Earth is an unforgiving place to live. Over time, the world has chewed up and spit out almost every species it has come into contact with. No predator is too big, and no prey is too fast to avoid the certainty that time can bring them; extinction. Even humans will one day (Most likely) meet their demise. Humans have survived for a substantial amount of time on Earth, but they have also made this world their own. Cities and civilizations fueled by humans consuming the other subordinate species around them for energy. ? Humans have been able to sustain themselves for as long as we can remember simply because of their pragmatism. The ability to take what the world gives you and still adapt has set us far apart from other species. When the cold sets in, animals that cannot adapt freeze to death. Humans have learned to create and maintain heat. We truly see our dominance take place in the medical field. Whereas injuries or diseases can be fatal to an animal, the human has developed medicine. Our unique ability to continually adapt to any situation leads to tiny increments that, over time, amount to gargantuan progress in the field of Medicine.
The progress we have made in the field of medicine is not limited to the past 100 years or so, either. The earliest accounts of humans actually using medicine date back to the Old Testament, but it is possible they go even further. There is no known paper origin of medicine, but humans have been known to experiment with herbs and spices as remedies for different problems for thousands of years. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines Medicine as “a substance or preparation used in treating disease”. By the transitive property, we can assume that for something to be “medicinal”, there must be a disease at hand to fight.
But what is a disease? Words like Influenza, Polio, and Parkinson’s come to mind. Crippling illnesses associated with a weakened body. To treat or cure these diseases, medicine in the form of an injection, pill, or physical therapy can be applied to the situation. A disease can be defined as “a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms”. By this definition, something can be called medicinal if it is a substance or preparation used to fight any symptoms or signs that may show that something in the body is not functioning properly.
Like stated earlier, Doctors may now suggest to a patient the use of medicine to deal with a physical ailment, like a headache A headache should require no definition, but in my own words, it is physical pain in the head. So, what about psychiatric diseases and mental illnesses, such as PTSD or Anxiety? Although not particularly “headaches”, these illnesses effect the mind, so a comparison of how Doctors treat the two different diagnoses can be important in determining any similarities. In a 2012 report by U.S. Medicine, it was recorded that 141,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans were diagnosed with noncancer pain. 32% of them were diagnosed with PTSD. Of the 141,000, 11.7% were prescribed Opioids to deal with the pain. Among the pool of the 32% diagnosed with PTSD, 17.8% of the Veterans were prescribed opioids. In this instance, the PTSD, although considered mostly psychological and not physical, was categorized as a disease, because a substance was prescribed to treat the impairments it may bring on.
Besides the fact that Veterans with PTSD were getting prescription medication at very high rates, this study also shows that Doctors treated mental illnesses the same or similarly to how they deal with physical illnesses. This means that Doctors were in fact acknowledging these psychological dilemmas as medical problems. Now, the definition of Medicine defines it as a “substance or preparation”. Having focused on the substance, let us look at what a preparation implies. Alternative ways of healing other than ingesting a substance include things such as therapy, acupuncture, and meditation. In a 2014 article published by Julie Corliss of Harvard Health Publishing, the results of an extensive study conducted by John’s Hopkins Medical School could show a possible link between Meditation (a preparation) and a decrease in Anxiety (an illness). 19,000 meditation studies were sifted through until 47 unbiased studies could be evaluated for effectiveness by the school. The results of the 47 different studies showed that Meditation, although not a substance of any kind, can be used to lessen anxiety. This would allow us to define Meditation as being a form of medicine.
The fact that people are finding results through Meditation is absolutely groundbreaking. A practice that includes the ingestion of no substance, no movement, and no stimulation is actually yielding results. So, if Meditation (which includes doing nothing but thinking and breathing) can be considered medicinal, then what other preparations can be considered Medicinal? The APA (American Psychological Association) published a report in 2013 on the psychological effects of Music. In the article, a meta-analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel J. Levitin and Dr. Mona Lisa Chanda of McGill University in Montreal focused on 400 studies involving music and it’s health effects. The studies showed that Music can actually improve the body’s immune system and decrease stress levels. The same study showed that in patients preparing for a surgery, Music was more effective than prescription drugs at relieving pre-surgery stress levels.
Studies have given the APA reason to endorse the use of Music when treating psychological illnesses or conditions, such as Anxiety and Depression. If these psychological conditions or illnesses cause impairments to the body or parts of the body that can be identified through signs or symptoms, then these psychological illnesses can be defined as being diseases. In conclusion, if these psychological illnesses or conditions can be defined as diseases, and if Music is endorsed as a helpful remedy that combats said diseases, then we can define Music as a form of Medicine, because it is a practice that helps fight disease.
Corliss, Julie. “Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Medical School, 3 Oct. 2017, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967.
Novetney, Amy. Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Nov. 2013, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music.aspx.
usmedicine.com. “More Opioid Prescriptions Adverse Effects for Vets With PTSD.” U.S. Medicine, U.S. Medicine, 21 Apr. 2015, http://www.usmedicine.com/agencies/department-of-veterans-affairs/more-opioid-prescriptions-adverse-effects-for-vets-with-ptsd/.
“Medicine.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/medicine.
“Disease.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disease.