How Prozac Turned Depression Medication into a Cultural Phenomenon | Retro Report

How Prozac Turned Depression Medication into a Cultural Phenomenon | Retro Report


It’s the hottest psychiatric drug in history. Prozac, the wonder drug that works wonders. At the end of 1987, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new antidepressant, and Prozac hit the American market. Advertising and word of mouth
helped boost the drug’s reputation and Prozac became the “it” drug of the 1990s. Models in the latest fashions are said to
look Prozac deprived. Before long, the name was on everyone’s tongue. I was on Prozac for a long time. And, it seemed, everyone was using it. Six million Americans using Prozac right now. The greater the drug’s popularity,
the more it seemed to symbolize. Prozac moves from being a successfully launched pharmaceutical product, to being a true cultural celebrity. You know it’s the holiday season in New
York City when the drug dealers are selling more Prozac than crack. So, how did this little pill
become the icon of an era? For people who suffer depression, it’s been
hailed as a virtual miracle. Almost immediately after Prozac’s launch,
it was clear that it offered a promising alternative to available treatments for depression. I started giving it to difficult patients,
patients who hadn’t done well somewhere else. And people thought, “I could get help
with something I’ve lived with for years.” The drug was an enormous medical breakthrough.
Prozac emerged as a pioneer in a new category of drugs called SSRIs that targeted one chemical
in the brain, serotonin, instead of many. It plays a crucial role in mood, appetite,
and many other brain functions. Many anti-depressive drugs have severe side
effects. It was largely a lack of those problems that has persuaded doctors to prescribe Prozac
to two million Americans. One of those was student Elizabeth Wurtzel. I had been on other medications before that
didn’t work nearly so well but it really changed everything. There was one morning
when I woke up, and I felt like the idea of being alive didn’t seem so awful.
It was an amazing turnaround. The drug led her to break the historical taboo
about depression and write a book about hers. I knew it was pretty safe to tell the story
because I knew a lot of people would relate to it. I think that’s what I was betting on.
If I wrote it, it would make people feel better. Wurtzel quickly became
the Generation X face of the drug. But Wurtzel’s book was not the only one
that captured the public imagination. Psychiatrist and author Peter Kramer wrote his from the
perspective of the treating physician. People who do well on it may say
“This is my real self.” The transformation is not away from the self but towards some ideal self. He then went on to speculate about how Prozac
might change us in ways never before expected. I thought, “What will happen if we can do this
with people who have never been depressed, you know, if you could put someone on the medicine and he or she would become more socially adept?” And I coined a term, “cosmetic
psychopharmacology,” where the analogy was cosmetic surgery, so a medical procedure done for something
other than treating illness. Kramer’s narrative about Prozac being able
to change people’s essential selves took hold. Many claim that it transforms them, makes
them more calm, confident, more productive – somehow better than well. I’ve found that taking this medicine, this drug,
I became a different person. But it wasn’t just the promise of a personal
metamorphosis that made Prozac a household name. Here we go. Here comes the Prozac. Prozac’s popularity wasn’t just the result
of a medical breakthrough, but also of a marketing one. Prozac’s marketing helped popularize the
idea that our moods are neurochemical and that there are things we can do
to change them. Prozac took the mystery out of the science. 
It talked about how the drug worked. Another way the drug’s benefits were sold
to the public was through its name. Eli Lilly hired branding agency Interbrand
to come up with a memorable one. Prozac has two syllables. The first syllable
“P-R-O” was designed to suggest “professional.” The “A-C” is designed to communicate activity. Coupled with the “Z”, it just sounds much
more powerful, and more effective as a name. But it wasn’t just the name that gave Prozac a leg up. One of the first places that news about Prozac
appears is in popular financial magazines, things that are reporting on its potential
blockbuster status, how it’s going to make a ton of money for its producers, and it kind
of creates this buzz. It was remarkable. 
I mean, the New York Magazine had this pill on its cover. I don’t think anything like that had happened before. As media coverage of the drug grew, stories
about its link to suicide began to circulate. In 1991, the FDA convened hearings on the issue. I finally admitted myself to a stress center. I begged them “Lock me up
because I’m going to die and I don’t want to die.” No conclusive link was found, and the sale
of Prozac continued. This medicine had the career arc of a celebrity,
that it was sort of over-hyped and then demonized and, you know, trying to find its level through the press. Ever since Prozac was introduced five years ago, it has developed what amounts to a cult following. Before long, as other SSRI’s began to eat
away at Eli Lilly’s market share, Prozac ads began appearing in general interest magazines
rather than just medical journals, targeting patients, particularly women,
instead of just their doctors and commercials ran on TV for the first time. People wanted control, they wanted to talk
about their successes, their personal successes. And Prozac spoke to that. And it also introduced something new for sale. Since the 1950s, consumer goods like cars and washing machines had become symbols of success and happiness. Now, there was something else. Prozac is saying that happiness itself is
available for purchase and can be one of these things that defines what it means to be in
America and have that American dream. And the more people who claimed their share
of it, the better Eli Lilly’s bottom line. In 2001, with the patent set to expire,
they launched a new drug for a new problem. Sarafem is not really a new drug. It’s just
a new name for the popular anti-depressant Prozac, now repackaged with a distinctly feminine
look. Some accuse the drug manufacturer of trying to create a new market for Prozac by
grossly exaggerating premenstrual problems. Soon the airwaves were full of ads for other drugs promising to treat problems most of us didn’t know we had. You do have a whole bunch of new pharmaceuticals
coming out to enable people to do things that they like to do, so to be able to eat a bunch
of cheeseburgers, or to be able to have sex, you have drugs like Viagra coming out.  
These are responding to genuine human needs and desires, but those needs and desires hadn’t
always been configured as illnesses the way they were during and after the Prozac era. I think Prozac made people very aware of the
possibility that medicines were going to step out of their bounds and be used by people who maybe had some quality that wasn’t rewarded socially to move to some state that was better
socially rewarded.

Comments

(54 Comments)

  • Michael Kilduff

    Reupload?

  • Northern Hoxhaist

    8:03 Bimatoprost. Obviously this was not run at ALL with an agenda.

  • Northern Hoxhaist

    Omeprazole is for GI issues… Lol. Fuck this. Trash journalism.

  • beezle bubblebut

    I take this it's pretty good🖒

  • Helen Mc Donnell

    Prozac may not be appropriate for everyone, however it helped me enormously.

  • Aragorn Stellar

    “Socially rewarded…”

    Sounds like training a dog.

  • Vitas Zukowski

    Fluoxetine completely took away my appetite while I was taking it, and it was part of the long line of psychiatric meds that left me with tardive dyskinesia.

  • Cc

    It just happened to be the first SSRI to market in north America.

  • Madison Hunnicutt

    Prozac didn't work for me personally 🤷‍♀️

  • warning_fragile_ babydoll

    My sister is on this. Like rn

  • JaabaaYup

    Prozac made me almost kill myself, i suffered from many side effects

  • Submarine Mission

    I tried Prozac and got ill I couldn’t leave the house for 2 months.

  • Morning Sunshine

    I just realized fluoxitine is Prozac saw both names on the bottle at like 1 min and I've been on it most my childhood

  • Freya Rachal

    Prozac really helps me

  • floyd

    the red lake school shooter was on prozac. his dosage was increased before the shooting. the family thinks the drug make have placed a role in his actions

  • ꧁ᏝᏬፈᏒᏋᏖᎥᏗ꧂

    SSRIs are shit. SNRIs are THE shit.

  • Roselynn

    i got prescribed this literally two days ago. took the first dose today.

  • kraft dinner

    I just got put on 20mg for bulimia. They want to get me up to 60mg..

  • Rene Peters

    Prozac definitely didn't help me, personally. I was more depressed and became more suicidal.

  • Was Jesus a Mushroom?

    Prozac didn’t work for me, I actually took a bunch one time because I wanted it to make me more depressed so I could OD on another drug…. and I did and woke up in the hospital.

  • Wendy Martinez

    Prozac literally almost killed me

  • aaliyah bx

    I was prescribed these for anxiety when I was 13. Gave me worse suicidal thoughts and I tried to od..

  • planes124

    Prozac was only famous for being the first SSI anti depressant. Also if people have said it’s actually not very effective and caused worse symptoms many people I know on it said it’s the worst anti depressants and myself felt worse on it. A lot of users have said negative things about it. It was simply over hyped.

  • Drowsy Temmie

    I used to take it, it didn't help me at all.

  • Sarah Wall

    This kinda makes me feel like I’m weird because it didn’t work for me

  • Love from Alabama Jenny

    Prozac took my near crippling anxiety almost completely away. I couldn’t get out of bed, obsessively afraid of dying and panic attacks. I would rather have eaten a bullet. It was horrible. All of it began after a traumatic dental procedure.
    I have taken it for nearly 10 years. It turned my life around.

  • DonCorleone_72

    This case sounds very similar to David Firth’s video “Cream”.

  • Toxic._.Neuer

    I take Prozac and I enjoy it. It helps me, the only side effects I hate is the whole sleepiness and slumptness of it

  • Madison Riley's Spam/Channel

    My mom begged for me to be put on Prozac. I was 9, I cringe every time I hear the name. I knew I was being over medicated, but she really thought she was helping. It sucked, it made me tired, and that made her convinced that I was depressed, and then I’d reach a breaking point, lash out, and she’d think that was progress to a healthier life. I hated every minute.

  • Randy Lafferty

    Pot and antidepressions help with my ptsd and tramua. I only want this as a temporary so i can do my own effort.

  • VideoGames4Days !

    Mass murder suiside pills!

  • Roselynn

    After two months this drug has tremendous changed and saved me. While this isn’t for everyone, the only side effect i have (oddly) is burping.

  • Deana Wells

    Prozac and they GYNECOLOGY trials of trying to make woman more manageable during and prior to her period. Prozac almost killed my sister from taking it just when she was having PMS. This taking Prozac to handle being bitchy is dangerous and my sister almost took her hand off with a kitchen knife. It takes a huge amount of force to sever your hand off with a kitchen knife. All that rage came spilling out of her body all in one act !!!

  • Nellydear

    Prozac didn’t do much for me sadly

  • blackswan1983

    This drug triggered early-onset bipolar in me.

  • Izzie Bae

    I know a lot of friends that take prozac and it works really well for them, but my experience with prozac is pretty bad. I couldn't sleep, lost my appetite and just felt… bleh…

  • lil meow meow

    prozac, almost immediately, ruined my life more. it took away my appetite, which i loved because i was just in the early stages of my eating disorder. i also received all of the side effects, which was not ideal. i'm glad it works for many other people; but if this drug isn't working for you, make sure to tell your doctor because it gets too intense

  • Luca D

    I took 8 different antidepressants and prozac 3 times. I am 6 weeks off antidepressants after 10 years and I am still having withdrawal symptoms. Be careful. Meds can't heal trauma.

  • y u h

    I took Prozac for like half a month. Yeah, I wasn’t anxious…but I couldn’t finish any assignment for school anymore and I just did not want to do anything. At all.

    I’m thankful my cats hid the bottle from me so I could graduate hs. 😂

  • Marie Antoinette your queen

    I have been taking Prozac for a while, and it does not help me and my depression

  • Jewels Stone

    These medications change the homeostasis of the brain making it unstable if someone chooses to stop taking it. Many people find the affects of antidepressants to be light someone has dimmed the switch in their brain. People typically stop socializing with friends and stop taking care of themselves like they once did leading them to wanting to stop the medications. However it is very difficult to stop these medications and people frequently start taking lots of medications down the road. Antidepressants are not a good long-term or short-term treatment for depression. Psychiatry is dependent on psychiatric medications and psychiatrist pretend to not know how these pills would but they once did. Thomas Szazs is a pretty open mind psychiatrist. Also learning about Nick Drake before you start taking these medications is a good idea too.

  • pianobooks42

    Overused? Yes. Helpful to everyone? No. A lifesaver for some? Yes. Just like most drugs these days.

    Prozac has helped me go from anxiety so bad I was nearly institutionalized as a child in a developed nation… to a few panic attacks a week that leave me a little shaken up. Not exaggerating. For me, it helped my anxiety become controllable. It didn’t cure me, but it brought my anxiety down to a level where I can then use therapy and learn coping skills to become functional. It’s not a wonder drug in the sense of a pill you can take to be cured of all pain and sadness. But it worked for me, and it’s been a miracle for me.

    If you’re starting Prozac, keep an eye out for side effects. My only side effect is that I’ll get nauseous if I take it with water. I have to take it with a bite of food during a snack or meal. The most serious side effect is what happens when the chemicals the meds are affecting aren’t the right ones in your case. It can make your anxiety or depression worse instead. Or if someone has bipolar, it can make their mania worse. That’s why doctors are supposed to start on a low dose first. That way you can know how it effects you before you take the full dose your body needs. If you have negative side effects, it’s not the right medication for you. Just like any medication.

  • Hannah High

    I almost killed myself on this drug. definitely not for everyone but it has helped people

  • Dennis Lackey

    Reflecting back on weather or not these Drugs were a safe chose… because your vaccination had something in it that remotely destroy you like setting off a time bomb. Shame on the Big Pharma and the Government it rode in on…

  • Paul Trossbach

    When they do clinical trials of Prozac they found that only 27% of people responded to it well. Yes they still push the drug on to the public because they saw how much money they could make.

  • Arzt_Blut

    It may work for some but as someone who's used it before it didn't work for me. Chemically, it takes a while to get off due to its long half life. Anti-Depressant medication doesn't make you happy, it just makes it easier to live your life to make your self happy or treat an underlying mental health issue.

    Prozac should be used as a secondary treatment type not the first line of treatment for typical depression.
    To this day i still search for the right drug combination but until this year i figured out why the drug never worked, I had been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Atypical depression is hard to treat in some people but medication isn't always going to instantly fix your problems.

    But that's just my opinion.

  • Satisha King

    I've been on it for 3 weeks, it's ok… Not that great. I saw this video before I asked my doctor for it. So far pretty disappointed considering this video made me have bigger expectations.

  • x

    It’s fluoxetine. “prozac” it’s just a brand name given from 1 certain company for it… It’s no difference in the effect taking it from a different brand just called “fluoxetine”…

  • Marion Loesch

    If anyone wants to have a good laugh at my expense the first time I ever saw a Viagra commercial I thought that erectile dysfunction has something to do with facial hair.

  • Victoria Kennedy

    PROZAC HELPS ME. It makes me calm and happpy.

  • somauk

    Prozac gave me crippling gastric reflux which resulted in several trips to the emergency department before I had to self diagnose the cause. After stopping it my GERD completely resolved.

  • ferociousgumby

    It just kept hitting the covers of magazines. It was the poster child of antidepressants and treated as if it was the first or only effective antidepressant on the market. Doctors are susceptible to medical fads, and prescribed it because everyone else was prescribing it (though if you confront them with that, they are indignant and can't believe you would say anything so inaccurate and insulting). It was WIDELY known to disable sexual response, but patients were told "it only affects .03% of patients" and to just be happy they were feeling better and not be so greedy. You can learn to live without sexual pleasure and partner intimacy, can't you? It's a small price to pay. Then it came out that sexual dysfunction had only been "studied" for 3 weeks and that the rate of sexual disability was more than 30%.

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  • 383 Stroker

    It works for me ! No side effects …not for everybody like any other medication

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