Ben Hansen’s Traveling Medicine Show

I linked to this webpage not too long ago. Be sure to click on the pictures. I didn’t do that the first time around. You get a whole lot more for your page view. I find it both entertaining enough and disturbing enough to highlight it again as Ben Hansen has been interviewed about his research here on EdNews.

Excerpts from the article:

I believe the idea first came to me after viewing a tattered old copy of the American Psychiatric Association’s journal, Mental Hospitals, published in 1957. The magazine contained numerous full-page ads for psychiatric drugs. Back then, Thorazine was marketed for hyperactive children, while Ritalin was marketed for schizophrenic adults. Today, drugs like Thorazine are marketed for schizophrenia, and Ritalin is marketed for hyperactive kids.

I thought it would be interesting to collect as many of the old ads as possible, then display them side by side to show how the pharmaceutical industry has used advertising over the decades to influence the way mental illness is viewed, and to show how these so-called modern drug treatments have evolved……

……We didn’t know heroin was once bottled and sold by Bayer, nor did we know that the popular soft drink Seven-up once contained lithium, a drug now widely prescribed for bipolar disorder.

We were also surprised to learn that cannabis (marijuana) was once bottled and sold by Eli Lilly in three forms: fluid extract, powdered extract, and tincture……

…..We wanted to draw parallels between modern drug advertising and the original medicine shows which were so popular at the turn of the century. Historians have remarked that the traveling medicine shows were the beginning of modern advertising as we know it.

Like a circus, the traveling medicine show would come to town and set up a tent, offering free entertainment in the form of jugglers, storytellers and musicians, and in between the different acts a miracle cure or “snake oil” would be peddled to the audience.

Nowadays, the medicine show has taken a different form — every night on television, an audience of millions is held spellbound by a variety of free entertainment, with commercial breaks every few minutes. More often than not, those commercial breaks are devoted to selling prescription drugs.

In the old days, a medical quack would shout into a bullhorn, “Our amazing miracle cure will heal what ails you!” Today, a tv announcer simply says in a soothing voice, “Ask your doctor if the Purple Pill is right for you.”

We hope visitors to the online Marvelous Mental Medicine Show will see the similarities between the old and the new!

Do read the whole article for additional interesting tidbits!

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

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