In Reply to: Happy pills posted by ESC on March 27, 2009 at 20:55:
: : I look for the origin of the term 'happy pills'.
: I first heard it in the 1990s referring to students at the local middle school and high school who were on meds. Found this:
: happy pill -- 1950s+ tranquilizer or stimulant. happy juice -- 1920s-1950s. Good humour arising from alcohol or drug intoxication.
: happy stuff - 1920s. Cocaine.
: "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green (Wellington House, London, 1998). Page 562.
: happy dust or powder -- cocaine. Early 1900s to present. "Slang and Euphemism: A Dictionary of Oaths, Curses, Insults, Ethnic Slurs, Sexual Slang and Metaphor, Drug Talk, College Lingo and Related Matters" by Richard A. Spears (New American Library, Penguin Putnam, New York, Third Edition, 2001)Page 169.
I can't improve on the answer of ESC, but I'd like to press the issue of the connotation of the phrase. It is widely used by husbands as a way of describing their wives' meds without having to learn the name of the actual medication. There are enough anti-depressants and sedatives and other mood-altering drugs to fill a whole pharmacopoeia by themselves, even without including cocaine. So calling them "happy pills" is not necessarily disparaging them. It's a way to indicate a class of pills. Even if you can remember the name of your wife's medication, that doesn't mean everyone else will be familiar with it. So "happy pills" is a way to bridge the language barrier. It's also possible to mention your wife's "feel good" pills without any intention of being snarky about either the wife or the pill.