Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research

Gendered aspects of Danish students’ non-medical use of prescription pharmaceuticals for enhancement purposes in the ‘performance society’

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Research has shown an increase in the experience of educational pressure among students in contemporary Western societies and also, in their use of pharmaceuticals, for enhancement purposes. Based on qualitative interviews with 60 Danish students conducted in 2016, this article analyses student narratives about their use of pharmaceuticals to meet the expectations they experience in the educational settings. Though many students find pharmaceuticals useful, interesting gender differences exist regarding their motives and legitimations of use, and regarding pharmaceuticals of choice. By using two paradigmatic, narrative cases the article suggests that a ‘male strategy’ of augmentation is more in accordance with the overall requirement to perform and succeed in the ‘performance society’ than a ‘female strategy’ of normalisation. The article argues that there may be a parallel between the increasing numbers of women in Danish society diagnosed with stress and anxiety, the media representations of achieving women being more vulnerable than men, and the gender differences in pharmaceutical use. The paper aims to contribute to a nuanced discussion of the relations between educational pressure, gender and use of pharmaceuticals for enhancement purposes in contemporary Western societies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Pages (from-to)309-318
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • augmentation, cognitive enhancement, educational pressure, gender, non-medical use, normalization, Pharmaceuticals

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