In a N.Y. Times opinion piece titled “Diagnosis: Human” ethicist Ted Gup points out how pharmaceutical companies and medical providers collude with our human tendency to look for quick fixes and easy answers to life’s messiness.

The author takes responsibility for his own culpability in the tragic death of his son: “I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable.”

He goes on to point out a number of the ways that human experiences–like the  “excessive” energy of little boys or the grief of a broken heart–get pathologized, then medicated, rather than worked through as expected parts of the developmental cycle.

In earlier times, spirituality was the remedy for troubled souls. Prayer, meditation, and other practices were the “medication” people used to regulate the dissonant energies of life. Today, with increasing interest in holistic approaches to healing, studies indicate that mediation can be as effective as medication for a number of mental and physical symptoms.

Certainly for some folks, like those I wrote about in my blog yesterday, medications are essential for stability and functioning. But for many, like the author’s son who died at 21 from abuse of alcohol and drugs, learned dependence on medications may do more harm than good.