UPDATE: Medicate or Meditate?

Last week we told you about an article in the new issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly on how best to treat depression. The article talks about a new study that suggests trying to heal your depression with meditation alone can make the condition chronic and prone to relapse. Now you can read the article, Medicate or Meditate, online.

The article is written by four physicians who are also long-term meditators: Roger Walsh,  Robin Bitner, Bruce Victor and Lorena Hillman. They explain why both antidepressants and meditation have an important role to play in treating depression.

The article has generated a number of comments from readers. If you’d like to hear what others have to say or would like to share your own experience, click on Comments.


  1. says

    I can tell you that even as a monk of many years, Paxil saved my path and quite possibly my life. I still take a small bit every day and don’t find it interferes with meditation. Mental illness? That definitely interfered with meditation.

    And exactly as you suggest, in our temple’s experience, those who go off meds and try to “let Dharma take care of it” invariably get worse, sometimes deeply and dangerously so. It’d be like a diabetic dropping insulin with the thought that mantra will save them. Not likely.

  2. Jim Oleachea says

    thank you, Konchong. There is shame and guilt involved when one is confronted with a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disease. For some these deeply felt emotions are compounded when they find their meditation practice or Dharma doesn’t pull them around.

    To try to work one’s way through these types of insanity can be difficult enough with the proper medication. Without proper medication, there is no hope. This has been my experience.

    But I did just the opposite, I gave up the meditation. Now, I feel it’s time to get back to it.

  3. Paula says

    I strongly disagree with the advocacy of

    psychiatric pharmaceutical use over that of meditation. Personal promotion of such damaging and potent neurotoxins is just one of the unfortunate effects that they have on people. They actually cause chemical imbalances in the brain leading to many other adverse conditions. Even the example used on another comment compared this to diabetes, which can be

    treated quite successfully through diet and does not usually require pharmaceuticals, either. Ironically, psychiatric pharmaceuticals have been proven to CAUSE diabetes in otherwise healthy people. We need to remember that psychiatric pharmaceuticals got their genesis by the Nazi regime and their pharmaceutical industry and was further "legitimized" by their highly unethical and evil doctors. These synthetic chemicals actually cause suicide, homicide, put people into a trance state making them highly suggestible, lower IQ, cause psychotic breaks, make people more passive and easily managed by authority, disconnect us from our spiritual source, etc. One only has to look at what these poisons are doing to wildlife as they continuously seep into our beautiful natural world. It isn't that these industries pollute the environment alone and then treat human bodies with ethical modalities, no, human beings are being poisoned, too. Please everyone read Brave New World by Huxley and read Dr. Peter Breggin's many books dedicated to sparing people the misery of these dreadful toxins, just for starters. Who really benefits from these

    neurotoxins? Not you. The pharmaceutical industry, authoritarians, the orthodox medical establishment, etc.

    • Andre says

      Huxley also wrote a book called "island" they actually named a drug soma of all things. although drugs are over prescribed they are a practicality in the modern world and prolong life. prognosis diagnosis treatment and cure…. the four noble truths

  4. Christian says

    Dear Paula, what fucking planet are you from? When did the EPA discover Effexor and prozac seeping into the environment and harming wild life? you have provided no evidence that the combination of prescribed antidepressants and meditation is harmful to someone’s spiritual life.
    I also believe my life was saved as a result of a combination of effexor,sobriety, 12 step meetings,exercise,diet, and meditation.
    your paranoid rants obscure whatever logical point you may have been aiming for.

  5. Robert says

    I have read the article, and I think that it presents a knowledgeable and rational view of the range of treatments that can help treat depression.

    Untreated depression is potentially life-threatening, and needs to be taken seriously. Treatments should be approached with an open mind; there are no easy answers to dealing with clinical depression.

    Mindfulness and meditation are helpful elements of an overall treatment plan; by themselves they may not be enough to treat clinical depression. Other elements of a treatment plan can include:
    (1) Consultation with a family doctor who is familiar with depression (2) Therapy with a consellor who has experience in the area (3) Medication where appropriate.

  6. Robert says

    I encourage anyone who thinks that they may be experiencing an episode of depression to take a couple of small steps to seeking help. Break the silence, and speak with a loved one, family doctor or counsellor. Be kind to yourself during this difficult time; it may takes weeks to feel more like yourself.

    If a loved one is suffering from depression, your love and compassion will have a positive effect. Accompanying your loved one on the trip to a doctor’s appointment or counselling session can help them take a first difficult step. Approaching medication cautiously, but with an open mind may be necessary.

  7. says

    Paula — I’m only speaking for my experience. My chemicals seemed seriously imbalanced; my depression was a dark, relentless nightmare rendering the thought of practice simply laughable. I went through two meds. The one helped at first and then went weird. The second has helped every step of the way, rebalancing my chemicals, I guess. It’s not perfect. It caused some weight gain, and there are some unpleasant side effects if I don’t take it. But compared to the suicidal cul-de-sac where I slept 15 hours at a clip and hated everything and everybody? No comparison.

    I should say that it was a combination of meds, talk therapy, the kindness of my teachers and my practice that saw me through. The key on the former was finding good professionals.

    Maybe I should say also that I didn’t seek treatment for two years out of sheer pride, mixed with a little fear. I’m so over that and would urge that people seek treatment early.

  8. Chris says

    It would seem Paula is coming from the scientology perspective. I’ve heard the same argument in other places.


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