How Mother Found Her Helper: The story of America’s long infatuation with anti-anxiety drugs.

Interesting little history of how benzos became a hit in this nation in Newsweek from last week. It’s really not a great article as far as I can tell but interesting nonetheless. It’s an interview with Andrea Tone who wrote a book called The Age of Anxiety, which I don’t think I agree with the thesis but frankly as if often the case these days I don’t read everything I post really carefully. In any case it’s something to think about. And if this prompts discussion I promise I’ll read it more carefully.

The idea of the patient driven drugging thesis bugs me. If we’re not given real alternatives and have no idea that what is being given to us is hard-core addictive it just seems to be blaming the patient too much–especially since the author is writing about 50 years ago when we had no access to information other than that which we received from doctors…so please read this with a critical eye.

An excerpt from the introduction, before the interview:

America’s all-time favorite pill isn’t for birth control, according to historian Andrea Tone. It’s a potent little tranquilizer called Miltown, after Milltown, the New Jersey hamlet where it was manufactured in 1955. Despite virtually zero advertising, the release of the original “mother’s little helper” set off a consumer stampede. By 1957, Americans had filled 36 million prescriptions for Miltown, more than a billion pills had been manufactured and these so-called “peace pills” accounted for one third of all prescriptions. The drug’s popularity has fallen off a cliff since the 1960s, when studies found that it caused psychological dependence. But it nonetheless launched the age of psychiatric cure-alls. Dozens of “lifestyle drugs” (like Xanax and Paxil, which also treat anxiety) have followed in its wake, raising a perennial question: do we actually need these medications, or does Big Pharma push them on us?

Critics argue that the push is more like an aggressive shove. Drug companies spent more than $4 billion on syrupy and suggestive consumer ads last year, up from less than $1 billion in 1997. And more than three quarters of that cash went for television ads, which critics have blamed for trivializing the serious decision to take prescription drugs. Last year House Democrats tried (and failed) to pass a bill banning TV ads during a drug’s first three years on the market. . But historian Tone differs with those who blame our pop-a-pill mentality on marketing hype and harried doctors too eager to write prescriptions. In “The Age of Anxiety” (Basic Books), her smart and crisp history of American tranquilizer use, the McGill University professor finds that demand for Miltown—the first lifestyle drug—was surprisingly patient driven. (rest of article here)

For much more information about benzodiazepines and how one might withdraw see here:

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

3 Responses

  1. Ho hum, I didn’t like that article. The professor (I’ve already forgotten her name, thanks Lamictal) seems weird. Not the good kind of weird either. But thanks for posting it anyway. Gotta get my daily pharma reading in.


  2. This is news to me. I thought Valium was first popular antianxiety. “invented in 1963” the chemist that invented Valium just recently passed away.
    Went to wikipedia on Milton and found.
    “Meprobamate’s mechanism of action is not known. It has been shown in animal studies to have effects at multiple sites in the central nervous system, including the thalamus and limbic system”

    Seems you get more sleepy than antianxiety on Milton.


Comments are closed.