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Ouch Q&A #7: Prozac at 20

by Rob Crossan

18th May 2007

Q: Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me. Er, actually, I'm not enjoying my birthday very much at all. To be honest, it all just seems a bit pointless. What am I to do about this feeling of anomie and depression?
A: Well, you could come to the party of Prozac - twenty years old this month and being taken by 54 million people worldwide.

Q: But I'm confused. If Prozac is so successful then why is it that the whole world isn't dancing hand in hand, laughing, hugging and doing each other's washing up?
Prozac
A: Good point. It's hard to completely rejoice in the success of Prozac when you look at the findings of the World Health Organisation, who claim depression is set to overtake heart disease as the world's number one disability by 2020. It's great news for the pharma's profits: the world is getting more and more unhappy.

Q: Why is just a good dose of hard work and a cold shower not enough to sort people out anymore? (It worked for my father, or so he says.)

A: There are many reasons cited for this, the first being that people are a lot happier to talk about depression these days. Celebrities including Robbie Williams, Gazza and Gail Porter have all given us lengthy accounts of their battles with the condition. Also, we're seeing depression being diagnosed in more younger people - a group who traditionally didn't receive such diagnoses. Some have suggested that the idea of depression as a treatable illness is bedding in all round with a 95 percent increase in the amount of anti-depressants prescribed to under 18s in the UK during the last decade.

Q: So, the cold shower thing?

A: Well, if you're brought up in an environment where it's now OK to talk about depression and its treatments then legitimacy is inevitable. You're far less likely to copy your parents solutions like taking a cold shower and eating more fruit and more likely to buy into what the media is presenting you.

Q: So how long is it before the entire world is on Prozac?

A: Well actually, recent research suggests that our affair with the green and cream boxes may be slowing down. Much of the flak is centred on Prozac's association with love and sex. Anthropologist Helen Fisher recently wrote that dopamine, the chemical in our brains that causes us to fall in love, is harmed by Prozac. Our fave pill, it seems, concentrates solely on increasing levels of Seratonin, a chemical that, according to Fisher, produces a much hazier and less intense feeling of satisfaction. In other words the poetic passions of love could well be replaced with a slightly indifferent stoners diffidence. Not only does love itself suffer but it is now commonly accepted in the medical profession that at least 60 percent of anti-depressant users will experience a loss in their libido to boot.

Q: Sounds a bit depressing really. Still, it doesn't look like I'll need to take that cold shower anymore.

A: Um, no.

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