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A question

If happiness is induced by prescribed pharmaceuticals, is it genuine happiness?

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
minnesattva
May. 8th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
Depends on what it takes to be genuine happiness.

I'm kind of reminded of those people who will try any "natural" "herbal" remedy or supplement or whatever. It must be okay if it's natural, right? Bah. Anthrax is natural. Extinction is natural, for that matter.

Not everything "natural" is good. So maybe the natural state of one's brain is not the best standard to hold it to. The brain is so fragile, there's so much that can go wrong with it so easily, that it shouldn't be surprising to consider that pretty much everyone's is off-kilter some of the time, to some degree.

Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how good food and cuddling and everything else we like doing makes us happy. Our physical and mental activities release hormones, fire signals between neurons, ferry chemicals from one part of the brain to another in a Rube-Goldberg situation that we can't entirely explain.

But sometimes we can tweak it a little anyway. Usually with the same chemicals that people get from good food and good sex and all that jazz. As far as I'm aware, the brain can't reall tell the difference between the chemicals that come from a nice meal and a good wine from the chemicals that come from a little pill.

I have no statistics on this, but I'm sure some people need the little pills just to get the normal amounts of enjoyment out of the food and sex and comfort of their lives. They start with a neurological handicap, in comparison to the neurotypical among us.

I hope they do not lose any sleep over their happiness being less genuine. If anything, they had to work harder for it and might see less of it and hopefully appreciate it all the more for these reasons.
patrick_vecchio
May. 8th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for taking the time needed to write such thoughtful comments. I especially like what preceded and followed your "Not everything 'natural' is good" line of thinking.
vivitalia
May. 8th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
God, I hope so. As minnesattva said, if happiness is really just the result of something so static as the firing of synapses and release of certain chemicals are certain times, then I don't see why inducing it through a pill containing those same chemicals or stimulating the same synapses would be false. Come to that, if happiness is really a scientific thing, just the body's response to a set of stimuli is it ever "real" as the poets and romantics among us would want to believe? For that matter, are we placing too much store on the difference between "genuine" versus "chemical" emotions if all emotions are created by chemicals in our brains in the first place? Maybe I'm getting a little too "Matrix" here, but I'm of the opinion that any happiness, by any means, is as real as you want it to be.
patrick_vecchio
May. 8th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Better living through chemistry, as it were. I like your take on the supposed distinction between "genuine vs. chemical emotions."
scuba_sham
May. 8th, 2008 09:42 pm (UTC)
I'd say it is, because there are times where the medication doesn't help at all and happiness is no where to be found.

Either way, being happy is good in my book.
patrick_vecchio
May. 8th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Get it while you can, as Ms. Joplin once sang.
mediastarr
May. 9th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
I'm convinced there's no such thing as happiness, genuine or otherwise.
patrick_vecchio
May. 9th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
Here's hoping something happens to change your mind.
mediastarr
May. 9th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
Not necessary, but thanks. I've discovered a long time ago that the pursuit of happiness isn't worth the effort. Surviving is more important to me than happiness.
nodressrehersal
May. 9th, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
Wow.
anthrojesus
May. 9th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
I refuse to take any medication unless treatment is necessary and there are no other options. A person shouldn't have to answer every problem through meds.

In that I acknowledge the need when it arises.
We take painkillers when injury and ache keeps us from daily function.
We suck on cough drops before a presentation to cut could-be interruptions.
We wear thicker coats when the weather gets colder...

If an individual can confidently and honestly inspect his/her life, discover no route to "happiness," and see how it hampers their development, then pharmaceuticals are well within bounds. It's just another means of combating a cruel world - not shameful reliance or a premature forfeit.

I think I wrapped up the moral and functional analysis of the issue in there somewhere...
patrick_vecchio
May. 9th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
Your third graf nutshells it, I think.
nodressrehersal
May. 9th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
I don't think of it as happiness induced by pharmaceuticals, I think of it as a path cleared by pharmaceuticals so happiness can exist, even thrive.

Interesting question, to be sure.
patrick_vecchio
May. 9th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
That's another interesting take on the question.

Here's what I'm wondering: Let's say someone can be happy without being "altered" by drugs, alcohol, meds, herbs, whatever. That's kind of like "Pepsi" happiness. Then there's someone who can't be happy without meds. Does that person reach "Pepsi" happiness, or is it "Coke" happiness? The same thing, but different, as Billy Glendinning used to say. And is the "Coke" happiness, being artificial, as it were, truly an authentic part of the person, or is it somehow artificial and false?

Of course, the overriding question here may be, What difference does it make?
vivitalia
May. 9th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
Interesting analogy. I'd say that there is no such thing as "pepsi" or "coke" happiness. I think it's more of a salad bar thing. It's all salad, but everyone's is a little bit different. Even though the happiness may be induced artificially, its existence, once brought into being, is as much a part of the person as, say, a resistance to allergens brought on by Benadryl or a lack of pain through aspirin. The means are irrelevant as long as the results are effective.
patrick_vecchio
May. 9th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
Salad, not soft drinks, eh? You're probably on to something.
nodressrehersal
May. 9th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
Well, first I'd like to say that, as a Coke drinker, I'm totally offended at the suggestion that the Coke happiness is deemed the artificial one in your example.

Seriously, though. I'm not sure it's fair to say that any happiness experienced can be considered artificial or false.

Happiness, joy, love... they all have varying degrees and certainly can't be measured on any definitive scale, since each person experiences them differently. The pure joy we, as gardeners, get from a day spent working in the soil is simply backbreaking labor to someone who doesn't enjoy gardening, and on and on the examples go.

I can still remember a day at the beach 25 years ago when we got high and slept on the beach and then watched the sunset. Did the dope make me happy, or was I truly happy? I don't know... it sure felt like happy to me.

If I take a muscle relaxant to relieve pain in my shoulders, my mind is freer to focus on other things, the pain becomes a background noise instead of a full frontal sensory assault. If I am able to experience happiness because my pain is blocked, is it less than the happiness I'd experience if the pain didn't exist in the first place? I don't think so.

Experiencing a few people while on and off their meds, I've got to say that the off times were scary, unsettling, unpleasant. And I honestly don't think that was the real, true "them" coming through. I think it was a glitch in the matrix taking over, and the meds helped right things around, not create a fake "them."

Does that make sense?
patrick_vecchio
May. 9th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm a Pepsi guy, so ...

As for your day at the beach 25 years ago, I always thought getting high just made you "more you," if that makes any sense. (That's "you" in the general sense, not the Jamie sense.) So if you were happy on the beach, you were happy, regardless of how enhanced the happiness may have been.

All these exchanges have helped me get a better perspective on the question. It's been interesting, reading what people have had to say.



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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