“Coming of Age on Zoloft”

Subtitled “How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are,” Katherine Sharpe’s book “Coming of Age on Zoloft” was released on June 5.

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From the Website:

“When Katherine Sharpe arrived at her college health center with an age-old complaint—a bad case of homesickness—she received a thoroughly modern response: a twenty-minute appointment and a prescription for Zoloft—a drug she would take for the next ten years. Her story isn’t remarkable except for its staggering ubiquity. When Prozac was introduced in 1987, taking psychiatric medication was a fringe phenomenon. Twenty-five years later, 10 percent of Americans over the age of six use an SSRI antidepressant. Sharpe and her peers constitute the first generation to have literally grown up taking psychiatric drugs.

“In Coming of Age on Zoloft, Sharpe blends deeply personal writing, thoughtful interviews, and historical context to achieve an unprecedented portrait of the antidepressant generation. She explores questions of identity that arise for people who start using consciousness-altering medication before they have formed an adult sense of self. She asks why some individuals find a diagnosis of depression comforting, while others are threatened by it. She presents, in young people’s own words, their intimate and complicated relationships with their medication. And she weighs the cultural implications of America’s biomedical approach to moods.

“What They’re Saying

“Beautifully written…[Sharpe] wonderfully conveys the profound issues these drugs raise.”—Dr. David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac

“A fascinating look at how drugs and trends have shaped the identities of individual and of a generation—provocative without being sensationalistic, skillfully written, and totally necessary.”—Emily Gould, author of And the Heart Says Whatever

“A knowing account of what it is like to grow up on psychiatric medications….Balanced and informative—an education for any parent considering psychiatric medication for a troubled adolescent.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Drawing on 40 interviews and an extensive reading of professional and popular articles, former Seed magazine editor Sharpe takes a close look at members of her generation who came of age with new antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft. Sharpe herself used such drugs after a mini-breakdown in college and says they made her feel ‘dull and flattened in one way… revoltingly attuned in another.’ Sharpe is excellent at detailing the positives and negatives of these drugs… She is also good on the importance of exercise, sleep, and diet on alleviating depression. But she is best at probing broader societal issues. In an age so focused on mental health, psychologist David Ramirez tells Sharpe, ‘there’s almost not a language of normal distress.’ This is a fine book that nicely weaves together personal, sociological, and philosophical perspectives for a thoughtful view of how antidepressants are shaping many people’s lives.”—Publisher’s Weekly”

Related item:
“Wired” interview

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.