What exactly would turn psychotropic drugs like Prozac and Paxil and Zoloft into a subplot in the subprime mess? It’s the biochemistry. Those drugs are SSRIs — selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors — and they spin their mood magic by elevating levels of serotonin in the brain. And serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with behaviors that might contribute to the temptation of borrowing $501,000 on a $500,000 house.
When I asked Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who studies brain chemistry, if my hypothesis passes the expert smell test, she replied: “I wouldn’t at all be surprised if people taking drugs that elevate their levels of serotonin — which blunt the emotions — make some dumb financial decisions. Our emotions evolved, at least in part, to help us monitor our actions.”
The implications are vast if millions are truly walking around with a compromised ability to assess risk and perceive threats.
Watch Helen Fisher’s TEDTalk to hear her thoughts about antidepressant abuse (starting at 18:18) and its harmful effect on our ability to love.