Has the desire for self-improvement turned America into a country of addicts? This is the contention of Generation Rx, the new book by Greg Critser. He contends that drug companies, along with the nation’s physicians and the federal government, have transmogrified a self-reliant nation into a herd of functional drug addicts.

The use of prescription drugs has doubled in the last five years and will rise even more sharply. Why? Because Americans have been sold a bill of goods that says there are chemical cures for behaviors that are not diseases. Can’t stay awake after a day’s work? Don’t take a nap. Instead, take a pill developed for narcolepsy. Feeling sad, shy, or hyperactive? There are pills for that too, even though we have no solid ideas about their long-term impact or interactions.

Soon we will be treated to the New Year’s bowl game extravaganzas. This huge TV marketplace is a pipeline for selling more drugs. Lunesta, a sleeping pill, was prominently featured as a major sponsor of the 2005 World Series. Sleeping pills are not the best treatment for insomnia. The National Institutes of Health says that behavioral therapy is at least as effective as prescription drugs and far more capable of producing long-lasting results. The problem is that there is no equal marketing time for non-drug treatment, and there are not enough people trained to do the work.

Critser says a generation of Americans who have rebelliously experimented with drugs has now produced a generation who is growing dependent upon them with barely a squeak of protest. His relentlessly depressing message is a wakeup call … don’t get bowled over and take more drugs than are absolutely necessary.