Up, Up and Away
by Hal Jacobs
Is Prozac fueling the booming economy? Could some of the 20 million Americans taking antidepressants - people with a false mood of optimism - be the driving forces behind the wildly exuberant Wall Street boom?
That theory, by University of Michigan professor Randolph M. Nesse [and reported last week in the online Slate Magazine], is either a new way to explain the exuberant bull market or a fresh load of another kind of bull byproduct.
Either way, it's a provocative idea. If 20 million Americans are using antidepressants and designer behavior drugs, it could explain a lot of things.
For instance, it might explain those 23 million people who tuned in to see "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" Even if 3 million people watching the show weren't on antidepressants, they probably are now.
It might explain the whole amazing "Who Wants to Watch Regis?" phenomenon. Regis, a human Beanie Baby, may go down in history as the world's first human antidepressant. Perhaps he should donate his body to science now, while he's still alive and at his peak, so that future generations may benefit. Write ABC if you support this idea ("Who Wants to Dissect Regis?").
Do the pill-popping numbers, once crunched, explain that, in a country of 200-something million, the two big party candidates left in the "Who Wants to Be President" show are George W. Bush and Al Gore? Do 20-something million people feel irrationally good about the 2000 presidential election? While the rest of us, the non-enhanced, look ahead and see a four-year-long bad hair day?
Might it explain rising oil prices? Are foreign oil producers monitoring the number of Americans on antidepressants? Based on forecasting models, did they decide that when 20 millions Americans became numb to caution, they would jack up fuel prices? Did they also figure out that more serotonin activity in the brain translated into bigger, gas-guzzling SUVs?
The whole, crazy gun thing? Perhaps the number of gun deaths is caused by people feeling good about themselves and firing into the air. Because some of these people are staying up themselves with the help of a prescribed dose that keeps them from coming down, perhaps they assume bullets do the same. The NRA doesn't have an official policy on whether bullets go up, then down, but strongly opposes lawmakers' efforts to discourage children from finding out on their own.
Irrational driving behavior. Maybe driving 100mph on I-85 with all the comforts of home - a dog on your lap, a phone in your ear, a burrito in your mouth - isn't so crazy when you lose that feeling that a negative outcome is just waiting around the next entrance ramp.
Today 20 million Americans popping psychotropic drugs, tomorrow 200 million. Hardworking venture capitalist angels should be aware of this tremendous money-making opportunity as more people spend more money with less dread. Especially if more adults give more money to children to spend any way they choose. Oops, million of Americans are already doing this. Never mind.
Does all this mean the next division in this country - the one after those who had had their teeth bleached and those who have not - be those who have enhanced moods and those who have not? If so, what a bummer. Our household doesn't even have cable yet, so that means we've missed every single episode of "The Sopranos," and that's depressing enough for one lifetime.
from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, March 19, 2000