"Mother needs something today to calm her down," goes the 1966 Rolling Stones hit "Mother's Little Helper." "And though she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill."

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1963, F. Hoffmann-La Roche's drug, marketed to "reduce psychic tension," went on to become the Western world's most widely prescribed answer to anxiety—and the first drug to reach $1 billion in sales.

At the peak of Valium's popularity in 1978, Americans consumed more than two billion units stamped with the trademark "V." Valium was also one of the first pharmaceuticals to become a cultural icon. "It's a drug that has pretty successfully lived up to a lot of the hype that surrounded it," says Andrea Tone, a professor of the history of medicine at McGill and author of "The Age of Anxiety: A History of America's Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers."

More Info: mcgill.ca