In 2010, 43% of fatal overdoses in the United States involved prescription painkillers. Now, only three years later, a trendy line of boutiques are under fire for selling a line of “designer drug” t-shirts that have the names of major prescription drugs stamped on the back, along with the designer responsible for their creation.
AbbVie, the biopharmaceutical company responsible for the production of Vicodin is currently filing a lawsuit against Kitson, which oversees a chain of popular fashion boutiques under the company name A-List Inc., and the fashion designer that created the line, Brian Lichtenberg. The lawsuit states, “Every day [the clothes] remain in the market, the public stands to be misguided into hazardously believing that AbbVie thinks popping Vicodin is trendy or cool. Such a result literally threats life through prescription drug abuse.” Other shirts have Xanax and Adderall imprinted upon them.
The designer states the shirts are a “parody of pop culture,” but many recovering addicts aren’t laughing. Actress Kristen Johnston, known for the work on the television series “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Sex and the City” is also one of the thousands of recovering addicts and has challenged the stores for essentially marketing the suffering of other people. Back in August, she posted to her Twitter account “Millions are dying & you want to make $ off it. SHAME ON YOU.” It remains to be seen how other artists and actors, such as Eminem, who have also battled with addictions to prescription painkillers, will respond to the t-shirts.
For recovering addicts of prescription painkillers, these t-shirts serve as a potentially painful reminder to those who have worked hard to overcome their addiction. People wearing them as a fashion statement or to be ironic is at the very least insensitive and in poor taste, if not outright glorifying the use of these drugs in ways for which they were not intended.
Obviously, people are free to wear what they like, free speech and all that, and are under no compunction to be concerned about the feelings of others when choosing what t-shirt to put on in the morning. However, the number of people in recovery from prescription pills is increasing by the day. It is a growing concern that the drug problem in the United States is rapidly shifting from the traditionally illicit substances such as crystal meth and cocaine to the abuse of prescription painkillers. Therefore, it may be worth examining where we as a culture stand when these drugs are becoming popular enough that not only are they being abused, they are becoming a facet of pop culture, very nearly a parody of themselves.