THE TRANQUILIZING OF AMERICA: Pill Popping and the American Way of Life by Richard & Robert Brewin Hughes

THE TRANQUILIZING OF AMERICA: Pill Popping and the American Way of Life

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There is a line between reasoned investigative journalism and impassioned polemic-which the authors here seldom observe; too bad, because much of the burden of their message is valid. Many doctors overprescribe medications, especially psychoactive ones; many patients expect chemical surcease for all stress and pain. Drug companies profit from and promote the practice, and many nursing home, hospital, and other institutional administrators keep their staffs happy by undue chemical ""management"" of their charges. To get the message across, however, Hughes and Brewin have resorted to preaching, sensationalism, sentimentality, and less-than-thorough research. They milk Betty Ford's Valium/alcohol addiction and trundle out sob stories of prescription junkies from the cradle (medicated birth) to the grave (drug-induced senility). Valium, Librium, Thorazine, Ritalin, and Darvon are cited as particularly opprobrious among prescription drugs, but a long chapter scores the evils of over-the-counter medications as well. The FDA is repeatedly attacked for caution, corruption, or collusion though, by the author's own accounting, FDA performance varies with the personnel in charge. Particularly offensive is a chapter on the danger of drugs in pregnancy and delivery. The authors' principal argument is that obstetric drugs can cause permanent nervous system damage in children. They cite data (derived from the federally funded Collaborative Perinatal Project) purporting to show that the offspring of women medicated in childbirth with a variety of muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, and local and centrally acting anesthetics showed an overall four-point IQ deficiency later in childhood. There was no control group, and the description of method, criteria for analysis, and follow-up is bewilderingly murky. In a later chapter, they harp on the obstetric drug theme again, suggesting a possible causal link between drugs used during delivery and various disabilities diagnosed as minimal brain dysfunction. When such alarmist conjectures are combined with inaccuracies (the drug-induced motor disorder tardive dyskinesia is confused with Parkinson's disease; neuro-transmitters are confused with receptors), when statistics or samples are given without reference to size or source, one can only wonder what else the authors may have overlooked, neglected to verify, or generally failed to bring in line with the standards of intelligent reporting.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich