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 was agreeing with the sentiment of your post up until this point, I too cannot withstand caffeine, the most I'm willing to consime is found in most Kombucha and even then I try to break it into 3 servings now. I've worked in 2 Industries where Cocaine use is as common as coffee is in an normal office setting, its pretty alarming at times. The mood swings and emotional instability from constant use is something I don't think it lends itself to well-being, and 'productive' is a useless word in that context: if you close 5 deals and make the business a ton of money that day you're productive, but if you got there by raging, anting and throwing stuff at people who no longer want to give you leads or access to their sales pipeline what's the point?
Funny story, I was just re-watching Bourdain's podcast with Joe Rogan and they said that in England coffee shops were seen as dens of sedition and were being shut down, because prior to that mead was the drink of choice for the working class. Which lead to mass intoxication and made the effective rule of the Monarchs absolute; it was when they were 'sober' that it led to things like the Magnacarta was supposed to usher in (Workers Rights, Property Rights etc...)
Personally speaking my palate is too sensitive, which affects my current role as a chef, if I drink coffee (which smells and tastes like burned food) I cannot taste things correctly for hours. I will however de story cans of Thai Tea.
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.
Every teenager thinks "I know the real truth unlike the rest of the sheeple!" Usually they grow out of it.
And the ones who don’t are the ones who actually move the needle. ;)
Now it's all over the internet, a sort of radicalization-lite that starts in tighter circles where kids swap conspiracy theories and alternative perspectives, and more of this stuff quickly starts leaking mainstream.
I think any dominant culture de facto produces and consumes its own propaganda, to some extent. That's good and bad. The information age has made the system more chaotic because of the speed and convenience of data exchange, and that leads to more frequent clashing and fracturing in society, as common indoctrination does lead to greater social cohesion, across cultures. Propaganda has less of an effect and people have less reason to rally together because of different views on, say, in America's case, history and even some of our modern world building.
What, you think radicalization is unique to the chans? You'll see it's all around us if you're not unfairly exclusive in your definition of radical.
Separate and beyond your point, which I very much agree with, I predict this will ultimately re-center a focus onto publicly ratified power. As it stands, corporations are effectively state institutions with no public ties. There are some striking congruencies with feudalism in modern capitalism, but technology makes it all virtually incomparable in the big picture. The internet transcends beyond physical empire not only for worse but ultimately for better in this case. If only the road to democracy from here were not so bloody nonetheless.
well, most of them would otherwise be addicted to something else anyway.
Non-injection administration dominates illicit opioid use* overall, but injection causes most overdoses. Illicit use and overdoses are two related but separate aspects of the opioid crisis, so I think it's fair to say that many illicit users would be addicted to something else anyway, but the same cannot necessarily be said for injection users.
*I say illicit opioid use instead of opioid addiction or abuse because this study includes users who might not be addicted or might be using it for medical purposes
Drug trends come and go. People who for whatever combination of reasons (genetics, life circumstances, surrounding culture) are likely to get addicted to drugs seem to find their way to whatever the currently popular drug is.
Life circumstances like “needing to get their wisdom teeth removed.” The doctor prescribes you painkillers afterward and makes absolutely no mention of how addictive they are, or even that they’re opioids.
I don’t think those people were going to wake up one morning and start using on heroin on their own, so I have a hard time writing them off as “well, some people would have used drugs anyway.”
The problem starts when this social shaming of illicit drug use swaps over from American suburbs to the rest of the world. And we are, yet again, faced world wide with American fundamentalists who are going on a crusade on necessary medication that could spare millions of pain patients world wide an existence of utter torture. In case anyone isnt aware of the situation, morphine based pain medications is what the large majority of the world population is using for pain relief. All those fancy analgesic the pharma industry pushes as an alternatives are too expensive for the majority of countries out there.
The direct result of the absolutely thoughtless scapegoating, that millions of people are suffering an easily treatable existence that amounts to torture. About 20 million people that live without access to pain medication in “untreated, excruciating pain” and could be treated with cheap-ass morphine. With no patent and a production price of cents.
If this is all to abstract for you, my grandmother recently passed away. Cancer and the painful kind. I unfortunately only later found out that she wasnt given proper pain medication until she had to be moved from her home to palliative care. Because it apparently was thought to be too risky for the doctor in charge to give it to a dying women at home, since who knows who will clear up the estate afterwards?
So if you want share your opinion about opioids, please think about the consequences of your action. You having a fuck up in your family or watching too much TV doesnt make you an expert on pain treatment worldwide.
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!