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Parody drug tees should be sent to the cleaners

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By Denise Nickerson 

Contributing Writer 

[email protected] 


High school and much of my college career was spent working for retail stores. I job-hopped from place to place for years, before landing a position with the government. Finally, I had escaped the retail rabbit hole. So when I heard ABC news reporting on a story about a clothing store that was selling a “prescription drug-line” collection, under the caption “Just what the doctor ordered,” the story immediately caught my attention.

It was a controversial story about the Los Angeles boutique Kitson, under fire after printing t-shirts with the names of prescription drugs Adderall, Vicodin and Xanax. The line, designed by Brian Lichtenberg, (apparently a very popular artist) was released in late August and was instantly slammed for “glamorizing” drugs.

The pharmaceutical companies AbbVie, Shire and Pfize, responsible for making Adderall, Vicodin and Xanax, were contemplating suing Kitson. They stated to the Daily News, we “had no part in the production of the t-shirts” and Kitson failed to “ask for our permission.” Watching the news, I wondered, are drugs the new trend?

In response to the public’s outrage, designer Brian Lictenberg stated, “I have created a collection of t-shirts that are a parody of pop culture. This collection of prescription tees is simply a commentary of what I see happening in our culture.” Baffled by the audacity, I took it upon myself to examine what is happening in our culture.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), every day in the United States, “an average of 2,000 teenagers’ use prescription drugs without a doctor’s guidance.” 2.8 percent of that average is from teens ranging between the ages of 12 to 17. In addition, the NIDA states that the most commonly abused drugs are “opioids (such as the pain relievers, central nervous system depressants (Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (Concerta, Adderall).”

But it isn’t just the probability of addiction that makes prescription drugs a hazard. According to the NIDA, stimulants such as Adderall “help teens to increase their attention spans, but also raises blood pressure and heart rate.” Likewise opioids cause “drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and, slowed breathing,” while abuse of depressants can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, and seizures.

So, what makes this new clothing line an outright slap in the face isn’t the amount of teenagers struggling with prescription drug addiction; it’s the message that it’s sending to our youth. To slap drugs onto a varsity-shirt, is suggesting that drugs are worth representing, wearing and rooting for.

For example, in sports, fans represent their favorite team or player by wearing a varsity shirt with that athlete’s name and number. It is a fan’s way of showing respect, admiration, love and pride. Therefore, what messages are we sending to our youth with these shirts? That they should take pride in drugs? That drugs are worth admiration?

Secondly, the t-shirts are a mockery of the society in which we live in. Sales are nothing without consumers. As much as people would like to point the finger at Kitson, let us not forget the timeless saying: “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.”

The problem is not Kitson, but the consumers. The fact that Kitson can make profits off of these shirts should be a self-reflection on society. These shirts illustrate that as a society we have back-tracked. We have lost morals, responsible judgment, and become ignorant. Should our youth lack morals as well? Are we teaching them to think irresponsibly?

Lastly, and perhaps I may be in the minority on this one, but there is nothing “artistic,” “fashionable,” or “glamorous” about drugs. Drugs are not an art form. They are not an expression of your inner feelings. Drugs are drugs. They are not some big complex, monumental, 8th wonder of the world; they are simply drugs.

Wearing drugs on your shirt doesn’t make you look cool. I believe that it’s important that we teach children that drugs aren’t cool or worth representing. Children should not grow up believing that drugs are “fashionable” or the “new trend.”

Nevertheless, much can be said for the benefits of prescription drugs. There’s no doubt that drugs such as Vicodin show significant improvement in controlling severe pain. In addition, prescription drugs are also usually much more effective than non-prescription drugs.

But this does not advocate the use of displaying prescription drugs as fashion trends or means of an artistic outlet.

While some may enjoy the idea of buying the prescription drug shirts, which range anywhere from 58 to 98 dollars, I guarantee that if you “pop one of these shirts on,” you will not feel better.

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