In Brave New World, what is soma? Can it be compared to Prozac?
Soma is a kind of opiate in Brave New World that causes people to feel happy so that they don't concentrate on the reality that they live in a dictatorship. Soma is described as having “all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.” It allows its users to take a short break from reality and return without a headache and without the need to harbor the mythology of religion. People (such as Bernard and Lenina) take soma with their coffee before they go out to socialize at night, and there are ice-cream soma bars. The people are so used to taking soma, that they find it impossible and frightening to face life without it. Soma is used to maintain social order and keep people from feeling any negative human emotions, such as jealousy, depression, sadness, or anxiety.
Soma cannot be compared to Prozac, as Prozac is intended to help people who suffer from depression have the equanimity to handle their lives and their real clinical condition. Prozac does not cause euphoria, and it does not remove people from reality. Instead, it helps people who suffer from an illness treat that illness, just as people who suffer from myopia need to wear glasses. Myths about depression and Prozac abound, but there is scientific fact that depression is a true disorder and that Prozac and other anti-depressants help people function and enable them to deal with reality rather than escape it. Therefore, Soma and Prozac are not similar.
Soma is a governmentally provided drug to the people living in the Brave New World. It represents a way to escape pain, discomfort, embarrassment, sadness or anger and to enhance joy, arousal, and an overall sense of well being. It is non-addictive (physically or mentally) and has no negative side effects on the mind or body whatsoever. Individuals are rationed their soma, encouraged to take it, and at times, the soma is used as a means of crowd control in the unlikely situation that a group becomes disorderly. Clearly the government in the society is using soma to calm and control its citizenry. Of course, the citizenry is high all the time, so they don't really mind.
Prozac is also a legal drug that is prescribed by doctors to alleviate depression and anxiety. Its purpose seems to be just like that of soma. In fact, people have compared the two because many people feel that Prozac is a catch-all type of remedy for everyone and that people are prescribed it when they don't really need it. Unfortunately, Prozac can be addictive and has been linked to feelings of suicide in some cases.
In both cases, people are being medicated to avoid problems and negative feelings. This avoidance may lead to negative consequences after all.