Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hoffman, Beatrix R.

Degree Name

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Out of 2.4 billion drugs prescribed throughout America in 2005, antidepressants accounted for 118 million of them. Family doctor Ronald Dworkin, one of many critics of antidepressant use in America, argues that doctor's are now "medicating unhappiness."! However, his blanket statement completely overlooks the history of antidepressant use in the United States. The use of prescription drugs to treat "unhappiness" is not a new phenomenon. Before modern antidepressants, tranquilizers such as Librium and Valium were used to treat outpatient-based mental illness. Although they reaped large profits, they also attracted social and political attention. But even these were not the first antidepressants; they actually replaced America's first true moodaltering "wonder drug", Miltown. Released in 1955, Miltown became the first mass produced psychotropic drug, and became so deeply embedded in popular culture that Milton Berle jokingly suggested changing his name to Miltown Berle. I investigate articles from popular journals as well as professional to demonstrate how various changes in the professional, social and government environments constructed the success of Miltown. By discussing the various changes and developments from 1945-1955, I will clearly demonstrate why Miltown became a cultural icon, which began the relationship between American consumers and pharmaceutical antidepressants.


50 pages




Northern Illinois University

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