Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Depressing Research

10% of Americans (27 million people) are on antidepressants, a number that doubled in the decade from 1996-2005. Before I comment further, please take the following quiz, answering the statements TRUE or FALSE:

1) Those who took Flintstone Vitamins as a child are more likely to get a divorce than those who did not.
2) Foot size is directly correlated to knowledge, i.e., the bigger the foot you have, the smarter you are.
3) Those who ate oatmeal growing up are more likely to develop cancer this year than those who grew up on Frosted Flakes.

If you are like me, at first glance you say "False, because vitamins, foot size, and Frosted Flakes have nothing to do with divorce, knowledge, or cancer avoidance." Yet the fact of the matter is they are all "True" - in a certain sense. How?

1) Since Flintstone Vitamins were first marketed in 1960, anyone taking them as a child would be 50 years or younger. Since that age group is more likely to divorce than older people - you get the idea.
2) This one's easy. Adults generally have bigger feet, and also more knowledge, than babies and children. So if the population for this study was all ages, then this statement holds.
3) This is similar to the first one. Frosted Flakes did not come out until 1952, meaning if you ate them as a child you are under 60. People who are over 60, and probably ate oatmeal growing up, are also more likely to get cancer than younger people than under 60.

This little quiz would be funny if it were not being used to demonstrate a matter of urgent and eternal importance. It was drawn from a book called America Fooled: The Truth about Antidepressants. This quiz, a bit longer than the three statements I gave you, is used in the book to illustrate how correlation studies can be used to create faulty conclusions. The book then demonstrates how pharmaceutical companies are funding research on antidepressant and anti-psychotic medication that, at its heart, has all the integrity of the above quiz. Dr. Scott, who authored the book, is not alone in warning us about the dangers of these drugs - at least thirty other books are documenting similar concerns.

What is urgent and eternal about this? I have seen these medications destroy the mind and increasingly the body of my own mother. Two blocks from my study at the church I weekly see the people - their numb, mask-like faces revealing their empty hearts - going into the psychiatric clinic to sit in a waiting room, like the crowds by the Pool of Siloam hoping to be cured by the angel stirring the water. Indeed, I've observed godless doctors acting like angels and even gods, proclaiming they will cure or have cured people with their treatments when souls remain trapped in sin. I hear young men and women in times of counseling, the life issue causing their discouragement as easy to spot as the nose on their face, tell me how effortless it was for them to get a prescription for an antidepressant. Far too many of our fellow countrymen are being fooled, putting their faith in a pill rather than a Person to bring the comfort they need to what ails their minds and souls.

As we are encouraged to pray from Psalm 42 in Prayers on the Psalms:

"Heavenly Father, who at all times exercisest thy poor flock with diverse afflictions, assist us and deliver us from the troubles that are falling on us, that the wicked and proud contemners may have no cause to think in vain we depend on thee, but that they may be compelled to understand that thou art the strength and fortress of all them that love and honour thee in thy son, Jesus Christ. Amen."

May our faith, seeing both affliction and deliverance coming from our Father's hand, and resting on the sure word of God, cause others to be compelled to see our strength is in nothing else except Christ.

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