"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 February 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Just Say Whoa



If you don't do drugs, they'll

probably do you. Instead of

worrying about the trivial fact

that most parents have toked,

popped, or dropped, and that -

surprise! - their kids have the

same access and interest, we'd

be smart to keep a sober eye on

the official arbiter of all

things chemical and mineral, the

Food and Drug Administration.

With their recent drive to

expedite drug testing and

approval, we're beginning to see

pharmaceuticals with hyperactive

stock valuations pitch their

products directly to consumers.


[SHort fat Bald Guy]

Where they once depended on the

secular priesthood of MDs to

make the sale, drug companies

are now pushing their wares on

the street in broad daylight. According to

Ad Age, consumer advertising for

prescription drugs in the first

nine months of last year reached

nearly $500 million - an

increase of more than 100

percent from 1995. If Glaxo and

Upjohn have their way, Tritec and

Rogaine will have the same brand

recognition as Pizza!Pizza! and

Air Jordan. The last time this

kind of ad blitz happened to a

respectable profession, we were

blessed with 1-800-LAWYERS.



While some of our misguided

friends continue to gang the

bong, er, bang the gong of

antidrug hysteria, there seems

to be little interest in

stemming the tide of drugs that

are already legal, rifling their

way over the counter in

pharmacies across the land. And

it's hard to see the flap over

medical marijuana as anything

more than a smokescreen for the

commercialization of a new

pharmacopoeia for the home,

including home drug tests, home AIDS

tests, and hundreds of

FDA-approved tinctures, tonics,

and toxins. Do-it-yourself

health care has finally arrived;

"Physician, heal thyself" has

never had such broad appeal; and

frivolous litigation could get a

real shot in the arm with an

epidemic of self-malpractice

suits. Can home hernia repairs

and self-administered tummy

tucks be far behind?



The fact of the matter is that

most of us enjoy a little toot -

legal or illicit - now and

again. And unlike the Prez,

we're not averse to admitting

that we've not only inhaled,

we've even repacked the bowl a

few times. The only thing that's

changed since the days when Dr.

Freud himself was hooked on nose

candy is that it's socially

acceptable to have personal

failings, whether it's

narcolepsy or a full-blown PCP

habit. White House spokesman

Mike McCurry created quite a

stir last summer when he

admitted he'd smoked pot - but

given his age and background,

wouldn't it be quite a bit

stranger if he hadn't? Yet

editors, pundits, and

politicians still insist on

cloaking recreational drugs in

the mantle of morality, creating

a climate of hypocrisy that has

regular, hard-working folks

peeing into shot glasses for

their shameless employers.


[Wall Drug]

While it isn't at all clear that

Americans prefer feeling good to

feeling bad, all roads lead to

the drugstore. Call it

hypochondria, escapism, or

wellness: More and more, we can

expect the FDA to accommodate a

new generation eager to make use

of the latest pharmaceutical

advances to fight balding,

wrinkling, aging, and aching.

More importantly, big-business

pharmaceuticals can use the help

of Uncle Sam right about now,

given the recent commercial

success of all this upstart New

Age hocus-pocus and flaky flower

power. After all, we can't have

people running around

miraculously healing themselves

unless the American Medical

Association and the New England

Journal of Medicine have a

gloved finger stuck in it

somewhere. There's a reason why

NASDAQ sounds like a fast-acting

laxative, and why these stocks

are sold "over the counter."



But the new chemotherapy doesn't

mean we've abandoned the

time-tested standbys of hooch

and hookah. For as long as

anyone can remember, drinking

and smoking have played an

important social role in helping

this broken world feel fixed -

at least for a little while. You

want to see the war on drugs go

ballistic? Try making nicotine,

alcohol, and caffeine

prescription drugs. But don't

look for us on the front lines -

we'll be investing heavily in

model glue.

courtesy of E.L. Skinner


E.L. Skinner