The Medicated Americans: Antidepressant Prescriptions on the Rise

From Scientific American:

Depress I am thinking of the Medicated Americans, those 11 percent of women and 5 percent of men who are taking antidepressants.

It is Sunday night. The Medicated American—let’s call her Julie, and let’s place her in Winterset, Iowa—is getting ready for bed. Monday morning and its attendant pressures—the rush to get out of the house, the long commute, the bustle of the office—loom. She opens the cabinet of the bathroom vanity, removes a medicine bottle and taps a pill into her palm. She fills a glass of water, places the colorful pill in her mouth and swallows. The little pill could be any one of 30 available drugs used as antidepressants—such as Prozac or Zoloft or Paxil or Celexa or Lexapro or Luvox or Buspar or Nardil or Elavil or Sinequan or Pamelor or Serzone or Desyrel or Norpramin or Tofranil or Adapin or Vivactil or Ludiomil or Endep or Parnate or Remeron. The pill makes a slight flutter as it passes down her throat.

Julie examines her face in the mirror and sighs. She hopes that by some Monday morning in the future—if not tomorrow morning, then some mythical, brilliant and shimmering Monday morning a month from now, or two months from now, or three—the pills will have worked some kind of inexorable magic. Corrected a chemical imbalance, or something, as the Zoloft commercial had said. “Zoloft, a prescription medicine, can help. It works to correct chemical imbalances in the brain,” the voiceover on the ad had intoned. Julie didn’t know she had a chemical imbalance, nor does she actually know what one is, and it had never really occurred to her that she could have a mental illness (could she?). But she does hope, fervently, that her life will become a little easier, a little less stressed—soon. She hopes, desperately, that the pills will make her feel better—that the little white powder hidden in the green capsule will dissolve in her stomach, enter her bloodstream, travel to her brain and do something. Brushing her teeth, she hopes that one day she will simply feel better.

More here.