Prozac vs. Xanax: An underfunded University of California research study

IMG_2836By Josie Clerfond with contributions from Natalie Silver

If you are at the point where you can hardly write a professional email without 4 shots of espresso, a 2-hour nap, and a tearful phone call with your mom, you may be experiencing what us college students call “burnout.”

If the word “reading” triggers an immediate spike in your heart rate, and the sight of an online submissions folder makes your vision blur with terror as you approach the edge of blacking out, you are experiencing burnout.

If sitting down in the library to write a paper causes you heart failure before your fingers can even click your mousepad enough times to open Google Docs, you are experiencing burnout.

The University of California system fundamentally does not sit well with many people, including the two subjects of this article. Not only because it is a giant, cumbersome and elite-ridden bureaucracy, but because the stress it induces has been shown to powerfully shape its student’s brains for the worse. Burnout is a leading cause of generalized anxiety, panic, and depression in college, and may lead its victims to believe that they have biochemical issues residing within their brains (which they probably do, by year three).

Burnout and its associated waves of irrational anxiety and mental paralyzation can make everyday tasks exceedingly difficult. Since–under our current socioeconomic framework— a lifestyle change isn’t always possible, we took part in an underfunded study comparing two anti-anxiety medications: Prozac and Xanax, as treatments for some of the worst symptoms of student existence.

How, you ask, could two seemingly nice girls from loving home environments end up on regimens of mind-altering pharmaceuticals? Well… this is a question we have as well, and may be better directed to ever-supportive and sympathetic leadership heads such as Janet Napolitano.

Disclaimer: All drugs in this study were legally obtained.

prescription-drugs-and-my-generation-amelia-abraham-232-1415058926Review # 1: Prozac.

I think there should be a warning on the packaging of the Prozac bottle that says, Caution: this medication may significantly impair your ability to give a fuck. I mean this shit is amazing. I have never, I repeat NEVER given less of a fuck in my life. For someone who’s primary issue is giving too much of a fuck, especially when it comes to school, this was the cure. Prozac is a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, which means that it makes serotonin molecules hang out longer on your little brain synapses. Serotonin plays a role in many processes in your body, like sex drive, appetite, happiness, and it helps you poop. When it comes to the way you feel, serotonin “hanging out for longer” can stabilize your mood.

Now that does come with a drawback. A life-altering drawback. Prozac stunted my ability to feel anything. I was a cool ass cucumber every second of every day that I took it. That meant that whenever someone told me an exciting piece of news, the greatest response I could muster was a monotoned “woo.”

Or, if something scary happened, like a car pulled unexpectedly into my lane while I was driving, I FELT NOTHING. I just numbly and automatically slammed on the brakes thinking “Hm. That was ignorant.” unconcerned by the potentially dangerous accident that could have occurred.

If you enjoy the feeling of heart racing excitement as you drop down the top of a roller coaster; if you bask in the adrenaline that pulses through your veins as you eat up the fear and edginess that is life, Prozac ain’t for you my friend.

Also if you enjoy orgasms, Prozac ain’t for you.

However, I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the superpower of not giving a fuck. It was life changing to experience a version of myself that had zero social anxiety and minimal empathy for anyone. My self consciousness and nervousness about interacting with people I didn’t know dissolved. And I’m not even a very socially anxious person in general.

One day, when I am going to a meet and greet with former Zaddy in chief Barack Obama, I’ll take Prozac beforehand to counteract any natural feelings of intimidation. Barry will be wooed by my apparent ability to have it all together. I, uninhibited, will ask for his hand in marriage—which he will of course reject due to his undying loyalty to Michelle. He will, however, offer to write me into his will below Malia and Sasha but above Bo.

Review # 2: Xannies and essay writing.

Why should we need to be euphoric to get work done? More importantly, why aren’t we always euphoric when we’re doing important work?

Xanax. Xanax is the answer to these questions.

I popped a xanny (I’m sweatin) in order to write papers. Just kidding, I took like half a pill with the goal of easing my panic and inability to focus. A few of the peers that I told were befuddled:

“I’ve never hear of Xanax as a study drug. Why don’t you do Adderall?”

Alas, anxiety and neurosis are just two of the many aspects of my life that the majority of people don’t understand. But there I was, living my truth, taking anxiety meds to get my homework done.

The result; a subtle, magical, post-coital calm. Xanax assured me that I don’t have ADHD—even though my anxiety convinces me that I do. Within 30 minutes I was unfazed, trigger-free…lucid. I could read an essay prompt, hail an Uber, click on emails from my bosses, check how many steps I’ve walked and be like “Oh, great.” I felt like a normal, capable human being.

I’m SMART believe it or not. I’m only aware of it and able to exploit it when I pop a xan though.

I’ll liken the experience of taking Xanax to the following metaphor. Imagine hearing gangsta rap for the first time, and thinking “What the fuck are they even saying?”

If you took a Xanax you’d process things in an orderly, practical fashion.

“OK wait. So he just woke up in the morning, so he’s gotta thank God. Got it, totally makes sense.”

“But wait…he’s not sure, today seems kinda odd. Okay, that’s why he’s rapping about it, got it.”

“No barking from the dog. Yeah that’s strange.”

“No smog. In LA? Definitely weird.”

And his mom cooked breakfast without bacon. Hmmm okay…tell me more…”

Today IS a good day. And dude, I love Xanax.


This study has confirmed that while drugs can’t fix your entire life, they can be useful tools for people with anxiety. Drugs change your thought patterns, and your thought patterns affect the way you interact with the world. It remains to be seen whether Natalie and Josie can find a cure for existential dread and debilitating dissatisfaction with patriarchy and capitalist society. For now, they are seeking psychological asylum in Hawaii and Senegal, respectively.



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