Prozac Culture

Course Code
SOC 3260
Joseph Davis

The pharmacological  revolution, symbolized in our time by such drugs as Prozac and Ritalin, has been building for decades and has brought a sea change in attitudes  toward psychoactive medications and tens of millions of prescriptions for them. The revolution is not merely a matter of new medical treatments; it is a cultural phenomenon that is changing the ways we think about ourselves and experience the world in contexts far removed from the psychiatrist's office and any conventional questions of mental illness. The course explores the social forces driying the revolution forward, including the definition and expansion of disorder categories; pharmaceutical  detailing and direct-to­ consumer advertising; changes in the profession of psychiatry; and shifts in the ethos of medicine toward a consumerist model. Wider social and cultural changes have, in tum, generated new forms of distress and disconnections in people's lives, new ideals/obligations of self and social performance, and redefinitions of "normal," which help account for the nature and incidence of the problems that psychoactive medications are taken to address. The course will conclude with a discussion of the social and ethical implications  of "Prozac culture."