The Age of Anxiety

The Age of Anxiety Cover

The Age of Anxiety

A History of America's Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers

By Andrea Tone

Basic Books (AZ), Hardcover, 9780465086580, 298pp.

Publication Date: December 30, 2008


The definitive history of America’s tranquilizer culturefrom the Miltown sensation in the 1950s to Valium in the 1960s and 1970s to Xanax in the twenty-first century.

About the Author
Andrea Tone is Canada Research Chair in the Social History of Medicine at McGill University. She is the author of numerous articles and books including "Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America," named one of the Best Books of 2001 by the "Washington Post," and which inspired the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary on the birth control pill. "Devices and Desires" received wide acclaim. The "New York Times" described it as "marvelously eye-opening" and "American Scientist" praised it as "remarkable...richly textured...[and] engaging to read." Her work has been featured on ABC, PBS, NPR, and the History Channel, and in the "New York Times." She lives in Montreal.

Praise For The Age of Anxiety

O magazine
“A fascinating history of our dependence on downers…. Thoughtful, timely, and evenhanded."

“Readable, informative account of how cultural, economic and political forces have shaped the way Americans address anxiety…. Untangles the variety of complex factors that have shaped Americans’ increasing use of tranquilizers amid conflicting attitudes toward them.”

New York Post
“Very accessible and well-researched.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[A] lively and thoughtful history of tranquilizers…. [Tone] is a diligent researcher, and she deftly covers the tangle of historical, medical, legal and cultural issues here without lapsing into jargon – no easy feat with a subject like this.”

“[A] smart and crisp history of American tranquilizer use.”

New England Journal of Medicine
“A superb history that illustrates which cultural groups embraced tranquilizers, how these drugs were initially wildly popular but were subsequently rejected, and the rise of SSRIs as their replacements…. Informative and intriguing.”

“Excellent book…. A strong historical account of the most important topic of our interior lives – and noninterior as well.... Great reporting and incisive treatment of the origins of the modern neurosis industry."

Reason magazine
The Age of Anxiety, Andrea Tone’s revelatory history of tranquilizers in America, complicates the usual tale of patriarchal oppression, in which greedy pharmaceutical companies profit by keeping housewives placid and subservient…. Without minimizing the hazards of tranquilizers, Tone suggests that the backlash against them has caused more harm than the uncritical embrace that preceded it. She also shows that a drug’s reputation is a function of culture as much as chemistry.”

The National Catholic Reporter 

“[A] captivating account of the development and use of medications in the treatment of anxiety in the United States…. [Tone] presents a carefully researched and thoughtful narrative…. The Age of Anxiety serves as a cautionary tale as to how social and political structures can overshadow scientific data in professional and public discourse about medical treatments.”