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The Age of Anxiety: A History of America's Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  90 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Anxious Americans have increasingly pursued peace of mind through pills and prescriptions. In 2006, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 40 million adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in any given year: more than double the number thought to have such a disorder in 2001. Anti-anxiety drugs are a billion-dollar business. Yet as recently as 1955 ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published December 30th 2008 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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May 26, 2011 Skostal rated it liked it
Initially this appears to be a very scholarly book on the American view of anxiety and a pharmacological history of tranquilizers. But the book misses on several counts. While the author spends a great deal of time on the women's movement, she never makes the call as to whether she believes women are more prone to anxiety or hysteria, or whether they are legitimately depressed and anxious as a repressed group in society. And she completely misses the importance of the role insurance companies pl ...more
Sandra Ross
Apr 10, 2016 Sandra Ross rated it it was amazing
I read this book as part of the research for a new blog post I've been formulating and writing over the past couple of weeks to discuss the impact of widespread prescription abuse and addiction to, for lack of a better overall, if not at all accurately descriptive, term, mood-altering medications on the probability of eventually developing a lifestyle dementia.

Having never taken any of these kinds of medications myself - they both terrify me and I personally believe that our natural neurological
Kim Fay
Aug 20, 2014 Kim Fay rated it really liked it
It's been an interesting year, researching anti-anxiety drugs for my new novel. Beating out "Happy Pills in America," "The Age of Anxiety" is the best book I've found so far on Miltown, the precursor to Valium and the granddaddy of all anti-anxiety meds. At one time in the 1950s it was the most prescribed pill in America. I liked this book more than Happy Pills because it was not written in such an academic (dry) manner (even though it is clearly a scholarly, well-researched book). "The Age of A ...more
Rena Sherwood
I suppose it's only fair that a book about tranquilizers is, in itself, tranquilizing. The small print, the dry tone of voice and the masses of endnotes just adds to the soporific effect. Pull up a pillow, crack open the book and lights out, everybody!


My Mom takes tranquilizers and I wanted to know more about them, which was why I picked this book up from the library in the first place. After reading this book, I'm still wondering about tranquilizers but I know scads about Milton Berle jokes on
Jun 12, 2009 Steven rated it really liked it
A nice overview of the development and social history of the new tranquilizers of the 50s and 60s (Miltown, Valium, Librium, Klonopin, etc.) and how they shaped American attitudes towards mental health and the concept of addiction.

Tone does an excellent job of covering the development, personal stories, cultural attitudes, and marketing strategies surrounding these drugs. I appreciate how she was able to smoothly integrate all these approaches into a quite understandable narrative.

Two of her th
Arwen Downs
Aug 09, 2009 Arwen Downs rated it it was amazing
This was an enlightening book, covering not only the history of the United States' great love of tranquilizers of all kinds, but the development of said drugs and the correspondence of an overwhelming national feeling of anxiety with the rise of tranquilizer use.

In addition, Tone's writing style is entertaining and her objectivity when dealing with such a polarizing subject as psychopharmacology made the book ring true in a way a more damning or effusive book would not.

All-in-all, a perfect nonf
Feb 01, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it
Tone has provided us with a readable and scholarly narrative of the creation of anxiety as a diagnosis and its relationship to the medications used to treat it. In addition to her command of the technical literature she conveys cultural significance of anxiety over the last sixty years with clarity. I especially appreciated the biographical material, based on interviews, on Frank Berger (Miltown) and Leo Sternbach (Librium). Although brief, her descriptions of the place of benzodiazapines in Fra ...more
May 07, 2012 Socraticgadfly rated it really liked it
Before Valium, there was Librium. Before that, there was Miltown, the first modern tranquilizer, the first move beyond the old barbiturates.

Tone details America’s love affair with these magic pills which, stereotypes of overworked housewives aside, were first most eagerly adopted by CEOs and other corner suite persons.

There’s no earthshaking findings here, just a good overview of a period in American history.
Aug 20, 2016 Pat rated it liked it
Thought provoking look at the myriad of treatments for anxiety over decades, how the definition of what constitutes anxiety has changed, the role that politics, consumerism, ethics, women's movement, big Pharma, etc. has played and continues to in the "war on drugs" and society's handling of our collective dis-ease.
Aug 20, 2011 Russianwitch rated it really liked it
Shelves: informative
It's an easy read which breaks a difficult subject down to social and economic aspects of the problem painting the general situation and the influences which had the most effect on the "problem".
The language is clear and effective the examples very descriptive.
The book also gives good leads for those who want to examine the culture of tranquilizers in the US further.
Nov 27, 2009 Barry rated it really liked it
Andea Tone supplies good insight on past history of Tranquilizers and how the drug companies promoted them
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May 30, 2015
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