9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Drugs and Medication in a Europeam Context I Building I, 1E2

Psychoactive drugs in General Practitioners´ and Psychiatrists´ medical practice: building a professional legitimacy

This presentation will be based on a research work which I recently began within my Master Degree in Sociology of Health and Illness with the aim to consider both theoretically and methodologically the extreme importance psychoactive drugs can have to legitimate the work of the medical specialties that prescribe them most. Although research on psychopharmacs is a well developed area in social sciences, mostly on their addictive effects and on the effectiveness of this kind of therapy compared to others, our aim is to assess in what conditions these type of medicines are prescribed, to understand the logics of prescription and its social meaning within the medical specialties that prescribe them more frequently. Two specialties stand out in this field: general practitioners (GP) and psychiatrists (P), as the main prescribers of psychoactive drugs. If the latter have historically taken care of the mentally ill, the first have worked on very different domains, mostly oriented to Public Health. Therefore, we believe that these two specialties ? being so different in their practice ? are of major interest for research in Sociology of Health and Illness if we notice their point of convergence: the prescription of psychoactive drugs. If we take into account, when analysing this matter, the importance given by our society to technology in general, but particularly in the medical profession, since technology (at least theoretically) allows better diagnosis and therapeutics, and allows health practitioners to assert its professional knowledge and skills, we would understand that GP and P have little technological apparatus to work with. This work aims, therefore, to point out how psychopharmacs, being one of the most developed areas of the pharmaceutical industry, can constitute a technological apparatus capable of professionally legitimise those medical specialties before their patients eyes and the eyes of society at large. We hope, thereby, to demonstrate the significance of psychoactive drugs prescription in the daily practice of these actors.