Brain Candy….REALLY???


By Kenneth Justice

~ Have you ever read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley? In Huxley’s Dystopian future, sadness and depression no longer exist because the New World Order mandates that everyone must take a pill (called Soma) periodically throughout the day; Soma produces a type of euphoric response in the brain’s neurotransmitters and with all the members of society in a constant state of ‘being high’……everyone appears to be happy.

When I first read Brave New World in my youth I didn’t think too much about it……but by the time I picked it up for a second time it was the 1990’s and “popping pills” in the United States had now become a massive trend.

If you’re a little bit skeptical of our culture’s trend toward pill popping, consider the following statistics;

—) In 2010 the Center For Disease Control reported 48% of persons to be on a prescription drug and 10% of people to be taking at least 5 prescription drugs.

—) We’re now in the year 2013 and a recent study by The Mayo Clinic has now found 70% of Americans to be on at least one prescription drug and half of adults are taking 2!

In less than 5 years we went from half of America being on a prescription drug to 70%! If you need a little perspective on what 70% constitutes, there are about 30 other people sitting in the café where I’m at; this means statistically 21 of the people here are on some type of prescription drug!

I realize I risk upsetting people in merely mentioning the subject of ‘brain candy’ because the simple fact of the matter is statistically 7 out of every 10 readers are on some type of prescription drug. But before you start thinking that I’m going to try and make you feel guilty for taking drugs……keep reading.

My background is psychology and for many years I had to study cognitive disorders and I understand the technical side of the argument when it comes to taking prescription drugs. But, let’s not forget that there are many other ways to change the chemical balance of our brains;

—-) Exercise can release neurotransmitters (like Dopamine) which contribute to us feeling happier

—-) Lack of sunlight, a bad diet, not enough time spent in ‘nature’ can all have major effects on the neurotransmitters in our brain which can lead us to feeling depressed, anxious, and suffering from all different types of ‘mental disorders’

Brain candy has been an easy way for Medical Doctors to change a patient’s mood without needing to make sure the patient changes their behavior.

Have you read my blog before? Have you ever noticed that the overwhelming majority of my articles are challenging the way we think about culture? After nearly 10 years of combined study, college, and work in the human service field I’ve become convinced that the major reason 70% of adults are taking prescription drugs is not because everybody is suffering from a mental disorder…..but because everyone is suffering from a cultural disorder.

—) Western Culture has become too individualistic and it’s led to people feeling lonely, sad, and depressed

—) Lack of community has led people to spending too much time in front of the television (40 hours a week watching TV DOES NOT make you feel happy

—) Working in a career that you find to be miserable does not make you feel happy

—) Churches (which used to be a wellspring of joy for our culture) have become less concerned with real needs (the poor, orphans, widows, helping people, etc) and too concerned with bible studies, meetings, and other activities that involve a lot of busyness……busyness that ends up making people feel disconnected.

I’ve gotten more negative mail from Christians this past week so let me add; before you start telling me that the ‘Church is wonderful and everything is peachy keen’….don’t forget that 70% of the people at your church are on prescription drugs as well!

People are sad, people feel disconnected, people feel lonely……people feel overwhelmed, they feel too busy…..we keep trying to fill our lives with more material possessions, more meetings, more activities…..and all that we do only frustrates us all the more.

70% of people are on some type of prescription drug. We are taking brain candy because our bodies are telling us there is something wrong with us…..

But it’s not necessarily something wrong about us…..there is something wrong about our culture. Until we truly face the real issue; that we’ve designed a culture which has had a negative impact on our psychological health…..then all that the future holds is more and more brain candy for everyone.

Do some people suffer from genetic disorders and might need prescription drugs? Until we change our cultural situation we can’t truly know what percentage of people really need drugs. Unless we begin looking at the way the culture is negatively impacting our lives and we begin contributing to a positive change in our society…..we can’t truly know what place brain candy should have in our culture.

Look, I’m not saying that all drugs are bad. I’m not saying that we need to ban any type of drug that effects our brain…….but I am saying that if we don’t begin having an open and honest dialogue on the subject than I fear we are entering into a brave new world

If you don’t like the way caffeine affects you, than you can always order a decaf this morning. As for me, it’s time for another coffee


Categories: Culture & Society

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56 replies

  1. Wonderful post and so true. We are all so individualistic, which make us unhappy and even depressed. Get out there, people! There’s a whole world in front of you! Not just your computer and your TV-screen. I love interacting with other people, or making long walks just enjoying everything around me. It’s so refreshing and it really makes me happy ^^ I wish everyone would realise that there’s more to it than just you…

  2. Your new way of thinking is why I do like to read your thoughts.
    Now I did not study anything.. But I do think popping pills has become something done faster over time. Doctors just prescribe without really trying to figure out what is wrong as well. Pressure of work maybe, afraid to be sick, to much to do in to little time. Self diagnostic online do not help either. We think to simple about pills. We think it solves everything. or so we are told because lets face it we do trust a doctor.

    • When I was studying psychology in college I wrote a lot of essays about the failure of the medical profession when it comes to overseeing doctors; a doctor is allowed to prescribe a patient medication after a mere 5 – 15 minute visit…..the doctor spends precious little time analyzing the patient’s lifestyle, level of friendships, community, quality of their vocational life, etc……and so the doctor says, “oh, you’re feeling depressed? Here’s a script for Zoloft”…”oh, you’re feeling anxious? Here’s a script for Xanax”

  3. You have got to find a way to make the”Powers(?) that be” understand and read your posts You write fascinating, compelling arguments that make me, and I’m sure others, think. People are sheep. no one wants to go against the “we’ve always done it this way mentality” and research and rethink for themselves. Spot on as usual.

  4. Since America has become a corporate state I believe they (drug corporation cartel) are quite happy with the status quo . . . and by the amount of advertising on TV I’d say they are trying desperately to raise the percentage of users even higher.

    • It’s pretty amazing how many commercials on tv in any given hour are for drug companies

    • I don’t blame the companies; it’s their job to try to sell more of their product. When did we, as consumers, start believing every piece of advertising we saw and accepting every bit of “info” pushed at us? I saw a piece on TV last night that showed a lot of people throw out food as soon as it is past the “best by” date. This means they’re relying on the manufacturer to tell them if it’s “good” or not. Doesn’t anyone use their senses anymore? Weren’t you taught to sniff or view food, or even take a taste, before deciding it was “bad”? Weren’t you taught that you weren’t going to be “happy” 24/7? And that it was normal to grieve and feel sad from time to time? Weren’t you taught to THINK?!?! We need to take back control and responsibility for ourselves – AND get out into nature where those lessons would be obvious from observing how the real world works!

    • I get your point, but I think it is a delicate line; as a business owner (my father owned a number of companies when he was alive) my dad believed he had a responsibility to the client/consumer.

      Part of my dads business philosophy was that he taught his employees to have a servants attitude; “we are here to serve the client/consumer” he taught. And therefore he believed it was his company’s responsibility to educate the client/consumer on the products and services his companies offered.

      Although my dad didn’t manufacture or sell prescription drugs….if he had, he would have believed it was his responsibility to completely educate the consumer on the drugs…..(not in small letters at the bottom of the screen)

    • I see where you’re coming from and appreciate the “servants’ attitude” idea as a good business model. We seem to have lost the civil service concept amongst leaders, manufacturers, advertisers, etc. But I stick to my assertion that self responsibility on the part of the consumers could weed out more of those companies who were not acting honestly or to benefit their customers. Stop taking the Soma and wake up, people. And I wish you or your dad was in charge today!

  5. great post! I agree, we are mostly too busy, most people just trying to get by. Not much sense of community anymore here. How to change that?
    Oh yeah, coffee is technically a drug too 😉

  6. To piggy-back on jjwalters…
    It has become a pharmaceutical world; there is seemingly a pill for everything. There is big money in this. It is easier to just throw money (pills, etc) at issues rather than actually work on a solution. I think a lot of illness stems from not only our environment/culture, but also our food supply and the practices used to produce this supply. There is evidence and studies everywhere to that effect, yet it continues. This isn’t any different than other huge issues that go unchanged (energy!). People can outraged, but that doesn’t cut it; it just isn’t enough. There isn’t enough time in a day to take on a battle of this enormity. People are overwhelmed by all the daily crap to have any energy to fight these other things – the ills of the world count on that as it provides them will longevity in their corrupt endeavors as they suck the world and its people of their health and wealth.

    Media plays a huge role in all this – information vs. disinformation – how does one discern fact from fiction? Where is the truth? I think people just give up trying to figure it out and focus more narrowly on their families and what is happening in their backyards. It isn’t so sad that we have arrived here; it is sad that we stay here and drift even deeper into this quagmire.

  7. Brave New World has been on my (very long) reading list. I think I’ll move it to the top!
    As you can gather from my recent post, I have a strained relationship with my family. I suspect that I have The former “disorder” known as Asperger’s Syndrome. I also believe that Aspie’s is a collection of traits selected by nature to transition us into the future we have shaped. This all ties in, but I won’t digress too much about it here.
    I applaud you for being the kind of Christian that I believe Christ himself had in mind. I, myself, am a Buddhist, years ago spurned by narrow-minded Christians. As it is the predominate religion in the U.S., I care very much about the course Christianity takes. Whether it’s supposed to or not, religion dictates policy. Misinterpretation of Christian doctrine has contributed directly to the situation we are now seeing our lawmakers in. While I have criticisms of Obamacare, I see it as a stop-gap to get us to the single-payor system our country so desperately needs.
    Also, in the process of seeking a diagnosis, I have had meds pushed at me every step of the way. I believe that some are beneficial, but I DO NOT want to be on anti-depressants. I’m getting my mind right and repairing myself with my mind. I just need a little help sorting it all out!
    Thank you for this timely post. This is so important! Christians like you give me hope. Keep fighting the good fight, and thanks again.

  8. I agree, times a million. I was originally going into the psychology field until I got a year and a half into my first degree and realized just how broken the system is. By system I am not just referring to the medical system, but the patients themselves. How can I convince someone who is “depressed, anxious and lonely” that they may not need Xanax, just a different outlook when all their friends get a magical pill and I am asking them to “work” on themself. Our society likes to train people to think that bad things are never their fault. It was their childhood traumas, bad parenting, someone teased them, they didn’t have the right clothes or looks or opportunities as someone else had. They must have a chemical imbalance, the world is mean to them…it’s NOT MY FAULT MY LIFE SUCKS!!!!! Why take an honest look at what is causing you to have issues and create realistic solutions when you can take some brain candy and mask the problem? For all of us who don’t take any prescriptions (I have turned down prescriptions to 3 anti-depressants, 1 anti-anxiety, my last scrip for birth control and numerous “allergy” sprays or pills) I wonder if the trace amounts of everyone else’s prescription cocktails in the public water system just waiting for us to injest are causing subtle changes to our brains? 99% of the time there is an alternative solution to prescription drugs, but then who would make money off us if we were all willing to just spend a little more time out in the sun, on a picnic with friends, instead of sitting in front of a screen advertising to us about how we need cymbalta to add to our daily pill regimine? Until people are willing to put in the work, instead of taking the easy way out, brain candy will just increase in popularity.

    • Great thoughts……so many great points that I will just say “right on” 🙂

    • Thank you. It has taken me a long time to grow up, as my upbringing was at odds with my nature, but I am now owning up to my responsibilities. We can’t change the past, but we choose what to do with today, and that shapes tomorrow. I don’t spurn all meds, but I am thoughtful and selective about what I put in my body. The Ills of the medical/pharmaceutical industrial complex are a symptom of capitalism run amok.

    • I think you’ve shared a good balanced perspective on the subject 🙂

  9. I am trying to imagine a day where everyone I met was “happy”. The thing about people is that they imagine they are “happy” because everything goes their way and they get what they want. I was talking to a beautiful 36 year old woman about her lack of a love life. She started to cry and talk about her body not being thin enough. She goes to the gym every single day and her body is perfect.She seems to hate all men and find them imperfect. Pharmaceutical companies would have to come up with a drug that took away wrong thinking. It comes from fear of a new perspective. Questioning our own reality. Painful things.

    • You make a good point; pills are often used so someone can “feel” happier…but as you’ve pointed out we really should ask ourselves, what is happiness?

  10. People tend to overrate their life as really difficult, and worry about everything under the sun these days. They worry and overrate so much, because in reality, their lives are full of meaningless shit. So how do they compensate? They go to their doctor for their happy pill/brain candy. We live in a society that is broken, but worse yet, we live in a society where thousands of people cannot look inward, and figure out how to fix themselves, or anything for that matter. Self-reliance is almost dead. The Sheeple are walking around following everything but what they know is right. At some point every adult has to look at themselves, have the courage, and say,”I am not following these other idiots ways.” It can be tough when you are in a room of 100 of them and take that stance, but you have to stick to your guns when you know you are right. Unfortunately, for many, they are taking the easy way out for brain candy. Great post!

  11. Kenneth – love it. You’ve said it all, so I will just add a personal anecdote.
    I’ve always tried to explain to my mom that we all take drugs – she denies it. I say, “What about the coffee you’re drinking?” That, of course, is a drug, too – in the sense that it alters oneself.

    Now that she pops an anxiety pill every time she thinks something might upset her, I feel perfectly comfortable smoking pot as needed (or as thought to be needed) and I will always have the perfect explanation for her:

    “As long as you are calming yourself with a drug, there’s no reason why I can’t, too.”

    And I do. And I agree, completely. A drug is a shortcut to somewhere we could get to another way.
    It’s like taking a hike to the top of a mountain, versus taking a helicopter there. Same view – different way of getting there and appreciating the journey.

    Thanks for the ideas…..


  12. You hit the bulls eye with this post… Brave New World, much better than 1984 in my opinion, is a frightening glimpse into a future that seems more possible every day. Lack of connection and meaning leads to existential depression, and pills mask the problem, as they do with everything… Good post.

  13. Don’t forget about the public schools and their part in pushing drugs on ADHD kids and indoctrinating one and all. Great post.

  14. A friend of mine studied nutrition and has loads to say on this subject. She was exasperated at the amount of people who would rather take a handful of pills than change their lifestyle. I think it’s her frustration that eventually led her to get out of that field. Happily for her, though, she learned to control her fibromyalgia through diet and get off her meds with the doctor’s approval. So it can be done. 🙂

    But then again, the whole purpose of soma was to act like a mental pacifier. And what pills won’t do then many other gadgets and daily entanglements will.

  15. Thank you for posting about this. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, but I’ll only allude to it in my own blog because I’m afraid of offending people. Sometimes I can be very slow to catch on to what is happening around me, and it’s like I suddenly realized that being medicated for emotional disorders etc is far more prevalent than I thought. It’s been things like hearing people talk casually about their meds- like it’s no big deal. And don’t even get me started on how many kids are being drugged… rather than looking at WHY so many people, young and old, need to be “fixed” it is apparently easier to give a prescription.

    I also read Brave New World when I was young, and it’s sad to see how slowly this has seeped into our society.

    • It’s a delicate line that we walk in talking about the subject but I want to make it very clear to my readers; I am not judging or condemning anyone for using drugs…..but it is an issue we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss

  16. People used to pass prescription mood enhancers around my office like candy. It was terribly sad. Shame on the doctors that hand so much of this stuff out. Unnecessarily messing with one’s brain chemistry is bad mojo.

  17. Just a few thoughts.

    Given the Brave New World intro, you may wish to consider a followup post. That post would describe how our public school system is using drugs to medicate pacify children. With a background in psychology, I expect you would have a little more insight into that issue than most bloggers.

    When we communicate how accurately we communicate depends upon how well our word choices define our thoughts. I would agree we suffer cultural disorders, but I find your descriptions of these disorders nebulous. Granted, more detail would probably have made this post too long. Do you recommend some previous posts that describe these disorders?

    My “prescription” for our cultural disorders is less government. Although I agree we suffer greatly from a lack of community, I don’t have a beef with individualism. What I resent is the effort of some to abuse the power government to get what they want, thereby interfering with my own choices.

    Here is an example. We have a public school system. When a man and woman have children, they, not government, become responsible for raising their offspring. To that end most parents would attach themselves to a community, usually a church community. Because of the public school system, that choice has become far more difficult. Moreover, because the public school system cannot properly deal with religious issues, it is incapable of fostering the values that children need to become adults with sound minds.

    Since you seem to be a fan of the Apostle Paul….

    2 Timothy 1:6-7 English Standard Version (ESV)

    6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

    Unless we are allowed, encouraged, and need to invest ourselves in a church communities, we will never find within those communities that which you seem to desire. We will not invest sufficient love for others. Yet for reasons of power, government has displaced Christian charities in their historic roles of caring for the poor, orphans, widows, helping people, etc.

    BTW – Bible studies have their place. John Wesley, who initiated a great deal of Christian charity, knew the relationship between the power of the Word and Christian charity. If there ever was a textbook for dealing with cultural disorders, that’s the Holy Bible.

  18. This is so true! You’ve inspired me to do more and connect, so thank you!

  19. “After nearly 10 years of combined study, college, and work in the human service field I’ve become convinced that the major reason 70% of adults are taking prescription drugs is not because everybody is suffering from a mental disorder…..but because everyone is suffering from a cultural disorder.”

    I think one of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered when talking to a friend or family member complaining of some kind of “depression” or “anxiety” is that they seem to believe in the labels more than they do themselves (personal accountability). As you say, the culture has made us slaves to words like “social anxiety” or “depression” and the large majority of the people who complain of these ailments really do tend to be the same ones who never go outside, never exercise, have horrible diets and live online.

    If there’s a better way to disrupt your bodies chemistry short of being tortured or poisoned to death, I haven’t found it. Doesn’t seem to matter though. They want a pill. They believe they’re irreparable until they have the pill and then once the pill is acquired, lo and behold, it’s “not working for them” and “their Dr. is switching their mediation” to — yep, you’ve got it — another pill.

    So much for personal responsibility.

    Excellent article.

  20. Oh goodness… are you going to jump up and down on Oprah’s couch and turn all Tom Cruise on us? Are you turning Scientologist on us? LOL Just kidding. I agree. There is too much reliance on pills to fix things that don’t need it. I remember an episode of “South Park” (which is impressive because I don’t really like that show) that had all the kids on ritalin because they were all considered ADD or ADHD and hyperactive. Once all on that drug, they became boring and nothing resembling children. Okay so it went a bit overboard but the point is made – you can’t fix all things via a pill. Have you considered diet? What’s in the food nowadays? There’s lots of factors for lots of things that are impacting us now that didn’t used to impact adults and children. It’s not just culture, it’s literally what’s in the food – it’s not coming straight from farms anymore and it’s not without a slew of hormones or Lord only knows what else. Though as you stated before about being a fast food culture, this applies to pills too. Pills are much more accessible, fast and easy – you pop it and go on your way (well something like that). Granted, as you said, there are some who genuinely need it but deciphering who does and who doesn’t will be difficult for a while.

    • 1) the Tom cruise reference is awesome…..did u ever see the parody that was made on him and Oprah? Too funny!

      2) the south park episode was great…I’ve seen that particular episode a couple time and it really demonstrates a great point 🙂

    • Well I always go for awesome – just saying lol. 🙂 but no I haven’t seen that parody – I suppose I should. Yeah I don’t really care for South Park at all but that episode was spot on haha.

  21. I immediately thought of “Brain Candy” with Kids In The Hall, reading this title. I also thought of “Equilibrium” (Kurt Wimmer’s movie with Christian Bale). Of course, while the former is comedic satire, and the latter is more serious (Wimmer was probably influenced by “Brave New World” and “1984”), I think both apply.

    I do have to take psych meds for a mental disorder. But quite a few things changed drastically when I learned I had a vitamin D deficiency and SAD (and that some med treatments had been ineffective as such). I also suspect (as hessiafae does) that I also deal with Asperger’s. I have dealt with the mental health care system, on both psychology and psychiatry sides, and I think there is a fine line… but that’s getting harder and harder, especially with DSM-5 and an almost “got this? there’s a pill for that!” attitude (that dovetails much too close with our society’s love affair with mobile devices, i.e. “there’s an app for that”).

    • Thanks. Check out my blog. It started out about my diagnostic journey, but is becoming about my journey on a more macrocosmic scale. I am trying to get my ducks in a row to formally study psychology. I love and welcome all kinds of feedback. I’m also raising two boys who are very much like me!

    • I’ve seen both equilibrium and the kids in the hall skit….both are spot on.

      As I said in the post, with more than 70% of people on prescription drugs it’s almost too difficult to distinguish between the people that really need them and the people who don’t

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