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Pill-Shaped Products That Glamorize Medicine Abuse: Harmless Fun or Sugarcoating an Epidemic?


This past June, Urban Outfitters, a national retail store popular with teens, removed a number of products from its shelves after considerable pressure from public health groups, state attorneys general, legislators and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The merchandise — pint glasses, flasks and shot glasses made to look like prescription pill bottles — made light of prescription drug misuse and abuse, a dangerous behavior that is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than heroin and cocaine combined.

Medicine abuse has increased 33 percent over the past five years with one in four teens having misused or abused a prescription drug in their lifetime. As recent research from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids shows, teens and parents alike do not understand the health risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. In fact, more than a quarter of teens mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs.

Though the removal of these items was a step in the right direction to ensure the safety of our children and teens, a further look into today’s pop culture reminds us that Urban Outfitters’ glamorization of medicine abuse was not an isolated event. We’ve stumbled upon quite a few pill-shaped products lately.

Check out the following items and let us know what you think – harmless fun or making light of a serious epidemic?

Beats, a popular company specializing in headphones and speakers, recently released this new pill-shaped portable speaker, called — you guessed it — the Pill. The company advertises their Pill as a speaker that “brings the party with you.” But are they really only referring to the music? The pairing of pills and partying sends a potentially lethal message to our kids. And on top of this, pop music sensation Nikki Minaj, an artist with a significant number of teenage fans, has hopped on the bandwagon, promoting her own signature bubblegum-colored Pill.



Happy Pills

Originally from Barcelona, customers from around the world have been chasing their suger high in the form of Happy Pills. Their online store touts images of the brand’s newest “remedies,” sold in bottles and pill boxes. A drug reference? Or a direct message to children, promoting the use of pills to solve problems and to be “happy?”

Luxury Goods:  Handbags and Jewelry

You may begin to spot people wearing pills as earrings, necklaces, handbags and rings. Pills have becoming a growing trend in the fashion world, as seen in designer Jeremy Scott’s “pill bag,” and Chanel’s pill charm bracelet, featured left. Some designers, like Cast of Vices, cross the line further, engraving specific medication names on their jewelry. High-end fashion designers have even begun to incorporate pills into their runway shows, replacing decorative jewels with pill tablets and capsules.

PPillows, Clocks, Pens, Flash Drives…

Pill-shaped appliances like these “Valium” pillows, vitamin pens and colorful capsul clocks and flash drives have also recently appeared on the market. Their bright colors may seem innocent but they send a dangerous message to children by connecting prescription medicine with playfulness and fun.

So what do you think? Are these colorful, attractive products innocuous – or do they downplay the seriousness of prescription medicine abuse? Post a comment below and let us know.

Whether harmless or harmful, the facts remain:

• Prescription medicines, along with marijuana, are the most commonly abused drugs among 12 to 13 year olds.

• Every 19 minutes, a person dies from a drug overdose in the United States.

• Drug-related deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the U.S., with the rise driven by an increase in prescription drug overdoses.

Educate yourself about the ways you can prevent your teen from abusing prescription drugs and over-the-counter cough medication. Inform your child about the dangers of medicine misuse and abuse. Spread the word to your local community and social networks.

Visit The Medicine Abuse Project website to take the Pledge and learn more. Together, we can #endmedicineabuse.

Think your child is abusing drugs? Visit Time To Act for ways to intervene and call our Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).


4 Responses to this article

  1. RJ / August 6, 2013 at 6:52 pm


  2. Judy Morris / July 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    This has got to be stopped! It makes me angry….no way should marketing be allowed that sends a message out there to kids that "pills" are fun, safe, and exciting..

  3. Verlene Crawford / July 31, 2013 at 6:14 am


  4. Janice / July 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    This is ridiculous! There is an epidemic of pill abuse and you think this is funny? Appealing?
    As a recovering addict this is absurd!

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