If the nineties were the decade of Prozac, all hollow-eyed and depressed, then this is the era of Xanax, all jumpy and edgy and short of breath. In Prozac Nation, published in 1994, Elizabeth Wurtzel describes a New York that today seems as antique as the one rendered by Edith Wharton. In the book, she evokes a time when twentysomethings lived in Soho lofts, dressed for parties in black chiffon frocks, and ended the night crying on the bathroom floor. Twenty years ago, just before Kurt Cobain blew off his head with a shotgun, it was cool for Kate Moss to haunt the city from the sides of buses with a visage like an empty store and for Wurtzel to confess in print that she entertained fantasies of winding up, like Plath or Sexton, a massive talent who died too soon, “young and sad, a corpse with her head in the oven.”
Lisa Miller, "Listening to Xanax," New York Magazine (current issue)
Miller actually kicks off this article remembering the night she rummaged through her dying mother's medicine cabinet - in front of her mother's home care nurse - looking for an Ativan, surely a sign of the bad to come all by itself. But Miller's evocation, and dismissal, of Wurtzel (as fashionable now as it was when her book first appeared - Wurtzel will forever be punished for speaking truth to medicalizing women's problems) is itself an all-too-glib indication of missing the point: there will still be late nights of crying on the bathroom floor, whether you choose a happy pill like Prozac or an anesthetizer like Xanax or Ativan. We just haven't gotten to that part of the story yet.
And PS, congratulations to the various drug companies enjoying free advertising for their trademarked drug product names!