Mother’s Little Helper

Published May 10, 2015 by Maryanne

mother's little helperGood chemistry!

Croatian born, Polish-American chemist Leo Sternbach was the man responsible for discovering benzodiazepines — the main class of tranquilizers. He is credited with the discovery of diazepam (Valium) as well as chlordiazepoxide (Librium), flurazepam (Dalmane), nitrazepam (Mogadon), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), clonazepam (Klonopin) and trimethaphan (Arfonad).

Valium, also known as “Mother’s Little Helper” was a big inspiration for pop culture. The Rolling Stones did a song, “Mother’s Little Helper” to praise the drug. And the novel “Valley of the Dolls” was inspired by the drug. Valium was released in 1963 and was the most popular prescription drug in America. Over 2.3 billion doses were sold during it’s peak year in 1978.

Leo Sternbach told me himself — first hand — he did not like the way pop culture glorified the drug. I had the honor to interview this legendary inventor when I worked at The Montclair Times. Mr. Sternbach was living in Montclair (where he had been living since the 1940s!) His wife had to help with the interview because he was hard of hearing — as he was in his 90s when I interviewed him!

Shortly after our interview he moved to North Carolina where he died in 2005 at the age of 97. (He worked until he was 95).

Leo Sternbach  received his doctoral degree in organic chemistry from the Jagiellonia University in Krakow, Poland. He worked for Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland, which helped him flee to the United States in 1941 to escape Nazis (his family was Jewish) as he was able to work in the Nutley, New Jersey division of Hoffmann-La Roche.

He held 241 patents and his discoveries helped Hoffman-La Roche excel in the pharmaceutical industry.

Leo Sternbach is in the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame and right before he died, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Leo_SternbachLeo Sternbach, inventor of Valium

valley of the dolls

Sternbach told me he did not like how Valium was glorified in pop culture

Mother’s Little Helper Lyrics

“Mother’s Little Helper” (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard)

What a drag it is getting old
“Kids are different today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day
“Things are different today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day
Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old
“Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired
They’re so hard to satisfy, You can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight
Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old
“Life’s just much too hard today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

2 comments on “Mother’s Little Helper

  • Of course I remember Mick Jagger singing Mother’ Little Helper and Valley of The Dolls. Actually saw it on the “big screen”. I was a MOM then. A very young MOM. I did not wait till 30 to get married. It was the seventies. I did not take too many “dolls” but I drank quite a bit of wine after 7 pm and during the day pulled out my long blonde hair. Never new about Leo Sternbach. Kudos to him for his contribution to the medical world ! Sandra from Cranston Rhode Island.

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