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The Biomedicalization of Studying

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The nonmedical use of prescription ADHD medications by American college students for the purpose of enhancing academic performance has been well-documented for more than a decade. A closer look at

The nonmedical use of prescription ADHD medications by American college students for the purpose of enhancing academic performance has been well-documented for more than a decade. A closer look at this trend through the lens of biomedicalization theory shows us that this behavior, which is often dismissed as a simple abuse of the system by deviant young people, is consistent with broader trends in post-modern medicine and health. The goal of this project was to describe the biomedicalization of studying by illustrating the historical, sociocultural, and politico-economic roots of nonmedical stimulant use by college students in the United States. An online survey was administered to students at ASU and responses from students studying in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (n=233) were analyzed. A 12.4% lifetime prevalence of illicit stimulant use was found among the sample population. Thematic analysis was performed on students' open-ended commentary and several themes related to the biomedicalization framework were uncovered including Necessity, Identity, Inextricability from academia, and Trust in the system. Through these themes it was found that many of the theorized transitions of biomedicalization were visible in the data set, confirming the idea that nonmedical stimulant use is embedded in the complex network of processes that represents post-modern medicine today.

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  • 2014-05