Napoleon's Buttons: Chapter 11 - The Pill

Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson, Penny Le Couteur

"In 1960 a contraceptive molecule emerged that played a major role in shaping contemporary society.

We are, of course, referring to norethindrone, the first oral contraceptive, usually known as “the pill.” The molecule has been credited with—or blamed for (depending on your point of view)—the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the women’s liberation movement, the rise of feminism, the increased percentage of women in the workplace, and even the breakdown of the family. Despite the varying opinions on the benefits or disadvantages of this molecule, it has played an important role in the enormous changes in society in the forty or so years since the pill was introduced."


"...the advent of oral contraceptives in the middle of the twentieth century marked the first truly safe and effective chemical means of birth control. Norethindrone is one of a group of compounds known as steroids, a perfectly good chemical name that now is often applied to performance-enhancing drugs illegally used by some athletes."


"Testosterone is an anabolic steroid, meaning that it is a steroid that promotes muscle growth. Artificial testosterones—manufactured compounds that also stimulate the growth of muscle tissue—have similar structures to testosterone. They were developed for use with injuries or diseases that cause debilitating muscle deterioration. At prescription-level doses these drugs help rehabilitate with minimal masculinizing effect, but when these synthetic steroids, like Dianabol and Stanozolol, are used at a ten or twenty times normal rate by athletes wanting to “bulk up” the side effects can be devastating.

Increased risk of liver cancer and heart disease, heightened levels of aggression, severe acne, sterility, and shriveled testicles are just a few of the dangers from the misuse of these molecules. It may seem a bit odd that a synthetic androgenic steroid, one that promotes male secondary characteristics, causes the testes to shrink, but when artificial testosterones are supplied from a source outside the body, the testes—no longer needing to function—atrophy."