Diet Pills: History notes
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 1:28 pm
Popular 1960s book carried an anti-drug message
Four years before the approval of the 1970 Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, a nonfiction book with pills on the cover stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 28 weeks.
Author Jacqueline Susann said that she wrote Valley of the Dolls to warn people against taking drugs and drinking alcohol. Her book told the story of three women who used diet pills, barbiturates, and alcohol.
The book set in the entertainment world reflected society’s acceptance of those drugs. Susann wrote about what led the women to take drugs and the effects of drug abuse, including overdose. Drugs changed one character’s personality, and she was hospitalized to withdraw from drugs.
While the book set a sales record, some in the literary world looked down on Susann’s writing. It may not have been great literature, but the book described a world Susann knew well, according to Lovely Me, the 1987 biography about her by Barbara Seaman. Susann took Dexedrine to lose weight and barbiturates to sleep at night. She nearly overdosed twice.
While promoting her book, Susann spoke about the hazards of drugs. She talked about how continued use of pills and alcohol could lead a person to consume more of each. The person could become confused about the amount consumed. In that confusion, the person would take another drink or pill and could die.