Researchers at the Nakamoto Brain Sciences Research Institute in Tokyo announced today the discovery of a happiness pill.
The happiness pills, called Manzoku, give people a “sense of contentment,” according to Owarai Kusa, the project’s lead scientist.
Mr. Kusa claims happiness pills are a major breakthrough compared to traditional feel-good drugs such as alcohol and stimulants such as cocaine because it’s not addictive and you do not develop a tolerance for it, which typically leads to increasing dosage requirements.
“It just works,” says Tim Johnson, a neuropsychologist at the University of Odwalla who was not involved in the research. “Exactly how is something of a mystery but what they’ve achieved has been widely considered the holy grail of psychology. Instead of giving people challenging guidance like ‘follow your bliss’, now you can just ‘swallow you bliss.'”
Manzoku, which means bliss in Japanese, happiness pills are currently undergoing final approval by the U.S. FDA and are expected to enter the market in early 2015.
Economists, business executives, and political leaders are all keeping a sharp eye on developments around the drug. “Imagine,” says Robert Kingmaker, Executive Director of the Global Productivity Council, “how much more productive our workforce could be if everyone could just pop a pill and be content with their job. Lower employee turnover, less absenteeism, and, looking at it from the individual point of view, that job you hate today could be your dream job tomorrow.”
“The implications are enormous,” says Rep. Donna DuCatti, (D. LA-4). “We’ve been talking about using Gross National Happiness as a measure of government effectiveness for years but it never goes anywhere with the fiscal conservatives. GDP is all they care about and they say that if people are happy they won’t do all those jobs nobody likes. It’s frustrating but this happiness pill seems like it offers a way forward. Not only can everyone be happy, it really won’t matter what their circumstances are. It certainly makes our job in Congress easier.”
A number of business leaders we spoke to for this report said that they were hoping to test the happiness pills as soon as possible. An executive with a major cable television provider, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “We’d love to use this in our customer service department. With the pill, we’d be able to give the same poor quality service we give today but now we can feel good about it, too.”
Not everyone is so positive about the impact of happiness in a pill. Rachel Raczinski, director of the Human Ideas and Potentials Organization (HIPO) is critical. “It’s just not natural. What are we if we can just take a tablet and be satisfied with our lives. Shouldn’t life mean more than that? Helen Keller put it this way: ‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.’ To me, drugging your way to bliss is nothing at all.”
During the development of the drug, researchers faced several hurdles. In early testing in mice for safety and efficacy, researchers were able to assess safety without difficulty but, when it came to efficacy, that presented challenges. “How [can] you tell when [a] mouse [is] happy?,” Mr. Kusa asks. Apparently, they have a little contented smile on their face like this.
Additional reporting from Tokyo by Kakū No Kisha.