The author of a history of Miltown, Valium and Prozac has an interesting take on the antidepressant boom:
Happy Pills ends with a look at the emergence of Prozac and other antidepressants in the late 1980s and 1990s, and the accompanying revival of popular belief in wonder drugs. Why was this resurgence so successful when the drugs themselves turned out to be far from revolutionary? Prozac’s boosters, I argue, took new findings in brain science and used them to create a story that was as much political as it was scientific: miraculous new consumer goods now made it possible to pick and choose personalities—identities—in a utopian free market of accessorizable selfhood.
The author also shares his observations on the cycles of pharmacological misuse and concern:
I guess the most appealing unturned stone was the one that motivated my next book project: the history of prescription drug abuse. At first I thought I was seeing something remarkable and new in the Valium addiction scare. Then I saw that prescription drug scares—and abuse of prescribed medicines—had been rampant earlier in the 1960s, then also in the 1950s, and then back to the 1930s and even earlier. And it wasn’t just tranquilizers and stimulants (amphetamines): there were also prescription narcotics like Demerol and all the hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc. drugs. These had a commercial history, a cultural history, a legal history, and a social history, all relevant to the history of drug use and addiction. Valium, in other words, turned out to be just one tiny chapter in a much longer story that raises all sorts of fascinating questions about drugs, medicines, and drug policy.