'Vicodin' and 'Adderall' Shirts Spark Outrage: Fashion's Rx Pill Problem

The controversial jerseys. Photo: KitsonA line of controversial football jerseys emblazoned with drug names like “Vicodin” and “Xanax” has prompted pharmaceutical companies to threaten seller Kitson, in Los Angeles, with lawsuits. It’s also drawn a wide range of online critics, including the famously sober actress Kristen Johnson.

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“Hey Kitson LA do you really think this s*** is funny?” tweeted Johnson on Wednesday before deleting what she wrote. “Millions are dying, and you want to make money off it. SHAME ON YOU.”

On Thursday, three major drug companies expressed their anger over the shirts, with representatives for Adderall, Vicodin and Xanax all telling TMZ they would either take or consider taking legal action.

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The Partnership at Drugfree.org was also not amused, issuing an open letter denouncing the shirts, and asking Kitson LA to remove them from stores. “These products make light of prescription drug abuse, a dangerous behavior that is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than heroin and cocaine combined,” it read.

The Partnership waged a similar war on Urban Outfitters back in May, when it put pressure on the retail chain to stop selling a collection of flasks and shot glasses designed to look like prescription-drug bottles; the store soon pulled the products. (No similar action was taken last year over bizarre $55,000 backpacks created by Damien Hirst and the Olsen twins, which were decorated with prescription-pill appliqués.)

But Kitson was not backing down this week. Instead, it posted a press release to its Facebook page that had the shirts’ creator, Hollywood-favorite Brian Lichtenberg, defending his designs:

“I have created a collection of t-shirts that are a parody of pop culture. This particular collection of prescription tee's is simply a commentary on what I see happening in our society. Call it what you may, but art in all forms is created off of pop culture and the social situations that surround it. A large percentage of Americans are prescribed these drugs by doctors everyday for legitimate reasons. These are not illegal substances. These tee's are not meant to encourage prescription drug abuse, but if they open the door to a much needed dialogue, as they seem to be doing now, then mission accomplished.”

Kitson also responded to Johnson’s tweet by calling her a “bully,” and noted on its Facebook page that anyone “concerned with this issue” should join it in donating to the Medicine Abuse Project of the Partnership. But the Partnership promptly put out a new statement, stressing that it had not joined forces with Kitson in that effort, nor had it been contacted by the store.

Parody or not, the shirts have clearly touched a major nerve.

“You obviously haven't had a son or daughter die in your home from an overdose on prescription pills, as I have and the thousands of other parents have!!!” wrote one outraged mother on the store’s Facebook page. “What you're promoting is more prescription drug use and it's just WRONG!!"

A steady stream of other parents echoed her sentiments, writing about their own children’s deaths, recoveries and arrests from addiction. Another asked, “I wonder how many young people will be found dead in your XANAX t-shirts (and others like them) before you decide to pull them from your store?”

Other Facebook users seethed that the company was “irresponsible,” “offensive,” “insensitive” and “crude,” while those on Twitter called the shirts “disturbing,” “idiotic” and “atrocious.”

What do you think?

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