Date of Award

December 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Paul Brodwin

Committee Members

Michael Oldani, Kalman Applbaum


History reveals long, intertwining chronologies between licit and illicit drugs, and social change. Currently, rates of prescription drug abuse are increasing and medical professionals at every step must mediate the flow of pharmaceuticals. The effect of the epidemic on emerging social change relative to pharmacy remains unexplored. While pharmacists are trusted and have shown to be effective in smoking cessation, little research has explored the impact of prescription drug abuse on their work. Pharmacists have little official authority and autonomy on the job, relegating them to the level of paraprofessionals, but pharmacists find novel ways of gaining agency in their day-to-day work. In conceptualizing addiction as a patient who lacks awareness and whose mind is fragmented by the action of drugs on their body, pharmacists are able to hassle patients and attempt to bring awareness of their condition through an assemblage of patient records comingled notions of profit, care, biomedicine, a global pharmaceutical market, and morality. While relying heavily on physicians to do their work, pharmacists blame prescribers for the actions of their patients. In seeing patient's patterns of use, not the effects of the drug, at issue in creating addiction to prescription drugs, pharmacists insulate their position of low authority, effectively relegating the problem to doctor's turf, and absorbing a dialogue of the global pharmaceutical industry while actively constructing the effect of prescription narcotics on the addicted body. Through pharmacists' work, those impacted by the prescription drug abuse problem can ascertain what happens when the drugs meant to heal the public become profound agents of harm. Pharmacists and the rest of the medical community are subordinated by a language and conceptualizations rooted in the pharmaceutical industry.