As for Valium, it seems odd this article even makes a big deal about it. Valium (and benzodiazepines in general) aren't prescribed as much these days because of their addictive potential. Their spike of popularity came and went in a few decades, roughly 1960-1980. Benzos are still popular in illicit use, but a key point of Soma was that it wasn't illicit---it was sanctioned by the state.
Edit: if anything, social media or other addictive distractions are more like soma.
"Panem et circenses" is a known latin expression about providing to the masses the 2 biggest basics (food and entertainement) to appease it, sometimes used to show a decline.
What were the prescription rates in the 60s?
> the biggest rise in prescriptions during this time period was for back pain and other types of chronic pain.
Now I'm doubly surprised. Some benzos have muscle relaxant properties but I've never heard of them prescribed for pain.
(I've never experienced benzo withdrawal but I've heard it claimed to be as bad as opiate withdrawal.)
Benzo withdrawal can be much much worse than opiate withdrawal.
Opioid withdrawal is comparatively benign.
Which is a key for using such medicines for pain: You might be in pain, but you don't care. My understanding is that for folks allergic to anesthesia, they can literally relax them enough that the person doesn't care if they are doing surgery on them. They don't feel the pain either, but it isn't generally as convenient as folks being put under.
Back pain is thought to be mostly psychological, so it makes sense. Also, if you have minor tears or congenital defects in tissue around your spinal cord then anxiety can cause inflammation, which can then cause your spinal fluid to push against your actual spinal cord and cause all sorts of problems. (Or something like this, I'm not a doctor but that's the basic idea.)
Do you have a credibility source to back that up?
> After about ten years on the market, Valium had been prescribed to 59.3 million patients 
The US population in 1970 was about 200 million. A significant portion of the adult US population took valium at some point during the 60s/70s.
Ridiculously high because they were touted as safer alternatives to the then popular barbiturates. Benzos are safer, it just turns out that benzos also have not-so-great long-term effects.
Alcohol's definitely #2 though.
(Nicotine is similar, I imagine, though I've never actually used it)
These isolated cases without incident don't really matter in the context of society-wide taboo, however.
Coffee and cocaine are worlds apart. Most people don't have jobs that would work with a coke addiction. Freud was exceptional and I think he did most of his influential work not under the influence anyway.
I have no caffeine tolerance as I rarely use it. Every time I have an espresso, the experience is practically identical to doing a bump of cocaine. The effects are so similar it's something I'll do when feeling nostalgic about past coke-filled city life years. I've been assuming others who enjoy an occasional espresso have similar memories being relived by the sudden stimulation it delivers.
Speaking of those coke-filled city life years, quite a few of my peers developed expensive coke habits and they were perfectly functional and many climbed their respective corporate ladders quite successfully while addicted to this substance.
The only thing separating cocaine and caffeine by a gap miles apart is cost and access.
If you can afford and access clean product, coke is a very productive and perfectly functional drug. I suspect most sociopathic high-level executives use it regularly, as it really amplifies that side of one's personality, which isn't necessarily undesirable for leadership roles at large organizations.
Don't forget cocaine once was in Coca-Cola. That wouldn't have occurred if it interfered with people's jobs.
I say all this as a person with zero cocaine experience, but lots and lots of caffeine experience. Stims don't make you better (usually worse, actually), but they do have a relationship to quantity of output.
Alcohol may be better aligned with physical labor, where there's some benefit from not noticing as much when you hurt + adrenaline spikes as it wears off. Cocaine probably aligns better with writing, when word vomit helps get something down that can later be edited. Neither has a particularly great track record with living a happy life.
Sometimes taboo makes it worse than it needs to be, though. An addiction, treated as a crime, leads to an even more desperate addict.
I once heard Iain M Banks say on the radio, as he lit up (he was making a program about a tour of whisky distilleries at the time) -
"Nicotine, a drug so shit you can do it while you're driving"
I'm a big fan, though a guilty one as I've never read any of the non-M stuff..
Caffeine is my drug of choice for working, but I've found it sometimes affects me badly. As a rule, I only drink coffee in the morning, and try to avoid it in the afternoon.
I know of better substances for spending time with family and making important life decisions.
Saying alcohol, cocaine, meth, etc is not fair. It seems common for people to lump all "drugs" into the same category, even though they have vastly different effects.
It is also the first weapon to deployed if some kids are deemed to be unruly. Nobody would think of giving them alcohol however.
I alwawys wondered but never got a chance to find out.
Some folks genuinely need the pain relief. My mother gets migraines (or a variant). They last literally weeks and months. Sometimes these drugs work. Other migraine drugs have similar issues (addiction and tolerance), but this is villified. The doctors simply talk to her about these things.
But just as importantly, folks aren't really able to take time off to heal properly nor can a group of folks afford medical care. If you can't take time off of work and rest, you wind up needing to take more pills. For example, I had gall bladder surgery some years back. Doctors said 7-10 days completely off work. I didn't have a choice but to go back before the 10 days (and 2 days before I went back to the surgeon for aftercare checkup). I hadn't used the prescription pain meds for a few days before I went back to work, but needed them that day. And if you can't afford to e fixed, you get bandaged over - drugs.
Just as bad is that we aren't simply making sure doctors know how to talk to patients about addiction with these. Signs, symptoms, and that there is care for it if they notice the early signs.
Now, the main thing with the drug company was that they weren't upfront about risks, and that is horrible and meant that we couldn't do the things we needed to do. Not that it matters anyway: Folks often can't take off work for drug treatment nor can they afford the care in so many cases.
Now, as far as pushing it to doctors: That's not an issue that is unique to this drug or this drug company. It is generally more referred to as an off-label use, which has its good and bad uses. And with things like pain medicines, it gets complicated because there are so many compounding factors. (Yes, they are prescribed too much, but we need more than tight controls on one drug class).
Is Oxycotin particularly addictive in itself in ways it could otherwise not be? Or is this about general painkiller addiction plus the pharmaceutical company taking advantage of this to push it out too much?
In other words, is there a way to tackle this problem that doesn’t cut access for people who actually need this stuff?
Within the same category of drugs, e.g. Benzodiazepines, it's pretty well established that the first step towards getting clean is to get the dose of low half-life drug swapped out for an equivalent dose of a long-acting drug, then taper down from there.
I believe this is also the theory behind the use of Subutex/Buprenorphine and Methadone as ways to get people off heroin and oxycontin.
So conversely, if Oxycontin had a shorter half-life than was advertised then one would expect it also to have a worse addiction profile.
Oxycontin was created in the 90’s by the Sackler family.
Not the same family unless I’m missing some connection.
I do not think the second half of your statement is true. Certainly there was drug use in hunter/gatherer societies but it was mostly shamanistic/ritualistic use, not 'stress relief'. The example that you give of alcohol only really came on the scene with the advent of farming, which remains a small fraction of the history of humankind.
So you’re potentially correct, though we don’t know if fermentation was used earlier, either intentionally or opportunistically.
Can we really say this?
Are we sure that finding a patch of 'those' mushrooms wouldn't have just meant party time?
We know that (for instance) animals seem to seek them out...
This paper  supports my characterisation of being mostly for shamanistic/ritualistic use.
And this paper  suggests that drug use also had medicinal benefits. But that is from a modern hunter-gatherer society that has undoubtedly been influenced by outside societies (indeed the drug they smoke has been imported from another continent), so I'm not sure how indicative of pre-historic hunter-gatherer use it is.
Where I remain dubious is the assertion that drugs have always been used for 'stress relief'. My feeling is that stress - as we understand it - was not something much experienced by hunter-gatherer societies.
Did they? Alcohol was associated with feasts - not particularly stressful situations. Alcoholism , OTOH has a ~50% genetic contribution.
Was it now? Alcoholic beverages were seen as a nutritious (!!!) staple food from it's discovery until recently. It was also the only thing to drink in areas that lacked clean water (and one cared about avoiding it).
And yes, people have been trying to deal with people since there were people. And people have always been stressful.
The reason soma continues to resonate in literature is because it reflects fundamental truths of how the world works. Huxley didn't create or predict the pill-popping epidemic, he had a rich tapestry of former pill-popping epidemics to draw on.
This too sounds familiar...
From that perspective, Western democracies have really struggled to assimilate their long history of toppling other nations and benefiting from their resources into the cultural framework. That probably leaves a vulnerability to being toppled in the same way.
I think that's a post internet thing. Pre-internet most of us got all of our historical information from school, and there weren't places like Twitter or Facebook to spread what were previously dismissed as fairy tales.
I certainly wouldnt have been aware of much of the shitty "world building" that the US goes around doing without having visited some of the internet's scummiest corners in the last decade or so. It's actually amazing to see how much of this has trickled into the mainstream as it became acceptable discourse on more mainstream places like Reddit and eventually FB and such.
I mean sure, you had things like Vietnam which were polarizing along this very dividing line, but the average person was fed a different set of spin on much of what they ultimately grew up learning, and I think that may have played a role in American Exceptionalism. Nowadays people, especially young people, tend to be far less patriotic and I would attribute this apathy or even disdain for at least part of the current breakdown in political discourse and ostensible early decline stage of the American Empire. Of course it's worth saying that much of this divide falls neatly along left/right as critics/apologists of/for American realpolitik.
While the deeds were reprehensible China already had the taste for Opium. The British were specifically seeking a non-silver renewable trade good to avoid deflationary issues in precious metal standard days and guess what they actually had demand for? Opium. They were imperialist assholes but they never were the original sin - that is letting their targets off far too easily.
That's a tremendous exaggeration!
Of course, the constant theme of experimentation with hallucinogenics is apparent in this book as well.
1: I listened on Audible while driving, I highly recommend https://www.audible.com/pd/Island-Audiobook/B01L0LZWVO
First, most people are not at all "well-educated about the effects of recreational drug use", including medical professionals who are mostly only versed in the effects of legal drugs... Or are you referring to "legal" drugs here?
Second, there is a whole pharmacopeia of drugs that elicit a wide range of effects, and many of these drugs are not necessarily particularly "harmful" (e.g., the psychedelics). But really, moderation is the key ingredient in mitigating many of the compounding effects of repeated use (like physical dependency, which is a symptom only of certain classes of drugs).
Third, drugs are fun and people like to do them. Alcohol is a potentially debilitating, life-ruining drug, but we advertise it on the television. I would bet that most medical professionals consume alcohol.
Freedom is about assuming risk. Pretty soon we'll have no risk though, if the Plans continue as Planned.
When I was young, I thought Orwell's future was the most dangerous an imminent. Then later Huxley, especially once things like "apps" were created. Now I see they both work together to erode liberty.
Your culture works against the expression of your constitutional rights, especially in certain areas of our country. And of course, if you stop using those liberties you might never notice once they're taken away.
It's also interesting to note that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are also literary reactions to that time period. Note that Saruman turns Isengard evil with "The fires of industry"; orcs cut down the trees and defile large areas of the countryside, while the Nine Rings corrupt men in the name of greed and power. Tolkien's answer to industrialization was to return to small pastoralist villages; Lewis's was to accept the redemption of Christ, in the form of the lion Aslan.
It was also a response to WWI. Tolkein's childhood friends were killed and shattered by that war...and why? Because in 1831, Britain agreed to be a guarantor of Belgian neutrality.
So when Gondor calls for aid... when Isildur calls the Men of the White Mountains to war... when Minas Tirith is besieged... what ought elves and men do but honour their allegiance? We now have all seen that war is obscene as cancer, but perhaps to march to death is still more fitting than to forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship.
Otherwise... what was the point?
But stories are still about (among other things) the choices people make, the way we see those choices, and the things we think about our own choices.
The rise of mass media (hollywood, netflix), pornography, the pill (and other forms of contraception), large expendable incomes, smart phones, pharmaceuticals - the world now is basically Huxley's + a bit of a Orwellian propaganda sprinkled on top to keep you in Huxley's world.
Maybe you could say that these are non-core aspects of the story, like the fact that in BNW they travel by rocket instead of jet, but I think they’re extremely central to the story.
These ideas didn’t come out of nowhere, many of them ( like the replacement of family life with communal life) were taken seriously by progressives of the day.
Huxley took the trends and novelties of the early 1930s and imagined what things would be like if they continued in that direction. Some trends continued, but others stalled out, and these trends are perhaps more interesting than the ones that continued.
Just consider the Facebook newsfeed. Do you think the false headlines, or the memes and reaction videos scattered throughout, have more of an effect on people's inaction to perceived injustice? People won't react any differently to a headline that claims one things or the other. That's Huxley's prediction right there.
> I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency.
I've recently been reading a book called "Why Liberalism Failed" by Patrick Deneen, which also sees these two forces as working together to harm both the individual and society at large, but not by restricting our liberty so much as trading away other valuable social goods for a surfeit of liberties most of us don't actually need or benefit from. The liberty to buy whatever our appetites desire, at any time. The liberty to uproot ourselves and live "globally" without concern for the locales we leave behind. The liberty to profit seek without regard for externalities.
Deneen draws a contrast between "liberty to <do, own, or be something>" and "liberty from being ruled by our animal urges and appetites". The ancient Greeks who coined the term saw liberty as a virtue explicitly in the latter capacity. But the modern sense of what it is to be liberated is explicitly centered around the former. But I think the liberty you allude to is more of the ancient conception, and I agree, the pincers of the government and the market are eroding our liberty from animal urges, in exchange for an ever expanding menu of nominal liberties to which are often harmful to ourselves and others.
Is there anything that I as an average person can do to remove as many of these chemicals as I can? A special filter?
I’d be more concerned about things like lead and other toxic metals.
It's a little harder to parse then the others because it was written in world war 1.
I think it's really interesting as the earliest example I've found of this kind of story telling.
Fentanyl wasn’t on offer, but agents kept following the digital trails that have made it easier for people like Muhammad and Yan to enter the global drug trade and for investigators to hunt them down. Because Yan used Gmail, operated by U.S.-based Google, Gibbons and his team could persuade a judge to let them monitor his communications in real time.
FAANG is an extension of the US' Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies, in case anyone had any doubts. This is why they get so much funding from both respectively, and why they can get away with such egregious infractions and unlawful behaviour.
Those of you dropping where you work should really have some reservations of what is taking place with your labour and in your name.
The contemporary family of drugs would have been barbiturates, and in the very early days of their use. Well before we knew how bad that they were in regards to addition and withdrawl. Valium is a benzodiazepine, and those come much later, again we don't find out how bad the withdrawal from them is till much later. In some regards benzodiazepines end up replacing barbiturates not for consumer heath reasons rather for patent and profit reasons because as it turns out both are fairly damaging.
That's specious reasoning; consider that California had passed the compassion act in 1996, with the explicit intention of allowing this drug to be used for severe and chronic pain inlieu of harder narcotics (opioids). When the counties realized this was a cash cow, laws got relaxed and it was easier than ever to get high grade legally produced MJ, to the point where it was more accessible than alcohol or tobacco when I was growing up. The costs reflected that.
MJ legalization is and continues primarily be one of a money grab via taxes, in 2007 I went to CO on a school trip and I predicted that given the amount of illegal street deals MJ would have to be legalized at the recreational level, they were losing way too much tax revenue. In 2011 Amendment 64 was created, and in Nov of 2012 it was passed.
These trends and evidence is inline with basic projections of cause and effect from a local/state tax (or as its called in CO: revenue) matter and nothing less.
Japan did put lithium in their water in Aomori prefecture, and it had less than conclusive results on the general population to prevent suicide:
Anecdote: Colorado has experienced a population boom since 2012, not a reduction in population, so I don't see the correlation.
Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion were here earlier this year in Denver, eco-centric protests have and will continue to be a thing so no one is being docile, if anything most are appreciating how we must protect Nature and stop things like fracking now where prior to legalization it went on unfettered and was a significant Industry in the state. Now potable water for Ag and residential development use is scarce and fracking is partly to blame.
Anecdote 2: California still suffered raids from the DEA up until as late as 2012; I launched my startup in fintech to service the Industrial Hemp Industry in part because I was on campus during 'Operation Sudden Fall' in 2008. It was terrifying to see a University get occupied by the armed goons of the State.
Also, weed is much stronger today than it was in the '70s and now you have regular folks walking around secretly addicted to pot . That was definitely not the case in the '70.
It's a brave new world... until you resist, then it's 1984.
Whatever your stance on the pill, I think it is naive to think that it will not have a lasting and deep impact on western civilization (and as it spreads globally, to all of human civilization).
Never before has sex been able to be had without consequence. Or the urge to have sex not led to at least the possibility of reproduction. For those that grew up entirely in a world where it exists and is readily available, it will have a huge impact on how they see sex, relationships, dating, and reproduction.
Sure, the world has a lot of people. But a civilization that by default, does not want to produce children? (As Huxley envisioned, and as I think will be the case in the coming decades) is headed for sure collapse.
Contraception and abortifacients have existed for millennia.
People in the developed world are choosing not have children because of costs. Having children in the developing world is an investment that is paid back in the form of free labor, dowries and someone to care for you when you're elderly.
Yes, but not reliably (for contraception) or safely (for abortifacients), and by their nature, 80% reliable contraception is of dubious utility.
You realise the quoted reliability rates are per year, not per act? For example, the withdrawal method (available to everyone, for all time) has a reliability rate of 78% for typical use and 96% for perfect use.  Obviously, even at 78% reliability over a year, that is of a great deal of utility. 78% of the time a woman whose partner practises withdrawal will not get pregnant over the course of a year.
I suppose it could conceivably just be the ability to treat STDs, but I don't think that's enough, personally. YMMV. (Plus I'm not sure that the time works out correctly.)
The regressive moral panic has done far more damage than the subject of moral panics ever have - which is quite impressive.
People don’t not want kids. Lots of people want kids at the right time. Others want it but find they would be unable to provide for their children due to a generation and a half of wage stagnation, along with women not wanting to have to change their profession to “full time childcare”.
Giving people access to childcare is documented to work. There isn’t some magic cultural collapse. It’s just capitalism squeezing everything out of people, and people worn out from it.
I'm not sure which Gen Z's you've spoken to recently, but the next generations certainly want kids much less than previous generations. And this trend will only continue. We have seen family sizes continually drop, until now the average is about 2. That will soon drop below 1 where most people do not have children. Give it 30-40 years max.
If you only care about population decline, you have an easy to undrestand tool for solving this problem, that doesn't involve trying to establish cultural hedgemony to try and convince everyone that they have to have at least 2 kids each.
People have been predicting the imminent demise of civilization from lowering birth rates for an awful long time.
Actually I think people acts according to circumstances. Kids are a blessing and a burden at the same time, always have been, and some other factors helps decide.
But unwanted pregnancy is not "a help to decide" and it's weird to say that the fate of civilization should rest in people being unable to have safe sex.
Low birth rates are only seen as a problem in the context of race or nation: "if we don't reproduce, our genes/our culture will disappear and foreigners will replace us". Globally there's no problem at all. When low birth rates extend to the whole planet, the problem will solve itself very quickly by elemental incentives.
Sprinkle on top a nascent anti-natalism coming from the environmentalist left and you have a recipe for a societal disaster.
The sexual act has been 'decoupled' from the procreative act since forever. People have always had ways to avoid pregnancy (some more successful than others) and sexual acts have always entailed much more than procreation. Not just within our species; look at how bonobos use sex for purposes other than procreation.
And falling birth rates in developed countries are not because of this mythical 'decoupling' you write about. There are many reasons for people not having as many children today and those reasons have been trending for a long time before the invention of the modern birth-control pill.
> The decoupling of the sexual act from the procreative act was transformative to society and I think we're just becoming aware of the consequences. Every developed nation has to import mass quantities of immigrants just to mask the problem, causing social unrest in their traditional populations
What is the problem you're referring about? Most would argue the world is over populated. Cost of homes are rising from scarcity to how many people there are. Most young people cannot afford a home to even consider having a child.
Whenever I hear John Lennon's Imagine, I always imagine the world portrayed in this story.
I tend to find simplistic pro and anti substance screeds yawn-inducing. All psychoactive substances, whether legal or not, whether they have physical dependency issues or not, whether they are used by rich people or poor people, have a unique set of consciousness-altering properties in the short-term and long-term. They give with one hand and take away with the other.
Whether something is useful for short-term or long-term use is a profoundly individual choice that is best made with as much information available as possible, and far separated from moralizing judgement. And sometimes, far from the pharma companies and current psychiatric fad.
I don't see much new in this article. It's true lots of people are popping pills to deal with late capitalism, but maybe that's what a lot of humans have to do in late capitalism til we figure out something better.
Not quite. They have given us Soma, and it is called cannabis.
Antidepressants typically take weeks to take effect and have a low efficency rate overall - the reason why so many are approved is because it is a matter of cycling through them to find one which is actually effective and without unacceptable side effects.
The closest form of "abuse" aside from idiots who take any random substances to try to get high (in which case Mike & Ikes or kitchen spices also qualify because it is a matter of intent) is using them to try to make other withdrawal symptoms more tolerable which is far from mainstream even among burnt out addicts.