Title: Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are
Author: Katherine Sharpe
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Non-Fiction, Social/Psychological
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When Katherine Sharpe was in college and felt consumed and helpless by the world around her, she made an appointment with a mental health professional at her school, expecting talk therapy. Instead, she received a prescription for Zoloft after a twenty minute appointment. As Sharpe reflects on her experiences with depression over the course of her life, as well as her complicated relationship with medication, she weaves in the narratives of many others in this examination of the Prozac generation.
Coming of Age on Zoloft is an incisive look at depression and the medication culture that surrounds it today. Is depression a biological phenomenon, or is it psychological? This debate has been raging for years; should it be treated through medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both? Sharpe tackles this difficult question head-on. It’s become en vogue to treat depression purely as a biological condition, and Sharpe worries that people are being prescribed anti-depressants to cope with the simple struggles of daily life.
It’s a difficult issue, to be sure. There are those who have been severely depressed and swear by medication, and others who are certainly depressed but refuse to be medicated. There’s also the question of the long-term effects of these drugs – can they change your brain chemistry? Sharpe tackles each and every one of these questions, and many more, in her quest to understand the ubiquity of prescription medication for depression.
One of the most interesting threads in Coming of Age on Zoloft is the question of what antidepressants might do to an adolescent brain. These days, even pre-teens are being prescribed Prozac, Zoloft, and other medication. Yet there is no data for the long-term effects of these pills, as Prozac only came on the market twenty-five years ago. As these children are becoming adults and continuing to develop physically and mentally, does being on medication change them? Does it make a teen a different person that they would be without the medication? These questions of identity are seeded throughout the memoir and are very relevant and interesting.
Sharpe frames the narrative in Coming of Age on Zoloft through her own memories and experiences. As someone who has been on various antidepressants for much of her adult life, she is uniquely suited to tell this story. Hearing about her own experiences provides a personal connection for the reader and gives them something to emotionally invest in. It’s a wonderful overarching tale, especially because without it, this book might have not had a strong narrative thread. With it, it connects all the disparate anecdotes, and the vast amount of research that Sharpe did, making it a coherent and well-told story.
This book is a contemplative one, to be sure. Sharpe provides endless fodder for thought and discussion in Coming of Age on Zoloft; in fact, if your book club is open to non-fiction, this would make a pretty amazing pick. Sharpe provokes difficult questions, and though there are few answers to be had, it makes for a fascinating, thoughtful read.