Merchandising Madness: Pills, Promises, andBetter Living Through Chemistry NEARLY A HALF-CENTURY AGO, THE DRUG THORAZINE WAS introduced to ease the suffering of the mentally ill and thosewho cared for them. Since then, pharmaceutical companies have laid the fruits of science and technology before us through ad-vertising text and images that explicitly or implicitly promise someform of psychological ‘‘better living through chemistry.’’1 Given ourseeming preoccupation with one-stop shopping, ultrafast communica-tion, and the quick fix, there appears to be a wholesale cultural ac-ceptance of this promise as truth—so much so that of the billions ofdollars spent annually on prescription drugs over the last severalyears—those designed to quickly and effectively combat depres-sion, anxiety, and psychosis—consistently rank in the top ten (‘‘DrugMonitor Report’’; ‘‘US Physicians’’; ‘ Top 10 Therapeutic’ ; ‘‘Latest 12Month’’).
This dynamic rise in psychotropic drug spending is due in large part to the combined success of the advertising, pharmaceutical, and psy-chiatry industries in commodifying mental illness. Commodification inthis context refers to the blurring of boundaries between discomforts ofdaily living and psychiatric symptomatology to the point that both canbe equally and efficiently remedied through mass-marketed products(i.e., psychotropic medication). And in our free-market, capital-drivensociety, advertising is the engine that shapes and runs this marketing.
Further, as competition for market shares increases in this highlycompetitive and lucrative arena, ‘‘communication forms that abbreviateand truncate meaning systems’’ into familiar signs and symbols—that The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2004r 2004 Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, andPO Box 1354, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK is, dramatic, eye-catching images and seductive text—ascend to thestatus of popular and powerful cultural icons (Goldman and Montagne,1047). Who is not familiar with Pfizer’s promotional antidepressantcampaign featuring a despondent anthropomorphized egg that istransformed through its close encounter of a Zoloft kind? This blurring of boundaries between the normal and pathological experience of anxiety and depression is continually made evident totelevision viewers, magazine and newspaper readers, Internet surfers,and medical professionals in the form of advertisements that path-ologize and sometimes exaggerate the incidence of these conditions(Vedantam). Capitalizing on the turbulent effect of current events,including terrorism, unemployment, and economic disasters, as well asthe disquieting influence of daily pressures, including parenting, noisepollution, and overcrowding, the alluring promises of psychotropicdrug ads is often inescapable. People who struggle with the verycommon problems of shyness, sadness, nervousness, malaise, and evensuspiciousness are offered refuge under the umbrella of drug-assistedwell-being. Exemplifying this point is a 2000 Bristol-Myers Squibb adin Reader’s Digest for the anxiety drug BuSpar. It depicts a smilingyoung woman triumphantly sitting atop a mountain of words thatspell out daily complaints: ‘ I can’t sleep . . . I’m always tired . . . soanxious.’’ Although it has even been argued that temporary emotional dis- comfort can be instructive, adaptive, and motivational (Kramer 93),Americans readily accept this sacrifice for the benefit of instant equi-librium to the tune of $10.4 billion spent in 2000 – 2001 on the fourtop-selling antidepressants alone: Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Celexa(Stefanova; ‘‘Antidepressants’’).
The first major push in print psychotropic drug advertising in thiscountry came in the late 1940s, to help manage the rigors of daily lifeand assist a wounded population recovering from the collectivetrauma of war. Early ads in professional medical journals promisedrestful sleep, relief from the psychoneurotic symptoms of depressionand anxiety, an improved outlook, and even aid to the unfortunatehousewife managing both an ailing husband and returning war veteran son [who was] ‘ a drunkard too weak to support himself.’’2The introduction of the major tranquilizer Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)in 1954 simultaneously heralded the era of deinstitutionalization ofthe mentally ill and the institutionalization of psychotropic drugadvertising.
Thorazine, along with its soon-to-arrive competitors Desbutal, Miltown, Serpasil, Sandil, and Desoxyn, to name a few, picked up the pacewith added promises of ‘‘counteracting the extremes of emotion, elim-inating bizarre behavior problems, facilitating psychiatric treatmentand dispelling shadows.’’3 Throughout the rest of the 1950s, the pushcontinued to advertise medications that were aimed not just at theeveryday person, but at those unfortunate previously hospitalizedmental patients who were now trying to piece together lives outsideinstitutional walls. Images of contented former patients working pro-ductively were contrasted with those of their distraught, isolated, andderanged counterparts depicted ‘‘peering over the edge of a house ofcards’’—or, as in a 1956 ad for the antidepressant Serpanry, turnedaway from the portal to an idyllic pastoral setting. By the end of thatfirst decade of advertising psychotropic drugs, families were depicted invarious phases of reunion, men returned successfully to work andwomen to their domestic responsibilities. Sociocultural equilibriumwas to be found in a jar.
Although it has been argued that the subsequent explosion of psy- chotropic drug advertising fostered psychiatric stereotypes of men,women, children, and the elderly, it can just as easily be argued thatthey simply held up a mirror to a culture that already defined itspopulation on the basis of these stereotypes. Over the next severaldecades and into the present, the power of these ad campaigns hasrested as much on the delivery as in the deliverables themselves. Mas-terfully in touch with the climate of the times and the pressures of theday, advertising companies have known exactly when to refocus theircampaigns and on what target audience: males, females, young, old,workers, and homebodies.
Common to all of the advertising campaigns was their ability to capitalize, if not prey, on deeply entrenched popular culture archetypessuch as the beleaguered housewife, the struggling bread-winninghusband, the lonely and disengaged senior citizen, and the child iso-lated from family and friends by seemingly intractable behavioral andemotional disturbances. The presumption of these ads was that if a drug could ‘‘fix’’ the problem, its origin must have been illness. Thisequating of problems in daily living with mental (or medical) illnessfueled the legitimacy of psychotropic medicine (Kleinman and Cohen870) that promised to heal the pain of the world, or ‘ Weltschmertz’’(Neill 336). The culture was being primed to accept the notion thatthere was a ‘‘pill for every ill.’’ Pill, person, patient, and illness wouldindistinguishably merge, as depicted in an early 1960s ad for Smith-Kline-Beecham’s Thorazine in which the pill, rather than a person,rested comfortably on the psychoanalyst’s leather couch. There wasn’teven a psychiatrist in the traditional chair behind it.
Over the next several decades and into the present, the advertising industry honed its ability to capture, if not direct, popular and pro-fessional attention to the promises of psychotropic drugs. Capitalizingon the time-tested techniques of repetition, emotional evocation, sim-plification, and the ‘‘picture superiority effect’’ (Singh et al. 3), the adsfor psychiatric panaceas made bold statements, both explicit and im-plicit. For example, an early 1970s ad for the antipsychotic Stelazinemakes an implicit comparison between the philosophical and musicalgenius of Plato and Beethoven and that of the drug by featuring theirbusts above the advertising text. In another, a frightening Africantribal mask is used to depict the primitive destructive nature of mentalillness. Implied in the latter ad is that the advertised drug can reso-cialize the sufferer.
Advertisements for various other psychotropic drugs have utilized images and icons of popular culture. An ad for Celltech Medeva’sstimulant for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) utilizes the Batman genre: a beacon shining a glowing ‘‘M’’on the clouds calling out for its ‘‘champion.’’ Earlier advertisements forElavil, a mood stabilizer, feature historic physicians Philippe Pinel andBenjamin Rush to suggest that the product user, and the product byassociation, is imbued with inherent wisdom and strength. Anotheradvertisement for a stimulant drug features a blaring alarm clock thatsuggests to the reader that the ‘‘time has come’’ to do the right thing—that is, take the advertised medication. What is not suggested isthat our society’s preoccupation with speed, deadlines, and warningsignals probably plays as much a contributing role in the disordertreated by that very same medication. This latter ad highlights one ofthe marketing strategies called decontextualization, which is addressedbelow.
The success of psychotropic advertising in assuring people that well-being is just a pill away has depended on effective use of cliche´, met-aphor, seductive images, and suggestive text that capitalize on binaryoppositions such as ‘‘then and now’’ and ‘‘before and after.’’ However,the true backbone of the advertising industry’s success in promotingtheir vision of well-being lay in its two-pronged strategy of margin-alization and decontextualization. The process of marginalization in-volves simplifying the physician’s role to that of a technician primedto dispense pills according to scripted cultural stereotypes. Dec-ontextualization refers to elimination of the personal, social, and cul-tural contexts of peoples’ lives from the explanatory equation, and bydoing so, reducing the complexities of living to predictable, manage-able, and ultimately medically treatable symptoms.
At the 1971 United Nations convention, signatories (the United Statesincluded) agreed to prohibit the advertising of psychotropic drugsdirectly to the public. Up until 1997, when the Food and Drug Ad-ministration (FDA) modified its policy to allow direct-to-consumeradvertising (DTCA), promotional campaigns for psychotropic drugstargeted physicians through professional medical journals. Throughteaser ads and bold product claims, the pharmaceutical industry cap-italized on entrenched social stereotypes cloaked in medicalized jargonto convince physicians that symptom reduction and/or elimination wasjust a prescription away. By merging patients with their problems indramatic promise-laden ads, the process of ‘‘diagnosis at a glance’’(Stimson 158) was implied as a substitute for traditional comprehen-sive assessment. Further, reliance on nonrational appeals, puns, andsympathetic patient depictions (Smith and Griffin 410)—as well asmisleading claims and underuse of factual information (Bell, Wilkes,and Kravitz 1093)—began to replace the physician with the drug.
Ostensibly, the ads educated and empowered physicians by under- mining alternative treatments, entrenching the medicalization of non-medical problems, and promoting lack of confidence in personal health.
This elevated the disease model, and with it, the physician (Medawar; Mintzes et al.). Early ads prominently featured well-clad officious pro-fessionals tending to distressed, disheveled, and disoriented patients.
Insidiously, however, the physician became far less prominent in psy-chotropic drug advertisements, a mere bystander in this conflict for thecollective soul of the suffering masses. A 1960s ad for the antipsychoticdrug Trilafon depicts a beleaguered and despondent patient sittingacross the desk from his psychiatrist; clearly, both are allies in thetreatment. In contrast, and in a recent ad for the antipsychotic agentZyprexa, a disheveled man reaches desperately upward to the out-stretched hand of a physician. Upon closer inspection, the viewer no-tices that the likelihood that the two will reach each other is madepossible only by virtue of the patient standing on a rock in the shape ofthe stylized ‘‘Z’’ associated with the name Zyprexa.
How ironic that in a culture that has historically reified the medical professional—placing him in the central healing role—the very adsthat rely on them for profitability eventually chip away at that cen-trality. The early ads of the 1950s were designed to show physicianshow helpful these wonder drugs could be in freeing the mentally illfrom institutional life. Drug and doctor were partners in liberation.
Medicines were touted for their ability to ‘‘help keep more patients outof mental hospitals.’’4 Wonderfully artistic and dramatic images re-minded physicians that Thorazine and related drugs were the way toavoid the historically barbaric treatment of the mentally ill, and byassociation, to avoid the failures of his professional ancestors.
As deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients progressed in the late 1950s and 1960s, psychotropic medicines were promoted as ad-junctive aids to physicians who could now better reach their patientsthrough psychotherapy. Nevertheless, those ads also made it quite clearthat psychotherapy was not possible without the assistance of themedication that it was attempting to sell. Poignant and emotionallyevocative images with captions such as ‘‘the therapeutic alliance’’5 and‘‘removing the bars between patient and psychiatrist’’6 reminded bothpatient and physician that they had a friend. But the implied messagewas that they could no longer do their jobs alone. Few ads capture thisprocess of physician marginalization better than a current one for theantipsychotic Geodon, in which a tangle of musical notes emerges fromblackness into vivid color on a perfectly ordered musical staff. It fea-tures neither the patient nor the physician. It is the drug and the drugalone that retrieves the melody of life from the chaos of mental illness.
Another ad, this time for the antidepressant Celexa, depicts a bril-liantly colored flower sprouting victoriously from the parched andbarren desert of depression.
Actual response from physicians regarding the impact of pharma- ceutical advertising in both professional and lay venues has varied.
A survey of midwestern physicians in both urban and rural settings(Petroshius, Titus, and Hatch) suggests that satisfaction with DTCA ismixed, with greater perceived utility of these ads among youngerand urban practitioners. Older and rural practitioners were more re-sistant to the idea of DTCA, and by association, to their marginal-ization. A related survey of consumers in a western metropolitan area(Everett 44) suggested that DTCA could stimulate doctor-patientconversations about appropriate prescriptions. A survey of 199 phy-sicians by Psychiatric News suggested that few physicians felt par-ticularly pressured to prescribe medications suggested by their patients(‘‘Direct to Consumer’’ 2), and that many regarded the phenomenon ofDTCA to be at worst benign. What is clear is that as advertisingcampaigns shifted from professionals to the consuming public, theassault on the bastion of psychiatry and medicine gained even greatermomentum.
The central premise behind decontextualization is as follows: It isn’tovercrowding, aging, parenting, terrorism, global warming, recession,unemployment, or even the pressure of being a man or woman that isresponsible for the epidemic of anxiety and depression in our culture. Itis the individual’s failure to adequately respond to these challenges forreasons of emotional and/or psychological inadequacy. Symptoms forwhich people seek relief through psychotropic medication and to whichthe pharmaceutical ads appeal are thus reinterpreted as personal failuresand then recontextualized as illness. This in turn justifies the need for amedical solution. By localizing pathology within the person ratherthan in the external factors that give rise to them, decontextualization‘‘serves to reinforce and legitimize social attitudes and relations [such assexism and alienating working conditions] which may actually con-tribute to the problems these [medical] products target’’ (qtd. inKleinman and Cohen 873). The promoted psychotropic agent may indeed help the harried housewife, disgruntled worker, disenfranchisedteen, or painfully shy salesperson muddle through their daily rigors.
However, the seductive advertisements implicitly undermine self-help,alternative forms of treatment, and the need to remedy the inequities,injustices, and discomforts that gave rise to the problem in the firstplace.
By playing to and preying upon weakness, psychotropic drug ad- vertisements make the moral assertion that people who struggle un-successfully under these pressures are of a lesser god, and as a result,need the help of the psychiatric establishment. In a sense, the success ofdecontextualization rests in its power to victimize and dehumanizethose who are ostensibly unsuccessful at living. This process was pres-aged in the early 1960s by psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, who in histreatise The Myth of Mental Illness suggested that ‘ We don’t expecteveryone to be a competent swimmer, chess player or golfer, and wedon’t regard those who can’t play as sick. Yet, we expect everyone toplay at his own life game competently, and when they don’t, we callthem sick—mentally ill!’’ (35). In his later volume, Ideology and In-sanity, Szasz reflected on the ethics and morality inherent in callingpeople mentally ill, noting, ‘‘The notion of mental symptom is inex-tricably tied to the social and particularly ethical context in which it ismade, just as the notion of bodily symptom is tied to an anatomicaland genetic context’’ (14).
Consider a 1960s ad for the tranquilizer Prolixin that offers relief from the stresses of the day. The intentionally blurred image of thecrowded metropolis literally and metaphorically shifts the reader’s fo-cus away from the relatively faceless denizens. We are not asked toconsider the context (i.e., the opprobrious rat-race conditions of urbanliving that results in emotional stress), nor are we asked to consider thehumanity of the people caught in it. Instead, we are drawn to the oasisof clarity found in the promissory advertising text that zeroes in on themedicalized symptoms of the emotional stress.
Fast forward to 2001 and the social, emotional, and cultural up- heaval following the attacks of September 11. In the twelve-monthperiod between October 2000 and October 2001, national sales for thetop three antidepressants—Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft—rose 20%, or$499 million. Pfizer, maker of Zoloft, spent $5.6 million on TV andmagazine advertisements in October of that year, while Glaxo spent$16.5 million on ads for Paxil in that same period, up significantly from spending in October of the previous year (‘‘US Physicians’’).
Although these statistics do not speak directly to the issue of de-contextualization as a driving force in the advertising of psychotropicdrugs, the implication is that medication had a role to play in recoveryfrom those events. Pfizer’s advertisements for Zoloft during that pain-ful period featured flags, candles, firemen, and referenced the $10million spent by the company on relief funds. Advertising text such as,‘ We wish we could make a medicine that could take away the heart-ache, but until we can, we will continue to do everything we can tohelp’’ (qtd. in Parpis 2), suggested that although they could not healthe nation from this tragic event, ultimately it would be their re-sponsibility to do so. Here again, as in the 1963 advertisement forProlixin, it was not the sociopolitical antecedents of the stressor, whichin this case was terrorism that required attention; it was an otherwisehelpless, anxiety-ridden, victimized, and psychologically impairedpopulace that required medical assistance. Context had been strippedfrom the event so that a wounded population could be sold on themerits of modern medication.
Perhaps the most heavily documented example of decontextualiza- tion in psychotropic advertising has focused on gender construction. Ithas been demonstrated that the disproportionate representation ofwomen in ads for antidepressants and antianxiety drugs has perpet-uated gender stereotypes (Nikelly 233; Hansen and Osborne 130).
Advertising companies took (and take) full advantage of culturalexpectations with regard to the gender imbalance inherent in psychi-atric epidemiology rates. A 1960s antipsychotic ad for Navane featuresa mother looking lovingly at her young, who sits atop a kitchencounter amongst the groceries. It was Navane that brought her hometo the bliss of domesticity and parenthood. Another depicts a youngwoman chatting with her female friend over breakfast, with a pastel-colored early morning sky in the window behind them. A 1980s anti-depressant ad for Asendin depicts a woman’s face in a crumpled divorcedecree, suggesting that the medication will liberate her from this de-contextualized nightmare of divorce. A more recent ad for Zoloft showsa mother in a business suit joyfully running through the park with hertwo young, soccer-clad sons; the ad talks about the power of the med-ication to provide this. Each of these suggests that relief from thestresses of parenting, domesticity, and even divorce is just a pill away.
Once liberated from the grips of disease rather than from the cultural dictates of their role, women are freed to return to that prescribed role,or an idealized version of it.
With regard to the decontextualization of men’s issues, psychotropic advertisements have typically focused on the power of the pill to returnthe man to work by freeing him and those around him from the threatof his aggressive nature, or to re-establish the romantic bond with hispartner. In these ways, the flaws of masculinity—or at least the ster-eotypical limitations of the masculine role—are reduced, as in the caseof women, to treatable psychiatric symptoms. In this context, a 1960sad for Thorazine shows a man in mid-rage against a woman. The texttalks about the control of agitation. A later ad, which discusses thepower of the drug to return sufferers to reality, depicts a man whoseimage is cut in half. On the left is a robotic shell that is being re-constructed square by square. On the right is the man fully restored,including hair and suit. A more recent ad for Remeron, an antide-pressant, shows a sixty-something something couple embracing eachother, with the man holding a brilliant bouquet of flowers behind thewoman. As in the case of advertisements targeting women, the phar-maceutical industry is holding up a mirror to our entrenched culturalattitudes and expectations about men—that is, their violent tenden-cies, their fulfillment through work, and their potential for grace andcompassion (with medication).
Pitching the Pill in the Late 90s:Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Consider the implications of the following. In the four-year periodfollowing the FDA’s removal of restrictions on DTCA, national spend-ing on pharmaceutical promotion rose from $791 million to $2.4billion (Kreling, Motta, and Wiederholt 31). No longer dependent onphysicians as their primary audience, advertisers pointed their promisesand pills directly at the American public. With estimates that onedollar spent on television and magazine advertising translates into$1.69 and $2.51 in drug sales, respectively (‘‘Europe on the Brink’’ 2),the potential profit in marketing directly to the public becomes in-escapable. In 2001, $16.4 billion was spent on drug promotion, $2.6billion of which went into DTCA (‘‘In the Six Months’’ 2). Of thatlatter amount, $184.5 million was spent solely on marketing only some of the more popular medications for depression, insomnia, andanxiety (O’Connell and Zimmerman 11).
Over the last five years, psychotropic drug ads have found their way into a wide array of popular magazines (Parents, Reader’s Digest, TVGuide, Better Homes & Gardens, Time, and Redbook), newspapers, prime-time television commercials, radio spots, public transportation kiosks,billboards, and the Internet. It is not uncommon to hear references toProzac in daily conversations or in movie dialogue, and the expression‘‘taking a Prozac moment’’ has become idiomatic in our culture. Severalyears ago, the books Listening to Prozac by Peter Kramer and ProzacNation by Elizabeth Wurtzel were runaway best-sellers that broughtthe battle for the American psyche into bold relief. Each year, anastronomical number of prescriptions are written for psychotropicmedications by psychiatric and nonpsychiatric physicians: almost 70million for Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft alone in 2000 (Kreling, Motta,and Wiederholt 32). Recent research suggests that ‘‘patients who re-quest particular brands of drugs after seeing advertisements are nearlynine times more likely to get what they ask for than those who simplyseek a doctor’s advice’’ (qtd. in Lewis 20).
It is difficult to overstate the importance of an educated consumer, and DTCA, by all credible accounts, is having just that effect. Butwhile the ‘‘hard sell’’ is ostensibly on the merits of psychotropic med-ication, destigmatization of mental illness, and consumer empower-ment, the driving force behind that ‘‘sell’’ rests in the undeniable truththat there is ‘‘gold in them thar pills’’! Money and medical promisesmake for not only strange but also highly unlikely bedfellows who tossand turn in attempts to win over a restless culture seemingly bent onself-stimulation, self-sedation, or both. However, the most restless andthat with the greatest stake in the ‘‘merchandising of mind mechanics’’(Goldman 1047) is the pharmaceutical industry, in its ongoing quest tocreate new niches from which to market its products.
Quoted in the journal Advertising Age, Barry Brand, Paxil’s product director, noted that ‘‘Every marketer’s dream is to find an unidentifiedor unknown market and develop it. That’s what we were able to dowith social anxiety disorder’’ (Vedantam 3). In this context, Brandrefers to the marketing success behind the promotion of Paxil, with its‘ You’re life is waiting’’ campaign. Supporters argue that social anxietydisorder is a legitimate psychiatric condition necessitating medicaltreatment. Detractors contend that pharmaceutical companies are medicalizing shyness to sell drugs. A related phenomenon occurred inthe recent advertising campaign for Serafem, a Prozac clone for treatingthe depressive component of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
In anticipation of Prozac’s patent expiration, Lily spent $14 million inDTCA of Serafem, which in its first six months on the market garnered$33 million in sales. In this case, the controversy centered not so muchon the legitimacy of PMDD as a psychiatric condition, but to themorality of expanding the boundaries of the condition to include de-pression that could then be medicated with the new drug.
In addition to the metaphors, images, and promises that have formed the foundation of these powerful and profitable advertisingcampaigns, pharmaceutical companies have saturated the professionaland popular landscape with a plethora of palpable promotionals. Therange of psychotropic pharmaceutical merchandise is breathtaking(Findlay 4). It is not uncommon to find friends and colleagues drinkingfrom a Zoloft mug, writing with a Seroquel pen, squeezing a Paxilsponge ball-brain, relaxing to a Prozac waterfall, eating popcorn andPop-Tarts in Resperdal packaging, wiping away tears with Libriumtissues, or telling time from a Geodon clock. Bombardment is the moreapt term for this facet of the psychotropic advertising campaign in itsattempt to remind stressed men, women, and children that betterliving is within quick reach. In a culture that turns both to superheroesand science, what could be a more fitting reminder of the power of theadvertising industry than the promotional campaign for Metadate, astimulant medication used to treat ADHD? With the promising powerof their superhero Metadate-Man, the pharmaceutical industry has in asingle bound come full circle.
Advertising is so much a part of our culture that it is hard to imagine aday without being sold something in some form by someone. Adver-tising slogans are part of our language. Their symbols are a part of ourvisual landscape, and their metaphors reveal and inform our socialconstructions. We are influenced through every conceivable medium bypitches and promises of products and services ostensibly designed tomake our lives easier, richer, and more fulfilling. Of the plethoraof products on the market designed to enrich life, psychotropic medication stands prominently. The massive annual dollar amountspent on advertising and purchasing these products is a testament toour willingness to embrace these promises—a culture stricken with‘‘mental pillness.’’ It is appealing to attribute this phenomenon solely to the joint effort of the advertising and pharmaceutical industries to commodify mentalillness, and through doing so, to create products with which to cure it.
It can and has been argued that these industries capitalize on thevulnerabilities, perceived powerlessness, and naı¨vete´ of the consumingpublic—and on those of the prescribing professional, on whom bothindustries depend. Equally, if not more compelling, however, is thepossibility that this so-called ‘‘merchandising madness’’ is of our ownmaking, born out of cultural impatience with, among other things,traffic, noise, aging, weight gain, sexual decline, fear, stress, and in thecontext of this article, emotional pain. The true madness underlyingthe merchandising of psychotropic medication may be a symptom ofour cultural preoccupation with expedience, reification of science, and acollective outward search for salvation.
1. From advertising motto of the E.I. Dupont Corporation, ‘‘Better things for better living 2. Advertising text for Mebaral, Allonal, and Dexamyl appearing in the American Journal of 3. Taken from ads appearing in the American Journal of Psychiatry between 1954 and 1956.
4. Taken from a 1955 ad for Thorazine in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
5. Taken from a 1970s ad for Haldol in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
6. Taken from a 1960s ad for Trilafon in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
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Vedantam, Shankar. ‘‘Drug Ads Helping Anxiety Make Some Uneasy.’’ Author’s note: The visual ads described in this article are compelling, and thereader is invited to browse through psychiatric and popular journals andmagazines, old and new, to garner their full impact.
Lawrence Rubin is professor of counselor education at St. ThomasUniversity in Miami, Florida.


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