I Want A New Drug

Huey Lewis and the News Identified This Problem Years Ago

The scriptures from this weekend proclaim, “The creatures of this world are wholesome and there is not a destructive drug among them.” (Wisdom 1:14) That’s a pretty bold and permissive statement. One which is certainly idealistic and bereft of any of the harms of alcoholism or rising opioid abuse.
I was shocked earlier in the month, after the tragic loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bordain when I read an article on Reuters that had the headline “Rise in U.S. suicides highlight need for new depression drugs.” It got me thinking, especially in light of the reading from the Book of Wisdom.

It seems odd that after a couple of millennia, the human condition, with its countless societies and cultures across the world, needs one more drug to be able to fix depression and suicide. In the article, there was no talk about environmental factors or breakdown of family systems or social networks as being causes for increased depression or even that maybe what is happening is that we as society are more openly talking about and treating depression even though it’s been part of the human experience for centuries. There wasn’t talk about a need for more counselling, better screening, or even religion as a source of hope. The article simply suggested that if we had more drugs we’d be better. We wouldn’t have to change anything else about us or our society to get well.

Before I write any further, I want to emphasize a sense of propriety in all this. There are good and solid reasons for the use of prescription drugs and anyone who has been prescribed them should follow their doctor’s orders for their consumption. There is no shame in the proper administration of drugs nor shame in the drugs themselves. The Catholic Church teaches that prescription drugs are in fact a compliment to good health. I am more than anything challenging the idea that drugs are the only answer in the pursuit of wellness.

The reading from the Book of Wisdom (where it says “there is not a destructive drug among them”) is a reaffirmation of the First Story of Creation in the book of Genesis. God created everything good. But this affirmation is a prelude to a tragic tale. While the world is good, our choices have brought us into the company of evil, where abuse, dissonance, and disintegration gnaw at us.

We need healing.

Which is why the Gospel reading brings greater context to the story. Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus instructing his family “Don’t worry, just have faith.” (Mark 5:36) It is through faith that Jesus heals.

But Is faith enough? Is faith better than a medical treatment? I have often wondered why “healing preachers” do their work in staged auditoriums rather than in hospitals. It seems that if they have a gift to heal, they should go to where the need is. Now, please don’t take my satirical stance as a rebuttal to faith. In fact, it is just the opposite. I believe in true faith and worry that false pretense before God gives Faith a bad name.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about what happens to your brain during experiences of deep prayer and contemplation. I have also been experiencing it firsthand. For myself, moments of deep prayer have had a far more enduring effect on my ability to relax than taking a drug whether alcohol, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc. I can almost feel the dopamine hit my brain when I am truly tuned to prayer. It has an effect of total alignment within me that is generative of deeper wellness.

There isn’t exactly a “healing miracle” when I pray but in another sense maybe there is. What happens feels like a restoration of my total self and that is pretty incredible. I worry that the business of endlessly outsourcing happiness and fulfilment to temporary fixes while not addressing what is at the core of our being is the bigger problem.

St. Augustine once said, “Each of us created with a hole inside us that only God can fill.” I think he’s right. Compare that to Huey Lewis who once sang the song, “I want a new drug… one that won’t make me nervous, wondering what to do. One that makes me feel like I feel when I’m with you.” I actually think St. Augustine and Huey Lewis are both onto something quite similar. What I really want is a drug that makes me feel like I feel when I’m united with God. Thankfully, all I have to do to feel that way is allow myself to recognize that God loves me and God is united with me right now.

The same gift awaits you.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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