excerpt: “Bioethicists, philosophers, journalists, and social scientists began speculating upon how the proliferation of psychoactive medications might alter concepts of self and narratives of authenticity. Does taking antidepressants allow the “real self” to emerge from the dark night of depression, or do antidepressants “muffle” the authentic self by blunting affect? Do new selves emerge and old selves disappear as psychoactive medications turn the melancholy into the chipper, the shy into social butterflies, the anxious into laid-back, Owen Wilson, surfer dude types? Such books as Carl Elliott’s Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream, Carl Elliott and Tod Chambers’ edited collection, Prozac as a Way of Life, Francis Fukuyama’s Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, and the President’s Council on Bioethics’ Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness (1)–all struggle with questions related to authenticity, identity, the medicalization of psychological experience, and the use of antidepressants to “treat” not just severe clinical depression but forms of sadness, emptiness, and alienation that speak more to dead-end jobs and stifling schools than serotonin levels in the brain.”


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