Pills and pop culture

Tim Eggert

If you have any interaction with popular culture, you may be aware of the newest trend sweeping the nation: pharmaceuticals. Beyond their intended medical use, prescription drugs are becoming increasingly popular among millennials and musicians for recreational use.

re-pills-wikipediaUsing these drugs brings unintended consequences, like addiction and overdose. Recently, it seems every week brings news of the latest overdose, and the dropping of a fresh track praising the effects of opioids.

So, I have one request: Can we lay off the pharmaceuticals, please?

Let me clarify what I mean by “pharmaceutical” or “prescription” drugs. They are medicine intended for alleviating symptoms of pain or disease. In a general sense, a painkiller, but this could range from Viagra to Percocet.

Regardless of the specific drug, its pharmaceutical quality makes it desirable for both medicinal and recreational use.

I realize my request is a broad one, and maybe unrealistic, but hear me out. In my daily life, I’ve noticed two major sources that influence the use of prescription drugs: published commercials and popular music.

Most likely, these are experienced by everyone else too, which is exactly the point. Whether it be via the television, internet or radio, I’m bombarded with the advertisement for a lifestyle of  consuming pharmaceuticals.

Don’t get me wrong, prescription drugs have their appropriate place for medicinal use. However, I take offense when my weekly show is interrupted by a commercial casually condoning pills for erectile dysfunction or depression.

A decade ago, these spots were filled by tobacco and alcohol ads. Now, tobacco promotions are completely extinct from television, and alcohol advertisements have decreased in frequency. Plugs for pharmaceuticals have taken their place, and dominate the downtime between programming.

It’s obvious that drug executives are directing their marketing towards a general audience, but it doesn’t seem like they realize how influential these are on millennials. Of course, not all audiences have a serious need for the advertised medicine, but their familiarity with it may lead to an interest in recreational use.

Perhaps I’m being hyperbolic, but the potential is there. Take modern music, for example. How many musicians do you listen to that praise the effects of codeine or Xanax? Yes, the beats are sick, but the messages conveyed by artists like Future or Young Thug aren’t ideal for a culture that takes the usage of prescription drugs seriously.

Sure, you could listen to this music without being convinced to try an opioid for a good time. But, the sponsorship of
recreational use is still present. In this sense, these artists are just like drug company executives.

Both have commercialized pharmaceutical drugs for their own profit, without addressing the underlying effects.
That being said, I don’t dislike all music that promotes pharmaceuticals,and some attempts to market male-enhancement products have comedic value.

However, the next time you’re watching TV, or listening to a new mixtape, keep in mind the real purpose of the drugs being mentioned, and take their usage seriously.