analucia_berry_sts062J - Beavers and Prozac Antidepressants...

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Beavers and Prozac: Antidepressants at MIT Although there are different subcultures across the United States, popular American culture highly values stoicism and productivity. Americans are discouraged to show emotion and there are many traditions that reflect this trend. The cowboy, one of the most iconic of American figures, is usually depicted as a brave, tough loner who always keeps his emotions in check. Public figures are revered for their stoicism when confronted with tragedy. Also, North Americans are known to be much less physically affectionate to friends and relatives than Latin Americans and Southern Europeans. American culture is perhaps more well known for its focus on productivity and intense work environments. Americans work twenty-eight percent more hours a week than the French and twenty-five percent more hours than the Germans. 1 Americans are accustomed to the convenience of twenty-four hour grocery stores and drugs stores that never close. In other countries, even large metropolitan areas close down for a few hours a day and vacations last longer than in the United States. In order to be successful employees, Americans have to put in as many hours as their colleagues, perpetuating the high output standard. Thus, when a person living in the United States becomes afflicted with depression, it can be especially hard to keep up. Depression is a highly debilitating disease, characterized by feeling anxious, miserable, unmotivated, and/or irritable. Sufferers can find it difficult to sleep and may spend hours a day crying. It often renders those that suffer from it wholly unproductive. Depression sufferers can feel alienated from the general public and sink deeper into the disease. Furthermore, the symptoms of depression are highly visible, running directly against the tradition of American stoicism. It is perhaps because of these reasons that Prozac and other similar 1 James Surowiecki, “No Work and No Play” New Yorker, 2005-11-28. 1
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antidepressants continue to rise in popularity in the United States. Prozac is a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) meaning it selectively prevents the brain from removing a pleasure related chemical. Antidepressant use nearly tripled between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. 2 Prozac enjoyed unprecedented success when it was first introduced to the American public, soon there were 650,000 prescriptions per month. 3 There was a need in the market that was not being satisfied. Americans wanted to put an end to their depression. In his book Listening to Prozac , Peter Kramer explores the rising popularity of Prozac and its effects on “the modern sense of self.” 4 Kramer writes that many of his patients (and those of his colleagues) experienced radical improvements in their mood and often feel that Prozac helped them discover their “true self.” Kramer also profiled patients that were prescribed antidepressants despite indications that they were not clinically depressed. Patients reported feeling “better than well,” a result Kramer refers to as “cosmetic psychopharmacology.” Prozac
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analucia_berry_sts062J - Beavers and Prozac Antidepressants...

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