Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Barbara Katz Rothman

Committee Members

Victoria Pitts-Taylor

Juan Battle

Subject Categories



Public policy, Public health, Marketing


Drawing on theories about the social construction of knowledge and the sociology of the body, this dissertation analyzes the social construction of buprenorphine, a medication being used to treat addiction to opioids, to better understand the processes of medicalization. Buprenorphine was central the passage of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, a law which overturned an almost one hundred year prohibition preventing physicians from prescribing narcotics for the treatment of addiction in an office-based setting. Buprenorphine is seen by many as central to moving addiction treatment into the medical mainstream. Using documents from government regulators, industry, and addiction researchers, I show that there are many different "buprenorphines," each being strategically constructed and deployed to serve different political and economic interests. I also use qualitative interviews with individuals taking buprenorphine to examine the ways in which their embodied experiences of the medication shape and are shaped by different discourses about buprenorphine, addiction, and addiction treatment. I show how buprenorphine and medical theories of addiction act as a new system of constraint, while allowing new possibilities for agency and action. I conclude with a discussion of how the discourses about and embodied experiences of those taking buprenorphine challenge but also reflect the larger sociopolitical context in which they are contained. This research builds upon and challenges existing theories about the medicalization of social problems.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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