Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Gilbert Quintero

Commitee Members

Kimber Haddix McKay, Teresa Sobieszczyk


Actor Network Theory, Non-Medical Prescription Drug Use, Pleasure


University of Montana


Much of the epidemiological research conducted on non-medical prescription drug use assumes pharmaceuticals to have fixed, inherent euphorigenic qualities. Quantitative analysis of substance abuse depends on drugs acting predictably. However, this conception of pharmaceuticals has failed to account for the absence of pleasure when prescription drugs are taken as part of corrective or curative regimes. For this thesis I will employ Actor Network Theory (ANT) to explain how a prescription drug can emerge alternately as a substance either amenable to, or unresponsive in, producing pleasure. ANT suggests that the properties attributed to prescription drugs are not deterministic or unimpeachable, but are instead a result of networks of heterogeneous actants. Using interview data collected among young adults about their early non-prescribed pharmaceutical episodes, and comparing these experiences to those of accomplished users, I will illustrate how, during initial periods of transparent indeterminacy, pharmaceutical affects are not discovered, but rather are constructed and enacted through actant relationships.

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