The Lancet Psychiatry has a fantastic article giving a much needed cultural retrospective on the wave of antidepressants like Prozac – which first made us worry we would no longer be our true selves through ‘cosmetic pharmacology,’ to the dawning realisation that they are unreliably useful but side-effect-ridden tools that can help manage difficult moods.
From their first appearance in the late 1980s until recently, SSRIs were an A-list topic of debate in the culture wars, and the rhetoric, whether pro or con, was red hot. Antidepressants were going to heal, or destroy, the world as we knew it.
Those discussions now feel dated. While antidepressants themselves are here to stay, they just don’t pulse with meaning the way they once did. Like the automobile or the telephone before them, SSRIs are a one-time miracle technology that have since become a familiar—even frumpy—part of the furniture of modern life.
At some point recently, they’ve slid into the final act of Mickey Smith’s wonder-drug drama. And in the aftermath of that change, many of the things that people used to say about them have come to sound completely absurd.
It’s a wonderful piece that perfectly captures the current place of antidepressants in modern society.
Link to ‘The silence of prozac’ in The Lancet Psychiatry.