Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am working on a book wherein I take a serious look at the practice of taking SSRI drugs for enhancement purposes. That is, is it morally permissible to take Prozac to give me an edge in the marketplace?
Peter Kramer argued, in his 1993 book Listening to Prozac, that many of his patients (mostly women) who were made anxious in a man's world were better off once they took Prozac. They were less anxious, needy, and above all, less sensitive. If you study carefully the drug advertisements for SSRIs, inevitably you see them pitched for soccer moms who are stressed out by competing demands of childcare and work deadlines. The drug ads are designed to encourage women, who are always good consumers, to consider thier stress to be not so much a product of unbearable social expectations, but rather a neurochemical failing (see Jonathan Metzl, "Selling Sanity Through Gender."). These drug ads are really just part of a larger trend of selling "lifestyle ailment" medications (Viagra, Propecia, Cialis, Prilosec . . .) (see Carl Elliott, Better Than Well).
Now, I have always found Kramer's question, namely what is wrong with Cosmetic Psychopharmacology (taking SSRI drugs to feel better than well)?, to be intriguing. What interests me is that most people seem to find this practice repugnant. Imagine you were to say to your friend: "Well, I used to be stressed out all of the time at work because the alpha-male environment is pretty brutal. But, now I take Prozac and I just don't give a shit anymore." What is her/his response likely to be? When I pitch this to audiences, most believe that this is simply wrong. "We should be changing the workplace," they argue. Or, "what about therapy, or yoga?" Anything but taking a pill to solve these structural problems seems preferable. But why? Why is it better, I ask you, to do Yoga than take a pill?