Are Medications Safe to Take?

I notice you occasionally suggest the use of medications, but I have been taught that Adventists should not use drugs because Ellen White advised avoiding them. How do you justify your recommendations?
You are quite right—Ellen White discouraged the use of drugs. We must remember, however, what “drugs” were in her day.
She lists alcohol, tobacco, opiates, strychnine, mercurial compounds, and things such as arsenic. These poisons were commonly used by practitioners of her day without evidence as to their efficacy, and a lot of problems followed their use.
Ellen White spoke out against the habitual use of many substances, including tea and coffee, though on occasion she used tea as a medicine. This medicinal use of a caffeinated beverage shows she was not against “medicine” that worked, but against the useless poisons employed by ignorant physicians.
While we do, occasionally, recommend medication, we are very cautious and aware of the ease with which 
medication can be overprescribed and ill-advisedly taken.
Antibiotics, for the appropriate indication, are lifesaving and obviously beneficial; but they are very much overused for problems that are viral or trivial, which can cause a resulting development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
Many medications have side effects. This is true of natural remedies, especially herbal ones, and this is why we emphasize the importance of an evidence base for therapy.
Conventional medicine is undergoing a systematic reevaluation of its many strategies, probably because more than 50 percent of current interventions do not have a basis in evidence. While welcoming this reevaluation in conventional medicine, it is desperately needed in the so-called alternative medicine arena, too.
Evidence permits evaluation of both risks and benefits, and—unless the latter clearly outweighs the former—medication is not indicated.
Allan R. Handysides, M.B., Ch.B., FRCPC, FRCSC, FACOG, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department; Peter N. Landless, M.B., B.Ch., M.Med., F.C.P.(SA), F.A.C.C., is ICPA execu-
tive director and associate director of Health Ministries.
Send your questions to: Ask the Doctors, Adventist Review, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904. Or you may send your questions via e-mail to While this column is provided as a service to our readers, Drs. Landless and Handysides unfortunately cannot enter into personal and private communication with our readers. We recommend that you consult with your personal physician on all matters of your health.

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