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FIRST-PERSON: Searching for silver linings

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“Every dark cloud has a silver lining,” some espouse. Those who cling to this optimistic view of life believe that something good can come from even the most negative circumstances.

In 1980, a drunk-driver killed Candy Lightner’s 12-year-old daughter. The culprit turned out to be a repeat DWI offender. Rather than drown in a sea of despair, Lightner took action and formed Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

John Walsh’s 6-year-old son was abducted in 1981. The boy was later found dead. Walsh channeled his grief into action. He was instrumental in passing legislation that lead to the founding of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Walsh also created the popular television program America’s Most Wanted that has led to the capture of 673 criminals.

Lightner and Walsh were both able to salvage positives from very difficult situations. That being said, I have to ask: “What possible good can come from a mother killing her five children?”

Perhaps one of the most tragic crimes in recent history occurred when Andrea Yates methodically drowned each one of her children — ages 6-months to 7-years — in a bathtub. She even chased the oldest through their home before snuffing out his life.

The Yates case has even the most optimistic squinting to see something redeemable in a very dark situation.

Given what is presently known about Andrea Yates, one positive development is possible. As the public becomes more aware of her situation, perhaps the love affair American society has with prescription drugs will begin to wane.

Two years ago, Yates began to suffer bouts of depression. Some have claimed her struggles were of the postpartum variety. After consulting a myriad of medical books on the subject, it seems clear that what she experienced was much more than typical baby-blues. Her internal struggle escalated to the point that she tried to take her own life.

When she began to succumb to depression, Yates sought professional help. The assistance she received — assistance that has become all too routine in the United States — was drugs. The day Andrea Yates took her children’s lives it is reported that she was on a cocktail of three psychotropic narcotics: Effexor, Remeron, and Haldol.

Some believe the drugs in Yates system are the reason she killed her children. The belief is that she, as well as her children, are victims of the narcotics. Rather than help, the prescribed drugs backfired and a nightmarish reality is the result.

It may never be definitively determined whether or not drugs were the sparks that ignited the fire of death in the Yates home. However, one thing is painfully obvious — the narcotics did not work. The drugs prescribed to Andrea Yates did not provide a path out of her inner turmoil as promised.

America worships the pharmacy. Almost 2-billion dollars are sacrificed annually to the prescription drug gods in the desire to: lose weight, gain hair, overcome shyness, defeat anxiety, perk up, calm down, stay alert, get sleep, and have sex but not a baby.

Is there a place for drugs in the treatment of disease? Certainly. Are narcotics the panacea of all problems physical and psychological? Hardly. If there is a “silver lining” in Andrea Yates “dark cloud” it will be American society’s recognition that drugs are not always the best answer — and sometimes not even a good answer.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore. His column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.

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  • Kelly Boggs