AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 7/19/2004 11:39:00 AM ----- BODY:

Welcome to the Machine

Stephen and I were doing some heavy-duty TV watching last night when we saw a commercial, or, rather, two commercials, that deeply bothered us both.   The first was for a drug called Altovis. It showed several people looking vaguely distressed in vaguely corporate settings, including a man whose shaking hand was causing an overflowing coffee mug to spill its contents all over his white Oxford sleeve. Alternatively, there was an aerial shot of a woman standing by a sink with rugrats clawing at her pants legs, staring upward beseechingly.   I can't exactly remember the narration of the commercial, but the pitch on the website linked above matches it pretty well:  
When you’re on the go, it’s easy to feel run down. Fatigue is the body’s normal response to physical exertion, emotional stress, or lack of sleep. A candy bar or sugary soda may provide a temporary boost, but that boost wears off and you can end up feeling more exhausted than you felt before. If your body lacks proper nutrition or adequate rest, it can no longer produce the energy to keep you mentally alert and physically strong. You can’t think straight or feel dead on your feet. You may even get irritable or disinterested in what’s going on around you. Everyone reacts to fatigue differently, but usually you know when you’re worn out. If your life is consistently hectic and you crave more energy to get you through the day, it’s time to start looking for answers.
  There's more.  
Your body relies on a delicate balance of sleep, nutrition, and regular exercise to operate at its maximum potential. If that balance is tipped – say, for example, you get too much exercise and not enough sleep or nutrition – you begin to feel tired or weak. Many factors can cause you to get too much or too little sleep, nutrition, or exercise. Perhaps stress is keeping you from sleeping, or your job prevents you from eating right. It may be a combination of factors. There are several recognized causes of fatigue, including: • Overexertion • Overwork • Poor sleep • Worry • Boredom • Lack of exercise • Illness • Prescription and nonprescription medications • Abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs • Overuse of stimulating beverages or food
  I am by no means a health nut. But this is sick. I was seriously praying for the Energizer bunny while this commercial was on. But no. Complete with the hastily read list of "potential" side effects, this was a for-real commercial for an actual drug someone wanted me to pay for.   Look, though I take the drug, I even find Zoloft commercials annoying, because they make a powerful antidepressant look like a pick-me-up for anyone who feels like taking it. They don't talk, of course, about the side effects, or the fact that fucking around with brain chemistry should not be tried at home. You should only take something like Prozac or Zoloft if you have absolutely no other choices. Like any other medicine.   Would you take insulin to be in better shape? Nitroglycerin because you felt your heart was beating irregularly? Would you take chemotherapy to get rid of a mole? How about morphine for a toothache? This is where I differ from many counterculture, all-Western-medicine-is-bad Christian Science types--there are many people in the world that need insulin, nitroglycerin, chemotherapy, morphine and antidepressants. It's not fair to call a truly sick person "weak" because you're lumping them in with what I like to call "Prozac Princesses," people who think a simple bad mood is something to be medicated.     But that doesn't mean Prozac Princesses don't exist.   This drug, Altovis, is for them. Definitely. First of all, it's over the counter. Which makes it targeted specifically for lily-livered hypochondriacs. They don't even need a doctor to gently point out that they may just be an idiot before getting their hands on this pill.   Look at those symptoms again. Look at this company's own description: Fatigue is the body’s normal response to physical exertion, emotional stress, or lack of sleep.    Got that? The body's normal response. Normal. Last I checked, normal bodily responses did not require pharmaceutical management.   It gets worse. Later on, we saw another, quite similar commercial for a drug called Pinadol. Here's the pitch for that one:  
  We’ve all been there. Fighting traffic...meeting deadlines...dealing with co-workers or kids— is full of stressors. And sometimes it doesn’t take much to put us on edge. Is it any wonder Americans spend billions of dollars every year battling stress any way they can? According to the Cleveland Clinic, 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from simple, daily stress, and 75 to 90 percent of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.* Now you have a new ally in the battle against stress: Pinadol. Pinadol is a once-daily tablet designed to give your body the nutrients it needs to take the edge off. And the ingredients in Pinadol help combat the negative effects stress can have on your system. This website should give you answers to many of the frequently asked questions about Pinadol, a simple step you can take today to help you fight stress and take the edge off, naturally.
  Someone please tell me this is a joke.   These ridiculous drugs are what many people have long accused antidepressants of being: drugs for normal frustration or unhappiness. These drugs--or, sorry, "nutraceuticals"--are absolutely everything that's wrong with our society.   Let's not look at the fact that more and more people are working longer and longer hours for less and less money. Let's just take a pill. Let's not look at the fact that the government may be leading us straight toward Armageddon. Let's just take a pill. Let's not look at the fact that more and more of us are overweight not because we are lazy or immoral but because working longer and longer hours for less and less money is not exactly conducive to daily workouts, good nutrition or relaxation. Let's just take a pill.   Again, I want to stress that this is different from taking a prescription antidepressant. Depression is not a bad day. Depression is not a passing mood. Depression is not a normal process or reaction to life. Depression is a very real and serious disease. But fewer and fewer people are going to realize this with drugs like these on the market.   And hey, maybe being overworked and underpaid is a disease, too. But unlike true mental illness, a pill isn't going to solve it.   "I love it," I said to Steve, sarcastically. "The machine all around us is driving us like slaves, making it so no one can earn a living anymore. The cost of living is ridiculous. Inflation is ridiculous. Corporate executives are robbing their employees blind. The President is killing people in the Middle East for little discernible reason. And then that same marketing, capitalistic, inhuman machine is turning around and marketing us a pill for all that."   "Exactly," Steve said. "It's like they're saying, 'You can sleep when you're dead. Until then, you're going to be doing more work for us'."