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Botox and Disrespect of Aging

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category_bug_journal2.gif The 2,775,176 Botox treatments in 2007, at a cost of more than $1 billion dollars neatly expresses the desperation some people feel about physical signs of aging.

Most of us - particularly elders, I suspect – are not likely to have themselves injected with botulinum, the key ingredient in Botox in diluted form, which is one of the deadliest poisons on earth. But thanks to popularization through repetitious media coverage, it has become a widely-accepted procedure for looking younger.

An important pre-clinical finding in studies done on lab animals before the approval of Botox by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA)

“…showed that after being injected, they [Botox and other botulinum compounds] did not travel along the body’s highways – nerve cells - to the brain and spinal cord.” (Keep that in mind as you read further.)
- Newsweek, 21 April 2008

Now comes a study reported this month in The Journal of Neuroscience [subscription required] contradicting that finding in mice:

“Within three days, the toxin had migrated from the whisker muscles to the brainstem, where it disrupted neuronal activity. ‘The discovery was quite serendipitous…and surprising,’ Matteo Caleo, who led the study, told the journal Science. ‘A significant portion of the toxin is active where it’s not supposed to be.’”
- Newsweek, 21 April 2008

Does that not scare the bejesus out of you for anyone who has been injected with Botox? Just because I think they’re stupid to do it, doesn’t mean they should be harmed.

Then, then, Allergan, Inc., which manufactures Botox Cosmetic, issued a statement, according to Newsweek, accusing the Italian scientists who conducted the new study of having

“’…injected the material directly into the brain,’ however, they injected the neurotoxin into facial muscles – and from there it found its way to the brainstem.”

Only somewhat more circumspect in defending Botox, board-certified neurosurgeon and cosmetic surgeon, William A. Brennan, M.D. of Surgical Arts in Beverly Hills, issued a press release in which he states:

"It is understood that Botox will be taken up into the nerve terminal because it resides in the same area as neurotransmitters. However there is no need for alarm because Botox is biologically metabolized and broken down in the nerve terminal."

Apparently, there were nearly 1500 “adverse events” involving Botox injections between 1989, when it was approved by the FDA, and 2003, mostly involving wrinkle-erasure procedures, and 28 deaths in people who received Botox for medical reasons, according to Newsweek. And now, federal prosecutors are investigating Allergan, Inc. for promoting a non-FDA-approved, although legal, use of Botox for headaches.

Nevertheless, The FDA’s Russell Katz says blandly

“…that people getting Botox for cosmetic reasons should ‘make their own personal best judgment about this’ and ‘be aware that there’s the potential for’ the neurotoxin to spread.”
- Newsweek, 21 April 2008

No one without a specific medical degree can intelligently make that decision and it is the FDA’s job to protect the public from dangerous drugs. It doesn’t help that Newsweek, after reporting this serious finding, blows it off with a half joke at the end of the story:

“With the new evidence that Botox can spread to the brain in ways that pre-clinical tests failed to turn up, it’s enough to bring back those Botox-erased frown lines.”

None of this would happen if the physical signs of aging were accepted as a normal part of life and if elders were respected.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior remembers what it was like Camping with Mother.]


Gosh, after reading that I'm grateful it's never bothered me if I have wrinkles.

I'd heard about this and I don't know why it surprised me. Of course a toxin injected into your body is going to do some harm somewhere.

The doctor who diagnosed the neurological injury to my left hand that I recently wrote about recommended treatment with Botox. I had gone to the doctor in the first place because I was having trouble writing. This was about 25 years ago.

I would have had to drive to Boston every 90 days for a shot (then $400 and totally outside insurance coverage). As a native Maine Yankee, I thought about it for a minute, then decided I had another hand and I had better learn to write with it.

The results have been less than spectacular in terms of penmanship, but I've saved a helluva lot of money—and whatever it may be that paralyzes my brain stem from time to time, I know for sure that it isn't botulinum.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. I learned a long, long time ago that personality, kindness, and caring went much further than beauty in impressing people and having friends. Unless your living depends on physical attractiveness it is sheer foolishness to try to improve on mother nature. Inner beauty is what counts in the long run.

I wrote about Botox awhile back in my blog, and there are other considerations as well -- the animals they use to "test" it. My RA is acting up today, so I can't type much, but I agree with Ronnie about the physical signs of aging being normal. I earned every one of these beautiful wrinkles!

You know, even if the physical attributes of aging were an accepted norm, even celebrated, there would always be those idiots who refuse to "grow old".

It is exactly this group that keeps advertising gurus and quacks rolling in the bucks.

When botox first hit the market, I remember thinking, "what idiot would inject a deadly poison into their body on purpose?"

Dumb question.

I'm with Pattie - the brain damage occurs before the botox injection....

But they aren't. I am alone of everyone of my friends in having a face left with all the wear marks. Then again, I also have had peels and many spots burned off from the many years I spent baking in the sunshine. We each seem to have our own brain damage.


Having a peel and spots burned off is more medically called for than botox. Skin cancers are nothing to sniff at.

Hey, I wear makeup, I put cologne on in the mornings, I use a exfoliating scrub at bathtime.

(Ha, I first typed "defoliating", like I have jungles in my armpits or something...LOL).

All vanity items? Sure. I mean, who the hell wants kudzu growing everywhere?

Guess everyone has to determine their own boundaries.

JUST SAY NO! TO KUDZU...and botox.

During periods of history in China, when old age was most venerated, people would actually draw lines (wrinkles) on their faces in an attempt to look older.

How interesting to grow older in a society where the smooth facade of eternal youth dances in blind obedience to the materialistic two-step of denial and sudden death. Nothing changes until it is over. What a tragic way to live.

I know there are medically necessary reasons to use Botox. I have seen it help a person with severe torticollis. When she told me they were going to inject botulism in her neck I was horrified. It was amazing what a difference it made but then she found out she had to have an injection every few months. This was over 23 years ago so it may be she was one of the test subjects in a set of trials for the medication as she had the procedure done at the medical school.
To use Botox for wrinkles seems frivolous to me. I want my character lines.

As I recall, most people are willing to accept one-in-a-million odds when faced with a decision; however, there are not enough data here to figure the odds on Botox injections. I do recall reading, a few months ago, about risks associated with Botox (and related-drug) injections. Most of the problems seemed to occur in children who were treated for cerebral palsy.

Insecurity is really what is being treated in many/most of the cosmetic use cases, I would guess. Too bad insecurity isn't easily treated with education (mostly of those who are around the insecure person while the malady is forming--or are we born with it?)

I read recently in the L.A. Times that Beverly Hills doctors were seeing a decline in business from those who routinely sought out some of these "perpetual youth" treatments. Perhaps that's an upside to our economic downturn.

Seeking botox treatments, as with many medical treatments, can benefit some i.e. injections into the vocal cords for those with Spastic Dysphonia (even then there may be other preferred treatments,) but think it's utter madness to do so for purely cosmetic reasons.

Our FDA like far too many govt. departments seems to have compromised their function doing what is best for ordinary citizens.

Many of my friends have had peels, botox, and lifts, too. I wish the signs of aging were accepted as normal.

Having a Botox injection makes about as much sense as drawing the smoke of chemical-laden burning leaves into your lungs. Smoking gives you wrinkles, Botox takes them away; both kill you. Good reason to eat chocolate.

I stumbled upon your bio and then your blog from the 2nd 50 Years Marketing Blog and I am so happy. I read you comment about the nine days a week of research, writing, etc. in your bio and I am very impressed with your thorough style and informative entrees! Thanks - I'll be back!

I stumbled upon your bio and then your blog from the 2nd 50 Years Marketing Blog and I am so happy. I read you comment about the nine days a week of research, writing, etc. in your bio and I am very impressed with your thorough style and informative entrees! Thanks - I'll be back!

At a Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled botox is administered to severely neurologically handicapped people whose muscles are otherwise in constant spasm. The story about the closure of these government supported centers has been told in state after state as federal funds to provide care for the most severely handicapped among us dry up and the trend toward privatization continues. Here's a link to a story about a 22 year old who receives regular injections of botox:


I read that about botox but have always felt it had risks that weren't being addressed. I would hate having my expressions frozen into a perpetual smile. There are lots of things that a person can do to improve the skin if they want. I see nothing wrong with doing things that aren't harmful including hair dye if that is what makes a person feel better. How someone looks as they age varies so much based on genetics, lifestyle. I feel like do what makes you feel good. The problem with things like face lifts or any major things is they can have risks that people don't realize. None of it makes you younger though. I would never inject botox and did have a cosmetician one tell me how easy it was to use. Like thanks but no thanks.

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