In 1955, the first commonly prescribed tranquilizer, Miltown, burst onto the American scene, and “within a year, a staggering 1 in 20 Americans were regularly prescribed it”:
[Miltown] was a potent and prescription-only tranquilliser, most often used by women. Among American housewives, it became as fashionable as the latest style of dress or car. It was discussed at dinner parties and written about in lifestyle magazines. Miltown was, from its birth, bound up with ideas of glamour, framed as part of an aspirational lifestyle choice which Hollywood starlets and suburban housewives alike could indulge in. Celebrities promoted its benefits, and bowls of Miltown were even rumoured to be passed around like canapés at Hollywood parties.
Such anecdotes spawned a flurry of Miltown cocktail recipes for star-struck housewives to copy. There was the ‘Militini’, a martini with a pill replacing the olive. Or those more daring drinkers could try a ‘Guided Missile’ – a double vodka and two Miltowns. The jewellers Tiffany’s even produced ruby- and diamond-studded pill-cases, while Cartier advertised a silver charm bracelet with a convenient holder designed for a single Miltown pill. This was a medicine like no other – until it was surpassed by its descendant, Valium. By 1974, an astonishing total of 53.4 million Americans were taking Valium – a quarter of the whole population.
(Image: 1959 Miltown ad via Deco Dog)