Prozac as a Way of Life

Edited by Carl Elliott, Tod Chambers

224 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5551-5
    Published: September 2004
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1708-4
    Published: August 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7552-5
    Published: August 2016

Studies in Social Medicine

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Prozac and its chemical cousins, Paxil, Celexa, and Zoloft, are some of the most profitable and most widely used drugs in America. Their use in the treatment of a multitude of disorders--from generalized anxiety disorder and premenstrual syndrome to eating disorders and sexual compulsions--has provoked a whirlwind of public debate. Talk shows ask, Why is Prozac so popular? What, exactly, do these drugs treat? But sustained critical discussion among bioethicists and medical humanists has been surprisingly absent.

The eleven essays in Prozac as a Way of Life provide the groundwork for a much-needed philosophical discussion of the ethical and cultural dimensions of the popularity of SSRI antidepressants. Focusing on the increasing use of medication as a means of self-enhancement, contributors from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, bioethics, and the medical humanities address issues of identity enhancement, the elasticity of psychiatric diagnosis, and the aggressive marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies. They do not question the fact that these antidepressants can, in some cases, provide great benefit to alleviate real suffering. What they do question is the abundant popularity of these drugs and that popularity's relationship to American culture and ideas of selfhood.


Tod Chambers, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago

David DeGrazia, George Washington University

James C. Edwards, Furman University

Carl Elliott, University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics

David Healy, University of Wales College of Medicine

Laurence J. Kirmayer, McGill University

Peter D. Kramer, Brown University

Erik Parens, The Hastings Center

Lauren Slater, AfterCare Services, Boston

Susan Squier, Pennsylvania State University

Laurie Zoloth, Northwestern University Center for Genetic Medicine, Chicago

About the Authors

Carl Elliott is associate professor of philosophy and pediatrics at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. His most recent book is Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream.
For more information about Carl Elliott, visit the Author Page.

Tod Chambers is associate professor of bioethics and medical humanities at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and author of The Fiction of Bioethics: Cases as Literary Texts.
For more information about Tod Chambers, visit the Author Page.


"The editors bring together a world-class group of doctors, philosophers, and ethicists to explore the implications of medically enhanced life."--Psychology Today

"An important contribution to a debate on how one becomes who one is."--Choice

"There is much to chew on in this provocative collection."--New England Journal of Medicine

"Lively essays."-- Chronicle of Higher Education

"A truly provocative and unusually coherent collection. The authors engage in real discussion with each other. What emerges is a nuanced understanding of Prozac as a cultural phenomenon and of enhancement technologies as an issue for ethics."--Charles L. Bosk, University of Pennsylvania

"Elliott and Chambers deserve great credit for helping keep this very necessary conversation alive--and for reminding us of the enormous stakes."--Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age