N: I could do that, but I'd be doing you no favor whatsoever, and I certainly do not want to pay the price for that action.
P: YOU CRAZY SON OF A BITCH!!! GIVE ME SOMETHING NOW!!! THIS PAIN IS KILLING ME!!!!
N: If you insist, but I cannot take responsibility for your action here. You have a choice, after all, to burn off, as it were, some very bad karma.
P: Shut your godamned face and go get the pain medication. And you can be sure that you superiors will find out about this.
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Radman622 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:58 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Nurse to Patient: So, you are in some pain?
Patient: I can't sleep. The pain in my spine [from cancer metastasis] is excruciating.
N: Well, it is your karma, most likely. Somewhere along the line you acted rather badly and now you are paying the price. I would recommend that for your own good that you just bear it. You'll be better off in your next life for it.
P: What the hell is the matter with you. I AM HAVING PAIN!!! GIVE ME SOMEYTHING FOR IT!!!
N: I could do that, but I'd be doing you no favor whatsoever, and I certainly do not want to pay the price for that action.
P: YOU CRAZY SON OF A BITCH!!! GIVE ME SOMETHING NOW!!! THIS PAIN IS KILLING ME!!!!
N: If you insist, but I cannot take responsibility for your action here. You have a choice, after all, to burn off, as it were, some very bad karma.
P: Shut your godamned face and go get the pain medication. And you can be sure that you superiors will find out about this.


It is an interesting thought, but as I said, I am not suggesting that someone should consider themselves obligated to refuse pain medication prescribed by a doctor when facing serious medical issues. If that were the case, you could extend the argument to accepting medicines and treatments at all, - (i.e. allowing the disease to "run its course" is just accepting your bad Karma.) As I pointed out before, the Buddha became sick and accepted medicines after his enlightenment.

In addition, to suggest that a healthcare professional would or should present the idea in this light to someone who may or may not have Buddhist ideals or ethics stretches the premise of the question a great deal since it was originally a question of personal choice and discipline, not of forcing others to adhere to your perspective and beliefs.

Additionally, one might argue that the doctor or nurse administering the pain medication as in the case of cancer metastasis, or another serious ailment, is doing so out of compassion and the desire to alleviate suffering, and therefore the action is at the least, Karmically neutral, if not good.

I am aware your example was in a somewhat tongue in cheek tone, but I don't think it was true to the original premise behind the question.

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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby Annapurna » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:19 pm

Conrad, you might be interested in the following anecdote from my Dad's practice as a country doc who did house calls.

Cancer pain can be excrutiating, and woe to the one who didn't have a doc back then who would give you enough morphine.
My father always did, and taught the spouses how to inject, so he wouldn't have to go there every day a few times.

One day, one of his colleagues harshly criticised him, that he'd be creating "morphine addicts", by allowing them to self apply as much as they needed (to be painfree, mind you)

My father replied:

"Who gives a damn if he's an addict, if he's dead in 2 weeks anyhow...???

I am sure you won't find him loitering near your morphine stocks, take my word for it! He wants to die in dignity, not a high."

This other doc denied enough morphine, for said reasons.

My Dad would get totally upset over him too.

He was one of the first who fought with hospitals over enough morphine for his patients if they had to be hospitalized.

People were so thankful. :smile:
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Re: Interesting Thought - Painkillers? Anti-depressants?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:43 pm

Hi Conrad,
Radman622 wrote: I am wondering if from a certain perspective, one might see this as trying to "dodge Karma" by diminishing or not experiencing the pain. If perhaps, you are trading the Karmic consequence of the headache or what have you for a different consequence, and in so doing, "delaying" bad Karma.

As far as I understand it, Theravada see no gain from "taking the consequences of kamma (karma)". There is no concept of "burning up bad kamma" --- that you can "trade" one bad consequence for another.

Some Mahayana teachers seem to suggest that one has to "burn up karma", or "purify karma" but I'm not sure what that means. You'd have to ask on dharmawheel.

:anjali:
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