How common was tranquilizer use in the 70's?

This past week they showed the pilot episode of the “Brady Bunch” where Mike and Carol were getting married. There’s a scene where they talk on the phone before the wedding which went like this:

Mike: I’m nervous about the wedding.
Carol: Why don’t you take a tranquilizer?
Mike: I already took one.
Carol: Why don’t you take another?
Mike: I want to be relaxed, but I have the honeymoon to think of.

The tranquilizers were suggested as casually as an aspirin or antihistamine might be. Were tranquilizers used so commonly that it was thought of as normal to take one if you were nervous?

Why would Mike have tranquilizers in the first place? Is that something which people normally had in their medicine cabinet or did he go to the doctor specifically to pick them up to calm his wedding nerves?

You needed a prescription to get tranquilizers. The prescriptions were relatively easy to get, however, and the advice to take a tranquilizer was common. People would use tranquilizers prescribed for others, too.

It was a common trope of movies and TV of the 60s and 70s.

In Sixteen Candles, the older sister Ginny takes too many tranquilizers before her wedding to hilarious effect. I think she took four of them.

In older movies and TV shows ('60s, '50s, and on back), you always heard the generic statement from a doctor, “I gave him/her a sedative.” They never named the drug.

I know **WHY **Mike took a tranquilizer: because Carol was going to expect sex on their honeymoon. As Jack McFarland would say: “Lady parts…ewww!”

First thing I thought of was “Run to the shelter of Mother’s little helper”.

Psychology today blog, trouble finding anything more statistic-y:

Considering that the population of the US was around 200 million in 1975, that’s a lot of tranquilizer use.

I think of tranquilizers as something that are used to treat anxiety. That is, someone who suffers from anxiety as a normal mental condition would be on tranquilizers. But it sounds like back then, they were used almost like alcohol is now to calm your nerves. Today, Carol might suggest Mike drink a whiskey. In the future, maybe she’ll suggest he smoke a joint.

In the future it will be tranquilizers again (cite: McCoy offers it to Kirk in The Wrath of Khan)

Only the drug changes, the pattern remains the same.

Back in the 1960’s (and maybe earlier?) the big thing in tranquilizers was barbiturates. The doctors used to hand those out like M&M’s too, back then.

There seem to be suggestions that “Mother’s Little Helper” of Rolling Stone fame refers to benzodiazepines, like valium, that became the popular go-to tranquilizer of the 1970’s. That can’t be right. First of all, the Stones came out with Mother’s Little Helper in 1966. And they end the song with: And if you take more of those
you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter
of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way
through your busy dying day
There used to be frequent stories in the news of “bored housewives” dying from overdoses of barbies, and nobody ever knew if they had committed suicide from desperation with their “bored housewife” life, or if they accidentally OD’d since that was so easy to do. It seemed to happen all the time. This is certainly, I’m sure, what the Stones were talking about, not benzos.

Benzos don’t kill bored housewives. Take a shitload of benzos, and you’ll just sleep for a long time and probably wake up with a killer headache. It’s really hard to OD on benzos. Benzos don’t interfere with breathing (much); but an OD of barbies do. Benzos were seen as a miracle drug, back in the 1970’s, because they eliminated need for those killer barbies, which where thereafter used much less.

How about Dexamyl? That was dextroamphetamine and amobarbital, and was often used as a diet pill, with a sedative for people who got too hyper on the amphetamine part, or couldn’t sleep. Judy Garland was heavily addicted to them, although I don’t think this was what killed her.

In short, it was VERY common.

When I think of the 70s, I think of quaaludes. I remember hearing about them, but they were gone by the time that I would’ve been old enough to notice. It’s weird to have them disappear. Meanwhile, benzodiazepines are still here today, although relative popularity of each drug might’ve shifted (the last person, no only person I know of who took Valium is Solid Snake). So I don’t think of benzos as a “decade” drug, or if anything I associate them with the late 90s/early 2000s with people internet-diagnosing themselves all the time.

That and “reds,” which I guess is secobarbital. That and other barbiturates.

I’ve had to be sedated for dental surgery several times. One of the drugs that they put in my IV is Valium. This is within the past 5 years or so, so Valium is still being used, but maybe it’s not handed out in pill form as much.

Today we have a lot of antidepressants and antianxiety drugs that are handed out. Plus there are other drugs that theoretically don’t affect the mind very much. It seems like I can’t go to the doctor these days without coming home with a new prescription or two.

Yeah, I mean Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin are prescribed, but Valium much less so. Actually, I take it back, I was given some prior to my wisdom teeth removal and I’m not sure what kind. It was long ago and I think not Klonopin is all I can remember.

I don’t know the why Valium is prescribed less, but my guess is that it’s because its half-life is longer than many other ones, and thus it can be harder to meter doses, more risk of liver complications, etc.

Benzos alone are very safe, combined with other downers or opiates though they cause a lot of fatal ODs.

I suspect that the increase in diazepam prescriptions has nicely coincided with the decrease in Valium prescriptions. :smiley: In other words, I see a LOT of patients on diazepam today. It’s still a favorite, at least in the low income elder crowd. But almost none of them know it’s the generic for Valium.

I see two groups of patients - the poor ones and the middle class ones. I’m more often with the poor ones, and have become well versed in a particular group of drugs I see over and over (metoprolol, almodipine, metformin, diazepam, hydrochlorothiazide, gabapentin, simvastatin, Tramadol). Over and over and over. Then I go to the other end of town, and I have to pull out my drug app and look everything up. Same conditions, vastly different med lists. Diazepam (Valium) is definitely still in widespread use, just not in the more affluent populations.

Quaalude was considered “safe” because you couldn’t commit suicide with it. It was withdrawn because of the huge black market for it; while it wasn’t a date rape drug, combining it with alcohol and/or marijuana lowered sexual inhibitions, and that’s why it was so popular.

I got some diazepam from my doctor when I was going through a personal crisis several years ago, and still have a few. I also took some before having dental work a while back. It’s very commonly used prior to medical procedures, to calm people down, and at low doses you don’t have to have a driver.

The only time I can recall seeing Seconal ordered or dispensed was at a hospital I worked at in the late 1990s; one of the OBs allowed women to have it if they were bottle-feeding. Now, they give them Ambien, a drug that IMNSHO should never have gotten on the market, and needs to be withdrawn. Pretty much everyone I’ve known who started taking it became addicted, or at least dependent. :frowning: