No, the ‘W.S. Walcott Medicine Show’ has not closed its tent. It has just adapted to the technology of our times and culture. We have an elixir for you. You can have eternal youth, happiness, physical strength, superior intelligence, sexual potency, and no disease. You can be a god. Come buy a bottle!
Our soft drinks, Coca Cola and 7Up, are actually hold overs from its medicine show origins. They are the last vestige of the old tonics. It has gone into amnesia that they were concocted to be medicinal cure-alls. They were sold as the elixir of life. 7up began as “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon Soda.” “Lithium,” thought to be the cure for gout and to tranquilize, was eventually taken out of the tonic just as cocaine was taken out of Coca Cola. Notice that their names purposely advertised lithium and cocaine as their active ingredient. Coke was advertised as “French Wine Cola (wine colas were known to contain cocaine). Coca Cola was referred to as “dope,” “a shot in the arm,, and soda fountains were “hop-joints.” Coke delivery cars were known as “dope wagons.”
And what do we have now parading behind the white coats and modern science and the FDA? You can have eternal youth, happiness, physical strength, superior intelligence, sexual potency, and no disease. You can have Eternal Youth – with plastic surgery where there is now an accepted culture of men and women with faces that look like a race of some kind of aliens, along with artificially inflated sex organs. You can take Estrogen and Testosterone and HGH for eternal youth, no aging. You can have a youthful and muscular body and limitless libido. You can have the best aphrodisiac in the very long history of aphrodisiacs with Viagra and friends, for a made-up medical condition that postures as “ED”. Everybody knows that the billions of dollars in sales and the ads on TV for “ED” is actually for an aphrodisiac, not a medical condition.
You want to be happy? We have antidepressants for you. Prozac and friends are the treatments for the alleged biological, neuro-psychiatric disease, “clinical depression.” We have fulfilled Aldous Huxley's prophecy of Soma, written eighty years ago. He took the name for his fantasy pill from the ancient Indo-Aryans happiness elixir, Soma. Prozac is the modern incarnation of the ancient human fantasy of a happiness pill. Legal sales of antidepressants topped $11 billion in 2011.
You can have limitless energy, focus your attention, brain food for academic success, and even be slim and trim at the same time with Amphetamines. And now we have the made up brain disease ADHD. So taking speed is the answer.
Trouble sleeping? Want a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed alert in the morning, ready to take on your day, and no insomnia? Try Ambien and friends. Hey, it’s a twenty billion dollar industry, never mind the black market. Never mind that there has never been a safe hypnotic, and there are serious questions arising from this one, just like all the others. But don’t worry, a new and effective and safe one is just around the corner.
Come on into the tent, you won’t regret it. Why suffer when we have just the thing for you? Today’s science has said that all these drugs are efficacious, with no side effects, no addiction, no habituation, no drug tolerance (requiring higher and higher doses), and no high. Each one, in turn, has proven to be exactly the opposite not efficacious, full of side effects, addictive, habituating, with drug tolerance, and they are used for their highs. But the new ones are gonna be great. Stick around.
Human struggle, human suffering and pain have always been part of the human condition. They need to be dealt with in a real and constructive way. Psychiatry needs to shut down the Medicine Show tent, and deal with human problems and the vicissitudes of human character not from the false magical hucksterism of medicinals, but the real process of psychotherapy.
Robert A Berezin, MD is the Author of" Psychotherapy of Character, the Play of Consciousness in the Theater of the Brain"