Friday, April 8, 2011

Designer Drug Jewelry - Turning Leftover Medication into Adornment

By on Friday, April 08, 2011 14 Comments

Inspiring Beaders
Part 2 of 2
Susan Braig of Altadena, California, survived breast cancer in 2004.  Even though she is now cancer-free, her brush with the disease still haunts her today in unpaid medical bills from the lengthy treatment she needed. Alas, unlike other countries, health care is not universal for Americans. She went from being under-insured to being completely uninsured when her private insurance ceased.

Susan said "I bought my first round of medicine and it cost $500 out of my own pocket. I looked at the drugstore receipt and then at the little pills and wondered if they were precious gems."  Little did she know then how unused pills would become a way of paying back her medical debt. In the process, she found a new hobby and a new reason to enjoy life. Hers has been a truly inspiring journey.

She first incorporated leftover medication into jewelry for a 2007 medically-themed art exhibition and performance event organized by the NewTown Pasadena Foundation. Her presentation was so well received, she soon launched her line Designer Drug Jewelry via her Facebook Page. She also sells through craft shows and from her home studio. Susan  recycles unwanted and expired pills which her friends give her.

The solid pills are more durable than gel capsules. She varnishes them before gluing onto her findings thus rendering them unusable as medicine. The leftover pill containers are stripped of their original labels and replaced with her own labels. The jewelry is placed inside complete with cotton ball! What a neat packaging idea! Staying true to the medical theme, she even sells her work at craft shows dressed in a white lab coat.  The bags she provides for her customers are made from surgical masks! Her best seller? Viagra pendants!

Check out Bob Pool's original article and video on the LA Times site. (The video embed code is faulty so I cannot add it here.) This wonderful video interview shows her at work in her studio and the original pill encrusted tiara she made for the exhibition.

More Unusual Medically Inspired Jewelry
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. My first reaction was - But what about the medicine - how does she keep people from re-using it? So I had to read the article. I must say I am still concerned because of my work-work where I do informal education regarding health, aging, nutrition, food safety, financial literacy and marriage and family life. There is a big rise of teens using "drug" soup at parties - just dumping things into the bowl and then grabbing a handful. I just had to voice my concern!

  2. As many of you know, I am a scientist by day. I used to do a lot of drug testing including the illicit ones and abused drugs for sports. It's astounding what young people will take without knowing what effect the drugs will have short term and long term.

    I don't think it's likely teens will be buying her jewelry just for the pills. They are more likely to help themselves to home medicine cabinets! Pharmacies are also prey to robbery attempts because of the drugs they carry.

    What's more important is how well glued they are. A stray pill can be easily found and ingested by a pet or a crawling baby.

    My comments are based on actual past cases I dealt with when I was involved in clinical and forensic toxicology.

  3. It is an original idea, but I do have my concerns about a stray pill coming off. Again what is the market for this of jewelry

  4. Wow Pearl! I had no idea.

    The jewelry is neat. I guess she could put them in resing first. Hard to break that stuff down without more chemicals - then again the kids might use the acetone for huffing. Kids will get at whatever they want. There are far easier highs than deconstructing jewelry.

    Just my opinion.


  5. The resin idea is a good one. Her unique designs are certainly grabbing lots of media attention so I'd say she will do well in her niche market.

  6. While we are on the subject of safety, all of us should make sure that hand made jewelry is well secured. A stray and lost bead is a choking hazard to the very young. Some leaded metal components are also potentially lethal if swallowed.

  7.'s unique, but I am wondering about the legality of selling these drugs??
    Even possessing someone else's medicine is illegal. Drugs are supposed to be kept in original bottles and belong to the person who has possession of them. There are exceptions to the law of course. Just wondering about that.

  8. Great post and slightly controversial judging from the fantastic responses it generated via your reader comments.
    Though Susan's designs are fun and attractive, I'm inclined to prefer them with true cabochons instead of discarded medications. However I wholeheartedly applaud her for her think-outside-the-box creativity.

  9. It sounds like such an awesome idea even though there are a few valid concerns. I always wonder what to do with expired pills. Encasing them in resin sounds like a great idea now. :)

  10. I'm not sure I can answer Carol's concerns about legalities especially since the pills are no longer suitable as medication. Perhaps a reader with legal training can comment?

  11. Wow! It's funny that just the other day I was wondering how I could make jewelery out of old medicine, just for fun in my case. I have a chronic condition for which I take a lot of medication. It is frequently switched leaving me with tons of never used meds. Interesting to know someone else was on the same page. lol.

  12. It goes to show that there are many creative and lateral thinking crafters out there like you, Mandy!

  13. What a creative idea! I too thought about the health concerns of the medicine falling into the wrong hands (or mouth), but overall I think this is an amazing idea of hers! As long as she takes the necessary precautions against any safety issues :)! And I just love her packaging!! That is a great way to upcycle all those medicine bottles!

  14. Personally I think that it is a great idea! Really making the lemonade.