How Prozac Conquered America

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Few pharmaceutical substances have the name recognition Prozac does. The antidepressant drug, originally introduced in 1988 by Eli Lilly and Company, enjoyed a dizzying ascent as a reputed “wonder drug” capable of improving the lives of millions of people. With stories of miraculous psychological turnarounds came a wave of fascinated coverage (including a New York cover story).

Inevitably, the drug’s popularity led to a backlash. Some experts claimed that use of Prozac could be linked to suicidal thoughts — a claim that has never been conclusively proven. The broader debate over the drug and its descendants, though, still rages today: Does the field of pyschiatry do enough to distinguish who genuinely needs powerful psychiatric drugs from those who simply think drugs would make life a bit easier? Are drug companies pathologizing the ups and downs of everyday life for profit?

The New York Times just posted a very interesting Retro Report video on the rise of Prozac and the shadow the drug has been casting ever since its release. At a time when the debate over overprescription in the United States is getting louder and louder, it’s very much worth watching:

(There’s a good accompanying essay, too.)