Pubdate: Sun, 01 Aug 1999
Date: 08/01/1999
Source: Harper's Magazine (US)
Author: Stephen Sweet

Joshua Shenk's insightful analysis would have been even more resonant
had he considered the way in which so many of our current diseases are
socially constructed. A classic study by the sociologist Peter Conrad
suggests that the maker of Ritalin marketed to physicians
"hyperkinesis" as a disease before marketing their cure to the same
audience.  The medicalization of rambunctiousness has proven to be a
tremendously profitable business, with profound consequences on how
schools respond to inattentive children.

The same type of causality holds true for the slightly less alarming
but still dreaded disease advanced by Listerine advertisements,
"halitosis," otherwise known as bad breath.

When mass marketing of pharmaceuticals is commonplace, increasingly,
invention is the mother of necessity.

Stephen Sweet
Ithaca, N.Y.