Buddhism and drugs?

I recently went through a bout of clinical depression, and it truly was hell. The doctor gave me antidepressents, and now simply put- I am happy.

But this scares me. Does this not necessitate that 'happiness' is merely a chemical in my brain? Happiness is the ultimate goal of Buddhism, does that not give the whole thing a somewhat hollow significance?

If happiness is a chemical, then surely chasing happiness just makes me a dopamine 'druggy' (or whatever the chemical is). Not chasing a state of mind, but rather a chemical release....

I'd be interested to hear what a practicing Buddhist might have to say about this.

8 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    As I understand, prescribed drugs used under a doctor's care is not contrary to any of the teachings of the Buddha. Understand, however, that it is only a temporary "solution" to the problem of clinical depression and I believe your doctor would agree. Hopefully, your doctor is providing counseling along with the medications. The reason for counseling is to assist you with the goal, hopefully, to wean you from the medications. Whether this may take a long period of time is determined by the type and level of depression and the advice of your doctor. Some people will need to continue taking medication for the rest of their life. For others, the medication is temporary. But, if true happiness could be found in a bottle then I'm sure we'd all be reaching for it.

    May all be at peace.


  • 1 decade ago

    To say that Buddhism has a goal is to misunderstand it. This or that being better or worse is a reflection of the dualistic mind. Happyness is the result, not the goal, of the Buddhas teachings.

    This isn't to say that you may not need your medication. Buddha tells us not to misuse substances to alter our lives, but the idea that one must obstain from everything is a misinterpretation. If you are suicidal without your medicine, it doesn't behove you to not take it. The Buddha talks about skillful means, and if that's what it takes for you to be able to get through your day, then it works out. Keep meditating and traveling the Way. Perhaps there will come a day when you no longer need them. Perhaps not. That isn't important, it'll just be another fact of life. It's not the destination, but the walk along the Path that is important.

    Happiness isn't a chemical. But what you feel when you feel Happiness is. Everything we do is a collection of atoms swapping electrons with each other. Is that what we are, or how we work? Science can describe every chemical process that goes into what we call a person, but will that explain that person? No, it will explain how chemicals interact. This is the same with Happiness. Do not chase happiness, as no one can be happy all the time. Realize what it is, and what that means. Dopamine is the method by which we are happy, but what makes dopamine? Reality, as we interact and share it causes the dopamine to be released. Is it a false happiness? Yes it is, but it may be necessary for a time to get you through this time and help you back to walking the Way.


  • srsly
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    First I thought your question might be an invitation.

    I would say that happiness is related to a chemical(s) in the brain but that chemical alone hasn't created the happiness.

    Enlightenment is more complicated than that and involves the whole mind and dissolving afflictions. The antidepressant is at hiding the afflictions.

    Seeing that afflictions can be overwhelming I think that meds are wonderful for helping us attain happiness when the odds are against us or when we've just had very rotten luck.

    I think they act as a band-aid when a band-aid is really really needed. Just like a band-aid, they can be taken off and a person can be as good as new if not better.

    Source(s): I got off the subject didn't I?
  • 1 decade ago

    Happiness is not the ultimate goal of Buddhism. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to end suffering. Happiness is an illusion, if you constantly pursue happiness or use drugs for the sole purpose of feeling happy, you are still caught in samsara, the net of abstractions. You are still clinging, and attachment only leads to suffering You just proved my point that happiness is an illusion. It is nothing more a series of chemical reactions in the brain, just like any other emotions. Also, there is a precept that a Buddhist should refrain from anything that may intoxicate the mind.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Enlightenment is most emphatically not a state of mind or a chemical in the brain. Your pills didn't make you enlightened. Your pills regulated certain neurotransmitters in your brain that were causing you to generate negative thought patterns. You feel happy now, which is wonderful, but it is not the same as the peace found through Buddhist practice.

    You might be interested in "The Zen Path Through Depression" by Philip Martin.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This has long been a problem I have had with the religious idea of achieving nirvana, or the perpetual bliss alleged to fill you in Heaven, or whatever.

    Nirvana/bliss/ecstacy is NOT the same thing as joy.

    Bliss is easily achieved - often through chemical means. It is a blank, dis-attached state, highly comforting to the individual experiencing it, but not productive for the rest of society.

    Joy, however, requires knowledge of pain. It requires life, living, and interaction with other people. It can be achieved even in the deepest depths of despair, in the midst of greatest physical or emotional pain, or amongst the most hellish conditions imaginable.

    Joy comes from within, and is the only thing that can give us true happiness and fulfillment.

  • 1 decade ago

    There are differing schools of thought on this. Some Buddhists will tell you that is breaking the tenet to not take any mind altering drugs. I don't think that tenet really applies to an actual physical ailment, such as depression, however. It merely means that you are not to take drugs or alcohol to avoid problems. I also take anti-depressant medication, and I know that it does affect my mind, but not in an intoxicating sort of way. It just balances what nature didn't quite get right. And who knows, maybe through meditation and mindfulness, I may one day be able to get off the drugs, but I would do so only with my doctor's assistance. Just a warning: Do not stop taking your medications without first discussing it with your doctor. They may want to wean you off of it, rather than suddenly dumping it altogether. Some medications have a risk of severe side effects if you just drop them suddenly, including suicidal thoughts.

  • Utopia
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    if your tried Jesus Christ you wouldn't need either-

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