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The Age of Anxiety: A History of America's Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizersby Andrea Tone
Synopses & Reviews
Anxious Americans have increasingly pursued peace of mind through pills and prescriptions. In 2006, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 40 million adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in any given year: more than double the number thought to have such a disorder in 2001. Anti-anxiety drugs are a billion-dollar business. Yet as recently as 1955, when the first tranquilizer—Miltown—went on the market, pharmaceutical executives worried that there wouldnt be interest in anxiety-relief. At mid-century, talk therapy remained the treatment of choice.
But Miltown became a sensation—the first psychotropic blockbuster in United States history. By 1957, Americans had filled 36 million prescriptions. Patients seeking made-to-order tranquility emptied drugstores, forcing pharmacists to post signs reading more Miltown tomorrow.” The drugs financial success and cultural impact revolutionized perceptions of anxiety and its treatment, inspiring the development of other lifestyle drugs including Valium and Prozac.
In The Age of Anxiety, Andrea Tone draws on a broad array of original sources—manufacturers files, FDA reports, letters, government investigations, and interviews with inventors, physicians, patients, and activists—to provide the first comprehensive account of the rise of Americas tranquilizer culture. She transports readers from the bomb shelters of the Cold War to the scientific optimism of the Baby Boomers, to the just say no” Puritanism of the late 1970s and 1980s.
A vibrant history of Americas long and turbulent affair with tranquilizers, The Age of Anxiety casts new light on what it has meant to seek synthetic solutions to everyday angst.
Book News Annotation:
While prescription drugs are routinely used today for managing depression and anxiety, this was not the case a half century ago. In this book, Tone (Social History of Medicine, McGill University) looks at the medicalization of mental health issues since the 1950s and at the growth of the pharmaceutical industry that fed Americans' growing reliance on drug-based solutions for stress and anxiety. Basing her account on extensive interviews and other primary sources, the author examines the question of whether increased tranquilizer use is due to higher levels of day-to-day anxiety, or whether that growth is the result of the redefinition of everyday problems as medical or psychological conditions suitable for pharmaceutical intervention. Tone's highly readable (and sometimes personal) account of the social and medical role of tranquilizers will interest many readers. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The definitive history of Americas tranquilizer culture—from the Miltown sensation in the 1950s to Valium in the 1960s and 1970s to Xanax in the twenty-first century.
Drugs for anxiety are a billion-dollar business in the United States. Yet in 1955, when the prescription tranquilizer Miltown became available, pharmaceutical executives worried that there was no market. In The Age of Anxiety, historian Andrea Tone provides a comprehensive account of the rise of Americas prescription drug culture through the lens of our complicated relationship with tranquilizers.
About the Author
Andrea Tone is Canada Research Chair in the Social History of Medicine at McGill University. She is the author of numerous articles and books including Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America, named one of the Best Books of 2001 by the Washington Post, and which inspired the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary on the birth control pill. Devices and Desires received wide acclaim. The New York Times described it as marvelously eye-opening” and American Scientist praised it as remarkable...richly textured...[and] engaging to read.” Her work has been featured on ABC, PBS, NPR, and the History Channel, and in the New York Times. She lives in Montreal.
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