Le Médicament comme Objet Social

Research Themes for 2007-2011

* Theme 1: Mapping health, well-being, and pathology—therapeutic and non-therapeutic reasoning.

Following from the first program’s research theme “Therapeutic relationship and the circulation of knowledge about medications and prescription drugs,” this theme aims to analyze the clinical reasoning (etiological and therapeutic) underpinning decisions about the use of prescription medicine, and on the role of stakeholders (industry, doctors, patients, regulatory agencies) in mapping boundaries between health and disease, and in creating new nosographic entities.

This theme relates to the complexity of medical methods, and to the scientific and clinical reasoning by which the boundaries between normalcy and pathology are defined and through which decisions about the use of prescription medicine are played out. By rethinking the concept of medicalization, this theme explores the norms and scientific dynamics surrounding drugs as social objects, and their complex application in the clinical sphere.

* Theme 2: Medications and new socialities

This theme is a continuation and broadening of the 2003-2007 theme “Psychotropic Medications and Society,” and takes into consideration the lessons learned from that period. Our examination of the use of psychotropic medications among three populations—adolescents, adults, and seniors—has allowed us to identify the transverse dynamics at play.

What are the normative and symbolic processes that lead individuals to define themselves as suffering psychically or to be categorized as suffering from personality or behavioural disorders? How do these processes lead to a trivialization of psychotropic medications? What model of "normal social functioning" underpins the pathologizing process related to certain behaviours associated with mental disorders defined as psychological or psychiatric “deficiencies”? And how does the comparative analysis of different social realities (within developed and developing societies) give perspective to the social reasoning underlying the high prevalence of mental disorders and their management through medications?

Projects under this theme aim to provide a better understanding of the social logic of clinical interventions and of the social significance of commonly used psychiatric nosographic categories, with the overall goal of better distinguishing between mental, relational, and social dimensions, which are all too often pigeonholed together under the labels “psychosocial” or “mental health.”

* Theme 3: Pharmaceuticals. multiculturalism and globalization

As an extension of the theme "Therapeutic pluralism" of our first program, we re-examine here the recurring theme of "pharmaceutical invasion” (unilateral standardization of norms and practices, loss of “other” and/or local therapeutic cultures, etc.) through a more nuanced analysis of the tensions between hybridized cultural health practices and standardized regulatory norms that govern the access to and use of pharmaceuticals within the context of globalization. Through a comparative, international perspective between Canada and countries of Europe and South America, this theme also aims to understand how structural, cultural, and political differences influence the application of new pharmaceutical biotechnologies, in view of contributing to the debate on the socio-ethical and political consequences of introducing new technologies (pharmacogenomics, stem cells, etc.) in Canada.

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