Brave New America

Certain periods in history are characterized according to the dominant trends and behaviors of the time. For example, the 1920s are called the "Lost Generation" and the 1950s are described as the "Beat Generation." When posterity looks back on our contemporary society, I suspect it will classify us as the "Medicated Generation."

Since the 1980s, the use of psychotropic drugs has increased more than 40%, primarily to treat depression. Anti-depressants are being prescribed to allay symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, agitation, mood swings, apprehension, grief, feelings of panic, and lethargy. In other words, the day-to-day symptoms that prior generations learned to cope with.

To obtain a prescription for a psychotropic drug, you don’t need a diagnosis from a psychiatrist, your regular doctor will be happy to oblige you. And young children are popping these pills as regularly as their parents. In fact, drugging children seems to be replacing discipline.

The classification of these drugs says a lot about our society; i.e. inhibitors, mood stabilizers, hypnotics, and tranquilizers. Their use is so prevalent that they have become a part of everyday conversations and it is fashionable to constantly change to the latest drug on the market; "I was taking Paxil but I’m getting better results from Zoloft."

Of course, since health insurance as well as Medicaid and Medicare bear the bulk of the cost of these new drugs, there is no reason not to get on the bandwagon. Especially, after being lured by the bewitching full-page advertisements in magazines extolling the wonders of these medications and showing happy faces with radiant smiles. To use the language of the ads, psychotropics are on the cutting edge of new technological developments.

The euphoria produced by these little capsules is indeed enticing but what about the long-range, or even the short-term, consequences? One critic summarized his concern with these comments: "Medical science helps unhappy people by clouding their thoughts, by making them less aware of the world, and by sapping their urge to see themselves in a true light. People medicated for everyday happiness gain inner peace, but they do so through a real decrement in consciousness."

Already there are studies being conducted to determine the relationship of these drugs to driving and traffic accidents. This is especially troubling when we see so many drivers with a cell phone in one hand and a breakfast biscuit in the other.

We can safely assume that, like alcohol and illicit drugs, psychotropics also impair motor and cognitive skills. Furthermore, and this is the point I want to make, as the use of these medications becomes more widespread, a significant portion of the population could be reduced to a state of mellow docility wherein unsanctioned conduct by the State would seem unimportant. In fact, I maintain that this is already happening.

The growing disregard of the State’s infringement on individual freedoms that we have witnessed over the last half-century is a result of cumulative trends like this one. The earlier trends include an increased use of recreational drugs, an indiscriminate acceptance of information reported from the national media, an uncritical belief in politically correct opinions and versions of history, and a refusal to speak out for fear of being demeaned with an unflattering label.

Interestingly, these psychotropic drugs are popular with very moral and religious types who do not condone alcohol consumption or the use of illegal drugs. After all, a physician prescribed the pills as part of his plan of treatment for an illness. So there is no impropriety involved. Unfortunately, these same people have always been keenly concerned with public and governmental affairs. They took issues seriously and voted their convictions. But the drugs they are now taking may be making them less discerning and more compliant.

I believe this complacency is growing. Clerks, waitresses and other service personnel seem less alert and less informed about current events. Also, based on conversations I’ve had, letters to the editor I’ve read and email I’ve received, it appears that more and more people are unwilling to publicly refute the interpretation of events peddled by the establishment; an establishment that allows only one side to every story.