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Rönkä S, Katainen A. 
“Non-medical use of prescription drugs among illicit drug users: A case study on an online drug forum”. 
Int J Drug Policy. 2016 Oct 21;39:62-68.

BACKGROUND: The non-medical use of prescription drugs is a growing phenomenon associated with increasing health-related harms. However, little is known about the drivers of this process among illicit drug users. Our aim is to show how the qualities of pharmaceutical drugs, pharmaceutical related knowledge, online communities sharing this knowledge and medical professionals mediate and transform the consumption behaviour related to pharmaceutical drugs.

METHODS: The data consist of discussion threads from an online drug use forum. Using actor network theory (ANT), we analysed translations that mediate the online user community's relationship with pharmaceutical drugs.

RESULTS: Differences in experienced drug effects are explained both as a process of 'learning' and as differences in brain chemistry at the receptor level. Both science- and experience-based information are shared on best practices to optimise use, avoid adverse health effects and maximise the experience of intoxication. The expanded context of doctors' practices places stress on the medical framework for drug use. Our analysis shows how the non-medical use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals relates to joint, medicalised ideas of bodies as sites of medical experimentation, as well as to the collective process of constructing 'pharmaceutical competences' in user networks. Understandings of intoxication have increasingly been permeated with the pharmacological and scientific logic of knowledge.

CONCLUSIONS: The forum works as a platform for harm reduction inspired exchange of knowledge. However, the user community's knowledge sharing practices can generate a shared perception of a sufficient or even superior drug use experience and knowledge. This may lead to overdoses and other risky behaviour, and thereby contribute to increased harms related to non-medical use of prescription drugs. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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