Stress, depression, failure to cope with life situations. Psychotropic drugs allow us to overcome all this. Just at what price? Women, unlike men, are more likely to use pharmacology to face any adversity. Will the society of tomorrow be on a perpetual “high”? The saying goes: “May you live in interesting times.” The times we live in can hardly be considered interesting. Environmental devastation, overpopulation, economic crises and war. The uncertainty of tomorrow is now our reality. Not everyone experiences these negative phenomena equally. However, we all depend on them, even if we reject thinking about it.
Table of Contents:
- Guilty Reality
- Women twice as affected as men
- The Prozac phenomenon
- Not as perfect as advertised?
- Spain was first
- Xanax – medicine for the soul
- Liability of doctors
- International success
- The biggest consumers
- “Standard Soul Factory”.
- A society “on the upswing”?
Living conditions have changed over the years. Work has become an asset. Our social status, our standard of living, the future of our children depend on it. The rat race is underway. Participation in this race requires a lot of self-denial. Self-denial and a focus on success often at the expense of our private lives and health. Especially mental health. Stress and related depression appear. “And after all, isn’t that what we would want?” – as James Bond used to say in the movie Casino Royale. Work, home, children. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile it all. Marriages experience crises, break up. There is a growing number of singles for whom career comes first. Thanks to social media and the constant flow of information, we are almost constantly bombarded with news that generates uncertainty, fear and anger. Events that at any other time would probably not be known immediately (for example, a disaster in a foreign country) can suddenly affect anyone, anywhere in the world. This is a set of specific psychological stressors inflicted on an entire generation. Pandemic and its limitations, school and work stress, parenting, menopause and a general predisposition to anxiety. Increasingly, despite being part of society, we feel loneliness. We are increasingly asking ourselves: “Are we fulfilled? Does our life have enough meaning? Why do I have to spend a third of my life in a job I hate? I am alone, without love and without purpose. I have no faith, no future.” There is an empty box of social relationships in our world. Loneliness, the collapse of social and family ties make us sick. The lack of supports to rely on has an incalculable psychological impact.
Women twice as affected as men
Women are more affected by depressive disorders: twice as many as men, on average. At the top of the statistics are widowed, divorced and separated women, just as single women and single parents are more likely to have a major depressive episode. Reconciling daily responsibilities with an increasingly consuming job also causes women in lasting relationships to become depressed. They have a house to support, sometimes precarious or inflexible jobs…. They act as caregivers for children and, increasingly, their elderly parents. Facing these responsibilities without relational support is hard, and the psychological impact is aggravating. Stress, insomnia are the result. “Sex and Xanax. Not necessarily in that order. It could be Xanax and sex,” famous French actress Emmanuelle Beart said in an interview with Marie Claire. Monique Debauche, a Brussels-based psychiatrist, has identified advertisements for antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs aimed at a female audience. What do we see? Mainly women in the kitchen, cleaning or exhausted young mothers. The message: without drugs, a woman’s life would be insurmountable. Depression among women is a phenomenon that knows no boundaries. It applies to women in Poland as well as other countries. Nearly 10% of French women take antidepressants The trivialization of psychotropic drugs supported by both the pharmaceutical industry and public pressure is a reality. Vanessa, 40, is divorced: “I felt overwhelmed, not calm, with the impression that I would not succeed.” Her doctor prescribed her the family antidepressant Prozac. “I have fewer ups and downs. I compare it to wearing glasses: why should a myopic person continue to see blurry? Why suffer if we can do things differently?” Every morning, 28-year-old Tessa went to work with a clenched stomach: “One day I was so anxious that a friend recommended Xanax. Within twenty minutes I was under control.” Examples that show that what was exceptional yesterday has become commonplace. Even menopause is treated with psychotropic drugs.
The Prozac phenomenon
To our rescue rushes modern medicine and more specifically pharmacology. If the cause of stress persists, the body reacts intensely. After a few weeks, the real risk of depression appears in the most vulnerable people. Stress and depression often go hand in hand. Stress or “general adaptation syndrome” is a normal physiological phenomenon and necessary for facing adversity. It occurs in the event of an unpleasant or dangerous event that causes an individual to adopt fighting, fleeing or inhibiting behavior. If the cause of stress persists (unemployment, serious illness…), cortisol permanently sets off the alarm, and the body reacts intensely. Tachycardia, insomnia, sweating, anxiety, appetite, memory, impaired concentration…. can invade daily life. Energy reserves are depleted, over-exploited body gets tired. We enter a state of chronic anxiety, called exhaustion. Fears hidden in the subconscious are also brought to light.
Depression is an invisible disease and one of the most common mental disorders in our society. According to the World Health Organization, it affects about 300 million people worldwide, and the number is expected to increase in the coming years. Long stigmatized or dismissed, depression is still struggling to be recognized as a real disease by society, but also by the people who suffer from it.The characteristic depressive disorder affects all age groups – about 15 to 20% of the general population over a lifetime. It is presented as a sequence of characterized depressive episodes, causing many symptoms – including pathological sadness, loss of pleasure – with a major impact on the life of the patient and those around him. If they persist, the symptoms associated with depression will have significant socio-professional repercussions. The risk of suicide is particularly high, affecting 10 to 20% of these patients.
Pharmacology has come to our aid. Dr. Leo Sternbach created the first benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide (Librium), in 1956 to provide safer and less addictive alternatives to traditional tranquilizers such as alcohol, barbiturates and meprobamate. But the real breakthrough in the near-mass use of antidepressants was the introduction of Prozac.
The history of Prozac dates back to 1970, when Bryan Molloy and Robert Ratbun of Eli Lilly Research Laboratory in the United States began a research project to find a new antidepressant drug that had no side effects. The research focused on fluoxetine. Animal tests have shown that the molecule is effective and safe. Then, in 1976, tests were conducted on volunteers. It was a remarkable success and fluoxetine was patented in 1982 (U.S. Patent 4,314,081) and finally marketed in 1988 under the trade name Prozac. By 1994, it had become the world’s leading antidepressant. Other pharmaceutical companies soon launched competing drugs, such as Pfizer s Zoloft, SmithKline Beecham s Pexil s Deroxat, and Forest Laboratoires s Celaxa. Despite the competition, Prozac provides 35% of the lucrative and growing antidepressant market, 15% for Zoloft and 11% for Paxil. The most famous Prozac user since 1994 was Diana, Princess of Wales.
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Not as perfect as advertised?
In 1990, Prozac hit the headlines in a way the manufacturers could not have predicted. In particular, it was claimed that he was responsible for the massacre at a printing plant in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. The murderer, a 47-year-old man named Joe Wesbecker, had worked for the company for 17 years. The doctor prescribed antidepressants for him. The latter seemed ineffective and he took Prozac in September 1989. On the 17th of that month, Wesbecker came to work and fired shots at twenty of his colleagues, killing eight, before committing suicide. In 1994, the survivors and widows of the deceased men filed a lawsuit against Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac. The court ruled in favor of the company, even though it had already reached an agreement with the plaintiffs to pay them undisclosed compensation. It seemed unlikely to implicate Prozac in Wesbecker’s violent behavior. However, this story made the drug famous for a long time.
Spain was first
Spain was one of the first countries to introduce this innovative drug in 1991. Eight years later, in 1999, generic drugs began to enter the market. In addition, Spain was the first country to introduce film-coated capsules. This route of administration allows the drug to dissolve immediately in the mouth. Before the patent expired in 1999, Prozac sales totaled 37.2 million euros. When generics were launched, sales dropped: in November 2017, they amounted to 743,887 euros.Factories for fluoxetine capsules, the active ingredient used in Prozac, are located in Puerto Rico, Brazil and Turkey. Packaging is produced, among other things. In China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Turkey and France.
Prozac saved the fragile fabric of society. One pill a day and the world seems beautiful. The work becomes a challenge that we enter with our sleeves rolled up. A research team from the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that if fluoxetine (a Prozac molecule) was given to a randomly selected male in a colony of monkeys from which the dominant male had been removed, the latter became dominant.
Pharmaceutical companies are getting richer and buyers, thanks to their eager commitment to their work, are advancing while enjoying life. Or at least with what was left of it after they left the office at 11 pm.
Xanax – medicine for the soul
Is Xanax a strong drug?
Prozac is just a commodity. Each commodity needs improvement and newer varieties. This is how Xanax was born. It has a similar effect. It was first introduced to the US market in 1981. It has become widely used for anxiety disorders because it provides rapid relief of the symptoms of these disorders (within a week of starting treatment) and shows no decrease in effectiveness over time, even when used for several years. Revered by parts of the hip-hop culture, it is commonly used by show business stars. It is also a depressant, so the effects are very similar to those of alcohol. After taking it, we are softened, we have a certain distance from reality and emotions, we are more relaxed, but at the same time motivated to act. People are becoming more and more disinhibited, a little high,” explains Marie-Ève Goyer, head of the medical continuum of addiction and homelessness at CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
Keychains, rings and smartphone cases with the image of Xanax tablets. Pendants illustrating the molecule of alprazolam, the drug’s active ingredient. Glasses labeled “Xanax smoothie.” T-shirts that say “I love Xanax” or “Calm down – take Xanax.” On the online sales site Etsy, items that glorify the famous anxiolite are ubiquitous. Xanax is very present in hip-hop culture, especially among singers who identify with a micro genre called mumble rap, characterized by poorly articulated diction. When he crossed the milestone of one million followers on Instagram in 2017, rapper Lil Pump celebrated with a cake … In the form of a Xanax tablet. “Incidentally, I put 500 Xanax in the cake,” he wrote under a photo of the cake, garnering hundreds of thousands of likes.
Liability of doctors
Author of the book “Antidepressants: should we take them or not?”, Bertrand Gilot concludes: “Doctors believe that current antidepressants are very well tolerated compared to those prescribed two decades ago.” In the journal Impact Santé, Professor Hélène Verdoux, head of psychiatry at Bordeaux University Hospital, said: “It’s easy to overwhelm GPs for prescribing too many antidepressants, but what other solution do they have and what measures are being given to respond to people with depressive symptoms? Who will provide psychotherapy: psychologists are not reimbursed? Psychiatrists often unavailable?”
In recent years, Xanax has become the best-selling psychotropic drug in the United States. Europe is not far behind. This anti-anxiety agent is increasingly prescribed to treat all kinds of anxiety, even very mild ones. He became the cure for all evil. This phenomenon is undoubtedly due to a combination of factors: fashion, ease of access and price. At a time when young people are worried about their place in the world, they are clearly more inclined than others to achieve high economic performance on their career path and Xanax is their “booster.” Like many men with depression, Tom takes Xanax – “I needed it because it was affecting my image. It’s not a panacea, but it makes me presentable.”
The biggest consumers
Iceland still has the highest use of antidepressants, according to the latest OECD data. With an average consumption of 15 daily doses per 100 residents in 2020, Icelanders are breaking all records in this area. In general, Scandinavian countries are among the largest consumers, with Canada and Sweden also having ratios above 10 doses per 100 inhabitants per day. After being identified as a country where the use of such drugs was excessive, France is no longer one of the countries in Europe where antidepressants are most commonly used. With 5 and a half tablets consumed per 100 inhabitants per day in 2020, the French are in the low average of the 28 OECD countries surveyed (6.6 doses). The populations with the lowest intake are Koreans and Latvians, with a ratio of 2 to 3 daily doses per 100 people.
“Standard Soul Factory”.
Since the advent of the famous “happiness pill,” the trend has been toward mass prescription. Molecules that increase serotonin production in the brain are prescribed in larger or smaller doses to relieve anxiety. So much so that Americans have classified them under the category of “cosmetic psychopharmacology”: comfort treatments that allow you to be healthy, under any circumstances. At work, in emergencies, in love that comes and goes or in events that generate problems.
A society “on the upswing”?
Society demands our full commitment. There is no room for weakness. Performance above all else. Even if stress and depression don’t get us, to work in fourth gear we look for a “golden” agent to support us in this trance. Alcohol and legal highs are out. In the long run, they prove not only useless, but also harmful. We need a means of releasing ‘euphoria’ and ‘momentum’ for action. Doping at work is becoming commonplace. Attitudes toward the consumption of psychotropic substances have changed in our society. Today wile people take drugs not because they necessarily feel bad, but to feel “a little better.” To act, endure stress, boredom, adapt to a new professional environment. This is the role currently played by Xanax. Customized Happiness. However, are we still ourselves? According to Samhs, the US agency responsible for addiction and mental health, the number of people in rehab for benzodiazepine abuse tripled between 1998 and 2008. The crises facing people in 2023 are individual and occasional, but they are also global, and for many stem from the nagging feeling that the fates of all the planet’s inhabitants are interconnected. Cataclysms of various natures are examples of this. Situational anxiety today stems from threats that are both everywhere and nowhere. According to Steven Hayes, a clinical psychologist at the University of Nevada, psychotropic drugs fill a gap that evolution has not yet filled. As he stated, “People are not prepared enough to deal with all these new signals. Because such flexibility is currently lacking.” According to Hayes, “People need a bridge – a tablet – between what life has in store for them and what they can handle.” That tablet became Xanax. There is just one “But.” Doug Mennin, an anxiety psychologist at Hunter College in New York who treats patients with functional medications stated: “I’ll take a pill. The next time you encounter the same problem, immediately look for pills. On the other hand, if you didn’t have them, you could probably manage.”