The role of medications in American society has become far more important in recent years and this not only because of our improvement of health care. The mass media outlet of advertisement has been a constant bombardment of medications that treat pills as magic, much like penicillin was considered as ‘magic bullets’ for deadly diseases. Medicalization is the control over bodies and behaviors through medical interventions and was mostly noted from 1950-1985 (lecture 5.2). Medicalization became an important proponent of social control and after World War II doctors were given the power to make this diagnosis because it was generally believed that biomedicine is the best indicator and healer of such ailments. Biomedicalization is the enhancement of bodies and behaviors through medical interventions and has been seen in since 1985 (lecture 5.2). Biomedicalization is different from medicalization in that it tries to improve the social interactions of people by implementing healthcare on certain ailments. A good example of this is the use of rogaine or hair growth for men, or having prosthetics limbs given to people. America’s current belief about medications shows our dedication to have the best genetic/biological advantage to prevail over our everyday obstacles. It also shows how our society values instant gratification and the direct disconnect that many people have with how our body actually works when we are sick. In the reading, “The Commodification of Celebrity Health,” there is a talk about how Paula Deen’s diagnosis of Type II diabetes and hiding it from the public was directly motivated by her desire to keep making money off of people eating her unhealthy food. According to the article, medicalization scholars say that athletes, actors, and other notable figures have to maintain the ideal physical and mental image that fits the American cultural beliefs. In the film, “Pill Poppers,” there is the discussion about how pills are almost magical, and that there is a low success rate but if one works, then the effects are incredible. Even though this documentary shows our dependence on drugs, the narrator still uses words like “magical” to describe the current state of medications in America.

In the advertisement for Abilify (aripiprazole), there is a clear indication that depression is widespread and that antidepressants are not good enough to deal with depression. Adding the drug Abilify will help when taken with antidepressants and is considered a drug add-on. The social roles were very clear in the commercial as well. The commercial shows a cartoon doctor helping the patient with depression out of a hole in the ground. The hole in the ground is signifying the idea that depression is engulfing the girl and she cannot escape without a doctor’s help. While the cartoon characters are interacting on screen, the health benefits are advertised on the screen as well as having a voice over that talks about how to use the drug in the most effective fashion. The commercial made a note to speed up side effects and only say them at the very end of the commercial, so there is not much attention on the negative aspects of the drug. The doctor-patient interaction was very positive and the doctor was the savior in the commercial. He was helping the patient out of the hole and was offering help to the woman. The patient trusted the doctor wholeheartedly and took his advice as the final answer to solve her problem with depression. The commercial also used other advertisement techniques, like separating family from health professionals in the commercials and stating that the doctor is the only source for advice and using a personal battle with depression (first person narrative).


Karim – The Commodification of Celebrity Health”       “anthropologies.” : The Commodification of Celebrity Health. (accessed July 29, 2014).



YouTube. “ABILIFY® (aripiprazole) Anti-Depressant Add-on Treatment – BMS.flv.” YouTube. (accessed July 29, 2014).

Pill Poppers (BBC Documentary)

“Pill Poppers (BBC Documentary) [Video].” (accessed July 29, 2014).

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Kelly Delorme says:

    I found this advertisement interesting because it did a good job of portraying the benefits of Abilify, while minimizing the negative side effects. Throughout the advertisement, there were cartoons that portrayed the new, happy, and fun lifestyle that can be experienced with use of the drug, and it was these cartoons that provided good distraction from the side effects listing.

    I think depression has been framed as an illness that needs biomedical intervention because Western society thinks there should be an explanation for any deviation from the cultural norm. Biomedicalization has taught society that almost every condition is fixable. I think this has resulted in a severe cultural stigma that is attached to conditions that are not easily solved, especially when it comes to mental illness. Like Conrad and Potter mention, depression is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is not a medical document, but a “mix of social values, political compromise, scientific evidence and material for insurance forms”. I think this accurately signifies the forces that have recently re-framed depression into a medical illness. I think depression is listed in the DSM because biomedicine has resulted in the necessity of categorization of illnesses in order to fulfill cultural expectations. I think these cultural expectations include justifying the segregation of those with deviant behaviour and the authority to define individuals into distinct categories, such as normal/abnormal or sick/healthy. Economically, I think that pharmaceutical companies have taken advantage of Western culture’s value of improving one’s social life and the value of taking advantage of available biotechnologies. Through advertisements, pharmaceutical companies have reassured the public that depression is an illness, and that they can solve the problem. All of these forces have played a role in re-framing depression as a medical condition that has a biomedical intervention readily available.

  2. Kelly Delorme says:

    I forgot to add my comment citations:

    Conrad, Peter , and Deborah Potter. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories .” Social Problems 47: 559-582. (accessed July 29, 2014).

    YouTube. “ABILIFY® (aripiprazole) Anti-Depressant Add-on Treatment – BMS.flv.” YouTube. (accessed July 29, 2014).

  3. Krystn Hartner says:

    Depression has been around for years and it first was seen in ancient Mesopotamian texts. The concept of depression is old, but nowadays people are trying to get the best help that they can to treat this illness. From this post you can see that more medicine is coming of this disease and people are wanting to find an even better drug to help reduce their sadness. With this ad you can even see how after taking this pill their life is more fun and that helps sell the drug because that is what they want to happen. If taking this medicine will give them the power to be happier, then they will do just that.

    From societies point of view depression is usually seen as someone being sad which in our eyes means that it is negative. If people who have this illness start to see it as negative as well, they will seek medical attention to make sure that they are viewed as normal. (Even if it means going with the more expensive drug to make sure it works better than what they were using before.) With biomedicine growing in this area of depression, more money is coming out of it and society also gets to know more about this illness. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen anti-depressant commercials. It is starting to show society that it is a common illness and that it needs medicine to help cure it.

    Nemade, Rashmi, Reiss, Natalie and Mark Dombeck. 2007. “Historical Understandings of Depression”

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