All Drugs, All the Time

Photo by Eric Francis.

I watch too much television. I’m happy about that because TV used to suck. Now some of my favorite creative talents are on TV, in particular on Comedy Central (Danny Tosh among them), Current TV (I still love Keith) and MSNBC (Rachel Maddow remains on probation for promoting Gardasil when she absolutely should know better — I’ll come back to that). But this also means I get to watch a lot of television ads. I have the kind of mind that studies and observes everything I see, and I’ve become a reluctant student of advertising over the past few years.

One thing I’ve noticed is how few products are on TV. Besides the consumer schlock ads (valued at $100, you get four for $19.99!) we have a lot of high-end cars, a few low-end cars, high-end junk food (Red Lobster, Outback Steakhouse) and low-end junk food (dollar menu) and…drugs. Lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of drugs.

When I lived in Europe and would come home and flip on the TV in a motel, it seemed extremely weird that every other ad was for a drug. It does not seem ‘normal’ now that I’ve been back a few years; in fact it gets weirder all the time. Notice the range of issues the drugs cover — countless cardiac and vascular drugs, lots and lots of sex enhancers (“an ordinary moment can turn romantic any time,” don’t you know), testosterone supplements (“millions of men in their 40s may suffer from Low T”), and more lately, all kinds of drugs that do things by suppressing the immune system.

I view this as a manifestation of Neptune in Aquarius. It is synchronous, for one thing — these ads did not exist like this 15 years ago. They did not saturate the airwaves night and day. There were not so many drugs and they were not advertised like this. It’s the combination of the drug development, the public venue of cable television, the propaganda factor and the message that “you will have a great life if you do this” that all add up to Neptune in Aquarius. We are being pumped full of idealism.

There’s also the toxicity factor. I have a special adoration of the disclaimers that can take 15 to 20 seconds of a one minute commercial — even longer — outlining all the things that can go wrong. Strokes from stroke meds, asthma attacks from asthma meds, cancer from immune-suppressing psoriasis drugs, to name a few. I am just fascinated by the one particular drug that does such a good job shutting down the immune system that patients can get cancer or tuberculosis. I mean really. I imagine psoriasis is extremely annoying, but is that a solution?

I am less concerned with specific manifestations than I am with the mindset that is so susceptible to this kind of infiltration. I am concerned with the mentality of “avoid pain at any cost.” That expresses itself many more ways than pharmaceutical ads. And the cost is more than side-effects. By specifically avoiding pain as a way of life, we also avoid opportunities to heal. I am NOT saying that seeking out pain is a means to healing; rather I am suggesting that once we get there, we have a choice to make.

Now, back to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC for a moment. Last year I wrote that she had sold her soul to Merck pharmaceutical. When I get back to my studio in a few days I will share with you my email to her, written in response to her absolutely false, indefensible claim that Gardasil is safe — at the same time that she was accepting advertising money from Merck, which is the purveyor of Gardasil. Which is deadly, and causes central nervous system issues and many, many other problems in the girls who get the shots. The influence of this drug money is not neutral. It is anything but neutral. There is a lot of it, and it’s as toxic as the drugs themselves.

  • Margaret Kelly

    It’s refreshing to see a piece so perfectly articulating what I have always thought. Thank you, Eric. You speak for more than just yourself.

  • Amanda Painter

    and isn’t the emergence of pharma ads on tv also a product of some deregulation/change in regulation of media/ads at the gov’t level? i am trying to remember the details…

    • Eric Francis Coppolino

      Yep there was some deregulation involved for sure. This whole thing of telling the patient what drug they want, then the doctor writes the script — is just weird. I mean, who needs doctors, in that case?

      • Amanda Painter

        yes, a few years ago when i was working at a center for diabetes & endocrinology in the records dept, one of the nurse practitioners told me about a wave of patients coming in and asking for “the little purple pill.” (i forget which drug it was.)

        she asked them if they even knew what it was for, and in general, they did not. all they knew was that the people on tv had said to ask their doctor for the little purple pill, and so they figured they must need it and wanted it.

        i found it rather horrifying, myself. even the NP couldn’t quite believe it.

        • Myrlynne

          this is historical that doctors now tell you what’s wrong with you (via media) versus you going to them to say what’s wrong with you. ever seen the movie reqium for a dream?

  • Amanda Painter

    and on the other side of the drug delusion coin:

    “This weekend the top documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival went to “The House I Live In,” which questions why the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on drug arrests in the past 40 years, and yet drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever. The film examines the economic, as well as the moral and practical, failures of the so-called “war on drugs,” and calls on the United States to approach drug abuse not as a “war,” but as a matter of public health. We need “a very changed dialogue in this country that understands drugs as a public health concern and not a criminal justice concern,” says the film’s Director Eugene Jarecki. “That means the system has to say, ‘We were wrong.’””

    (from today’s Democracy Now!)

  • Vincentmulford

    When I see these ads with huge threatening side effects I’m reminded of the Bush years. Citizens wanting less costly drugs were going across the boarder into Canada to by their meds at a fraction of the cost here – made here – shipped there.

    Bush warned that this is wrong because Canadian drugs could be dangerous and are not to be trusted!

  • staticandbanal

    “The sick fact is I’m happy when I’m shit-canned
    at least a little bit — I smile like a lit candle.
    But I’m aware that I’m just blinded by the blanket of it
    and stress doesn’t get relinquished just by drinking something.
    And I don’t know if I’m addicted to the feeling
    or the fact that I can take a little exit without thinking of it.
    I know that I’ve been known to have a good time,
    promised that I’d never cross the line
    …but never learned to draw it.”
    – Grieves, “Vice Grip”
    Drugs don’t just allow people to escape pain (and healing), they allow us to control feelings. Our own, and other people’s. They give us the same false power as any dysfunctional relationship, whether it’s interpersonal, political, or consumerist… they tell us the solution is outside ourselves. Of course the drug ads would have us believe the solution is outside because the problem is “brain chemistry”, i.e. something inside us that’s out of our control. They put us at war with our own bodies, playing on our fears of controlling our own minds. Few people know where to draw that line… few people even know there should be one.

  • marieajones

    My 16 year old son told me that more than 3/4 of his class of 20 is on meds for some kind of attention disorder (they’re a small close group and have talked about it). He sometimes has a hard time concentrating on his several hours of homework after a full day of school and basketball practice and wonders if he has an attention “problem” too. I think it’s pretty normal for a teenager, but he’s comparing himself to his medicated friends. I’m overwhelmed with how dysfunctional this situation is.

    • Bethbagner


      Try not to feel to overwhelmed, the situation is extremely dysfunctional, and has been for the last 30 years. I feel like the current astrology is pushing the issue, and I will not be surprised when it hits a boiling point in the coming years. It will hit a drastic high, have some unfortunate casualties, ride the media wave, and be exposed for what it really is. After that, the authentic healing begins, wait it already has.

      One of the problems (there are MANY here) begins with the way we “diagnose” I use quotations here. The word actually translates to: The identification of the nature and cause of anything. Now, as far as psychiatric “diagnoses” we have it all wrong. We rely on the DSM-IV, the most current version of the DSM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Hmmm BULLSHIT. There is no data that “proves” the nature and cause of “attention disorders”, just excuses to keep big pharma rolling and a generation of self- absorbed parents in the spotlight of their own psyche’s.

      In My opinion, we would be much better off to “diagnose” a child’s “mental disorder” if we were to simply cast his/her astrological chart, if we started from this point, we would most likely omit the “dis” and find order in their psyche. The need for multiple diagnoses exposes our weakness in the way we diagnose in the first place. Please keep in mind, that this is the same manual that in it’s previous edition, “diagnosed” homosexuality as a mental disorder. And, I don’t mean “way back when”, I believe it was finally omitted in or around 1986. This is a small example of how repressed we are when it comes to psyche and sex. Just one of many.

      If you were to explore the manuals criteria for diagnosing ADHD/ADD, you will find that it does not take much. Basically every human and more so human children carry some of these characteristics, and you only need 6 (and you can mix and match). That’s all it takes to get you or your child a legal prescription to be pumped amphetamine salts, basically anyone can do it. Nothing screams neglect, like shutting down a child’s creative force and expression of their self.

      A good question to ask is, Where does this all lead? A lifetime script to amphetamine’s? Withdrawal symptoms from them? never coping/dealing with the real issues? No communication? Repression? Suppression? Every time a child pees, what’s in there, and where is it being exposed?

      I would let your son know that he is doing all right. Focused on what he is supposed to be focusing on, being 16. Awake, alive and oriented to the world .

  • Bethbagner


    This is so spot on, I was just reading about how drug companies have been pushing the FDA forever to be able to push their propaganda into the mainstream, well here we are.

    Apparently it was not always like this. For years, big pharma was only allowed to push their drugs to doctors through “sales/office time” (you know, when the rep comes to the office and buys you and the staff some steak and wine), they also had access through medical journals, continuing CEU’S, and sponsored events (I would have loved to have done some photo-journalism for viagra one)…

    In the early 80′s the company’s pushed the FDA to approve advertising directly to customers, and by the mid 80′s they got what they wanted, only with some strict restrictions attached. And the ads were limited. Fo example, drugs could be mentioned by name, but ads that mentioned the treatment of specific conditions were required to include a long list of contraindications and side effects.

    Then, at the tail end of Neptune in Capricorn, in 1997 the FDA loosened the restrictions attached to the ads, it allowed for TV and radio ads, and as we ingressed to Neptune in Aquarius– world wide inter-web ads to include the condition/conditions that the drug was designed to treat WITHOUT presenting all of the info. that was previously required, only the “short version” of the ” major side effect/contraindications”. For example, You could basically get away with saying,

    “There is a chance that this drug may cause SEPSIS,SHOCK and DEATH”. Spoken fast and sans fear, while we watch a pretty cartoon versions of “ourselves” sniffing flowers with smiles and loved ones. Suddenly, people are happy, have a hard cock, have the ability to “pay attention”, can have NO pain, etc. all with a pill. Magic. The delusional/denial kind.

    For instance, there was a anti-depression drug commercial wherein the drug magically whisked away the depression clouds, and the voiceover lets us know that we can “see their ad in redbook magazine” for more info. The number of TV drug related ads increased 40 fold between in the 5 year span between 1994-2000. It has become an everyday experience to be confronted with the idea that us or a loved one is suffering from some sort of “disability” and that it is our right and duty
    and co-dependent/sense of entitlement responsibility to “educate” them on what we learned in a commercial that we saw. And it’s all a trickle down of the masterminds who create the ads, experts who focus on strong and unspoken themes that make the consumption of everyday prescription drugs, seem like a routine part of life, and that authentic health and happiness can be achieved with them. If you focus on this concept the ads are most def. sad, but hysterical at the same time. I find most of them to hard to be taken seriously, a fear of mine—Fuck, others are taking this VERY seriously.

    It is a healthy instinct for people to desire to be in charge of their own health. But, most people are doing it all wrong, and it’s creating a very sloppy mess for individual’s and the water and world that we are, and very high price that we are paying for deception.