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Kerry Howley pops a couple Adderall and cranks out a New York Sun review of a new book about our pharmaceutical-drenched society.

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  1. When industry heads finally agreed to start airing television spots, they found it was insanely profitable. Eight and a half million Americans annually request and receive a prescription for a specific drug after seeing a television advertisement.

    Careful now, Kerry, you will invoke the wrath of Jacob Sullum and the rest if you infer that people dont act of their own free will at all times, regardless of advertising. Lots of ink spilled in these pages arguing ads have absolutely no effect, none, on consumer choice. Not that I agree with any of that falderal.

  2. Oh, please save me from bad people who are, in their endless quest to spread darkness and evil throughout the world, offering me something I want.

    Won’t someone please step in and prevent me from acquiring the things I want? Without some kind of intervention, I’m afraid that I’m just a mindless slave to the manipulations of the vicious advertisers.

    (Amusingly, I just started taking a neuropharmaceutical today. Watch out! I’m joining the ranks of Medicated-Americans!)

  3. you can tear up my libertarian action hero membership card now, but the pharma industry does some really rank and vile shit.

    people are free to do as they like. we’re also free to cricise them. it’s a win-win-win-lose-or-draw situation.

  4. I do recall some belittling of the demonization of advertising in these pages, but I’d have to re-read those particular screeds to see if they truly claim advertising has no effect at all. It would be pretty silly to think that companies would spend so much on advertising if it had no effect at all, so I hope that wasn’t what was literally said.

    But there’s a huge gap between saying that advertising has an effect and saying that consumers have no free will. Free will and the type of influence exerted by advertising are perfectly compatible. Good thing, because influence is all around and there’s no way to live a life devoid of it.

  5. fyodor, I am going from memory, and shouldnt be so forceful in my statements. But I can recall the article/post where Jacob, I believe, reacts to his sons/daughters school curriculum teaching critical thinking by identifying coded messages in ads. He wasnt opposed to critical thinking exercises, obviously, but didnt care for the underlying messages that Nike or Budweiser or whatever were manipulating people into buying something they didnt really want. I have no problem with any of this but he went on to cite something that supposedly showed advertising having null effect on sales. Like you said, it is ridiculous on its face to think companies spend millions on ads for no return.

  6. it’s not that ridiculous, actually. the return is, in some cases, seen as a name brand type thing, like a girl taking her top off at mardi gras, than any sort of direct 1:1 result.

  7. isildur – exactly!

    Now I want to know, and this is a serious question, how hard would it be to get my doc to prescribe adderall or ritalin? Cuz I think it would help me focus my energy. I have a hard time keeping my shit together because of it. And, of course, I self-medicate, but that doesn’t always help. (ie self-medicating by drinking a bunch of beer doesn’t help me make sure I pay my car payment and other bills, whereas ritalin might.) Keep in mind I’m 31 and have never had anyone diagnose me with ADHD or anything of the sort.

    And for the record, I’m not at all depressed, I’m a very social person, etc, so it’s not like I’m looking for a shrink. Just a little mind-focusing pill-power, administered by a decent physician, should do the trick.

  8. dhex,

    While I like your imagery, I don’t understand what you’re saying at all.

  9. Full disclosure: I work for a pharm company (though in manufacturing rather than sales or finance or management or wherever these decisions are made).

    It seems to me like there’s plenty of blame to go around. A lot of people seem to think that medicating themselves (or worse, their kids. Or even worse, the kids of others) is a panacea. They want these miracle drugs to make everything better instantly without any sort of side effects. Sorry. Nothing works that way. Not aspirin, not weed, not peanut butter. The idea that people are willing to perform these experiments on themselves for less-than-compelling reasons is horrific to me. Coping with severe pain? I’d take the chance. My attention keeps wandering? Too F’n bad! Suck it up and make it better through force of will. Or don’t. But don’t pretend that some pill will magically make you less scatter-brained and have no negative effects. The view of many people that you can get something for nothing is prevalent in their desire for drugs and their desire to ignore warnings about side effects.

    However, the drug industry is certainly not without sin here. Where do people get the idea that they’re a pill away from happiness? And why has this idea only become mainstream since the drug companies started advertising? And while many cases of bad results involve the patient and/or doc ignoring the side effects and dangers, there have been (and probably will be again) instances of companies covering up side effects and dangers and making that data unavailable for patients and docs to ignore.

    In some specific cases, a specific drug company acts amorally, immorally, and/or criminally to increase sales. But that shouldn’t provoke rational people into painting the industry with one wide brush or forcing everyone into “one size fits all” laws that the law-breaking companies will ignore anyway.

    As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between the militant extremes.

  10. I think the power of advertising has to do with the medium in which it exists. I hardly ever watch TV, mainly just for sporting events and even that is fairly rare. So, television commercials have almost no effect on me because I don’t see them.

    All drugs are dangerous if taken in large quantities. Any normal person should know that. Plus, the common side effects listed on warning labels are fairly subjective for the most part. Certain drugs do have peticular side effects that are fairly certain like opiods causing dizziness and euphoria (duh!). And, I believe most pharmacological connoisseurs know what does what, especially to them personally. That’s from dealing with many of them directly.

    I still believe it is the responsibility of the pharmacological industry to test their products for safety. It only makes good business sense to ensure the safety of their products as well as benefit their consumers.

    Television drug adds do bug me, but not any more than others product ads do. There’s something about the way they rapidly blurt out side effects in low tones at the end of the advertisement. It reminds me of the fine print babblers at the end of other commercials. Its almost like they really don’t want you focusing on that part of the ad.

  11. Thank you, matt. The cost/benefit point was the one I tried (unsuccessfully) to make in the second paragraph. People *should* be making their own C/BAs. And if mine don’t agree with theirs, fine. But many people seem to be ignoring the costs completely. And those folk (and I realize I’m generalizing here) tend to be the ones who screech loudest when the costs end up being greater than the benefits.

  12. Good points, folks. And, again for the record, I’m not looking at a pill as a panacea. I am a “better living through chemistry” kind of person, though. I mean, I could find street versions of ritalin, but those are usually too powerful to really help me focus, if you know what I mean.

    So mattc – you elude to the fact that you may be a physician…what would be your advice about getting some “treatment” to my hyperactive brain? (Not that you have to answer, of course.)

    • Another factor, left out of the discussion, is that many insurance plans pay almost all the cost of the medication. I’m a lot more likely to try a pill for an otherwise bearable problem at $10 per month than I would be at $100 per month.
    • IMO the argument that some people may overmedicate is not sufficient reason to deny the information to everyone.
  13. Where do people get the idea that they’re a pill away from happiness?

    Celebrity culture.

  14. Seriously though, half the country is apparently suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, and really needs pills for it. How we’ve survived this long as a people without a cure for Restless Leg Syndrome will forever be a mystery.

    Future historians will look back on this time of unchecked, un-medicated Restless Leg Syndrome, and shake their heads sadly, saying a short prayer of thanks that they live in a time where the Restless Leg Syndrome plague is finally ended.

  15. *snicker* 😀

    That was a good one JDM.

  16. Lowdog, I’m not a physician I’m a nurse. I work with a lot of physicians who will write scripts for us nurses free of charge. Its usually for benign things like antibiotics for a sore throat. Asking for Ritalin would raise a few eyebrows. Sorry.

  17. Adderall is for pussies. Real reporters use crack.

  18. “While I like your imagery, I don’t understand what you’re saying at all.”

    the general adbusters line is that advertising = brainwashing and brainwashing always works. i.e. people only desire xyz because of advertising, not due to some combination thereof.

    generally speaking, there’s a lot of very well-marketed products that have millions of dollars in advertising spent on them that just flounder. movies, games, music, you name it. there’s no 1:1 dollar to sales type ratio, cause if there were the popularity of every marketed product would just be a result of the money spent and the amount of media covered.

    however, much of the reasoning behind advertising is not just pushing product xyz, but pushing the product maker itself, due to that lack of 1:1 payoff. hence the mardi gras boobs thing.

  19. dhex,

    Regarding the “advertising = brainwashing and brainwashing always works. i.e. people only desire xyz because of advertising” part of your post, rest assured that we are in complete agreement.

    But a fool, in avoiding one extreme, will embrace the opposite extreme. (Horace)

    When you say there’s no 1:1 payoff, I’m not sure which of two things you’re saying. One is that advertising is not expected to make back its cost. The other is that advertising does not always make back its cost. The latter is obviously true but the former is obviously not true. Not all investments make money either, but the point of investing is definitely to take out more than you put in, and the potential for success in doing that is the only reason it’s done, and ditto for advertising.

    When you say the point is to push the “product marker” not the specific product, I would say two things to that. One is, well that depends on the particular advertising campaign, in other words it varies, but I’m sure there are times that a specific product is indeed pushed and successfully, even if that’s not the point of all advertising. And the second is, so what? Either advertising affects consumer behavior or it doesn’t, that’s what’s being debated here. I say, of course it does (or to be more technically accurate, of course it can, or of course it does sometimes), but that correlation does not come close to the “brainwashing” model. It’s just somewhere in that fuzzy, boring, common sense middle.


  20. mattc – Don’t be sorry, it’s cool. Thanks for the info. But I wouldn’t be asking the doctor to just write me a script, like, on the sly or anything. I’d actually lay out my reasoning. I was just wondering if there was anything specific that I could say.

    Again, not trying to get you to say anything you don’t want or shouldn’t…I’m sincerely curious.

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