Resistance and mutations of non-specificity in the field of anxietydepressive disorders in Canadian medical journals, 1950-1990
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofSocial Science and Médicine ; vol. 131, p. 228-238
Pharmaceuticalisation is a complex phenomenon, co-constitutive of what scholars identify as a pharmaceutical regime, comprised of networks of actors, institutions and artefacts as well as cognitive structures that underlie the production, promotion and use of medications. The aim of this paper is to explore the linkages between different components of this pharmaceutical regime through the analysis of psychotropic drug advertising in Canadian medical journals between 1950 and 1990. Advertisements stand at the nexus of macro-level processes related to the development, regulation and marketing of new drug treatments and of micro-level processes related to the use of these drug treatments, both by clinicians and lay persons.We thus examine advertisements from the angle of the mental and classificatory universes to which doctors were exposed through direct-to-prescriber advertisement strategies implemented during this period. Furthermore, we explore to what extent the rationale behind advertisements was permeated by both scientific/professional and popular narratives of mindebody connections. This paper demonstrates that, although this period was marked by paradigm shifts in the classification of mental diseases, the development of modern psychopharmacology, and the questioning of the scientific legitimacy of psychiatry, advertisements unveil a remarkable continuity: that of the mass management of anxiety-depressive disorders by primary care physicians through psychotropic drugs. Also, despite the effective resistance to specificity as shown by the constant redefinitions of diagnostic categories and therapeutic indications, our analysis suggests that the language of specificity used in the promotion of new drugs and in the various narratives of mind-body connection may have been appealing to general practitioners. Finally, our study of the classes of psychoactive medications that have been in use for over half a century reveals a complex, non-linear dynamic of pharmaceuticalisation and depharmaceuticalisation.