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The meaning of medications: Another look at compliance


  • Conrad, Peter


Most research on compliance with medical regimens takes a doctor-centered perspective and proceeds from certain assumptions. This paper presents an alternative, patient-centered approach to managing medications, using data from 80 in-depth interviews of people with epilepsy. This approach focuses on the meanings of medication in people's everyday lives and looks at why people take their medications as well as why they do not. I argue that from a patient's perspective the issue is more one of self-regulation than compliance. When we examine 'noncompliance' beyond difficulties with 'side effects' and drug efficacy, the meanings of self-regulation include testing, controlling dependence, destigmatization and creating a practical practice. What appears to be noncompliance from a medical perspective may actually be a form of asserting control over one's disorder.

Suggested Citation

  • Conrad, Peter, 1985. "The meaning of medications: Another look at compliance," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 29-37, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:20:y:1985:i:1:p:29-37

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    Cited by:

    1. Bessett, Danielle, 2010. "Negotiating normalization: The perils of producing pregnancy symptoms in prenatal care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 370-377, July.
    2. Karine Lamiraud & Pierre-Yves Geoffard, 2007. "Therapeutic non-adherence: a rational behavior revealing patient preferences?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(11), pages 1185-1204.
    3. Pound, Pandora & Britten, Nicky & Morgan, Myfanwy & Yardley, Lucy & Pope, Catherine & Daker-White, Gavin & Campbell, Rona, 2005. "Resisting medicines: a synthesis of qualitative studies of medicine taking," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 133-155, July.
    4. Williams, Kevin Frank, 2007. "Re-examining 'professionalism' in pharmacy: A South African perspective," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(6), pages 1285-1296, March.
    5. Lien, Hsien-Ming & Lu, Mingshan & Albert Ma, Ching-To & McGuire, Thomas G., 2010. "Progress and compliance in alcohol abuse treatment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 213-225, March.
    6. Paul Ellickson & Scott Stern & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2001. "Patient Welfare and Patient Compliance -- An Empirical Framework for Measuring the Benefits from Pharmaceutical Innovation," NBER Chapters,in: Medical Care Output and Productivity, pages 539-564 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Karine Lamiraud & Pierre-Yves Geoffard, 2006. "Therapeutic non adherence: a rational behavior revealing patient preferences ?," Working Papers halshs-00589121, HAL.
    8. Doran, Evan & Robertson, Jane & Henry, David, 2005. "Moral hazard and prescription medicine use in Australia--the patient perspective," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(7), pages 1437-1443, April.
    9. Gibson, Grant, 2016. "‘Signposts on the journey’; medication adherence and the lived body in men with Parkinson's disease," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 27-34.
    10. Stevenson, Fiona & Knudsen, Pia, 2008. "Discourses of agency and the search for the authentic self: The case of mood-modifying medicines," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 170-181, January.
    11. Webster, Michelle, 2017. "Similarities and differences in the meanings children and their parents attach to epilepsy medications," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 190-197.
    12. repec:eee:socmed:v:188:y:2017:i:c:p:51-59 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Seale, Clive & Chaplin, Robert & Lelliott, Paul & Quirk, Alan, 2006. "Sharing decisions in consultations involving anti-psychotic medication: A qualitative study of psychiatrists' experiences," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(11), pages 2861-2873, June.
    14. repec:eee:socmed:v:190:y:2017:i:c:p:75-82 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Williams, Brian & Steven, Karen & Sullivan, Frank M., 2011. "Tacit and transitionary: An exploration of patients' and primary care health professionals' goals in relation to asthma," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(8), pages 1359-1366, April.
    16. Zhou, Amy, 2016. "The uncertainty of treatment: Women's use of HIV treatment as prevention in Malawi," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 52-60.
    17. Holt, Martin, 2007. "Agency and dependency within treatment: Drug treatment clients negotiating methadone and antidepressants," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(9), pages 1937-1947, May.
    18. Wrubel, Judith & Tedlie Moskowitz, Judith & Anne Richards, T. & Prakke, Heleen & Acree, Michael & Folkman, Susan, 2005. "Pediatric adherence: Perspectives of mothers of children with HIV," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(11), pages 2423-2433, December.
    19. Buus, Niels, 2014. "Adherence to anti-depressant medication: A medicine-taking career," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 105-113.

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