Are painkillers mundane medications safe for use to ease human suffering? Or are they drugs of abuse that cause addiction and death? Do they ameliorate pain, or do they cause it? This paper explores these questions by canvassing the findings of the author's book of the same name. It focuses on the way research communities purport to have discovered the 'new' and concerning practice of the ‘misuse’ or ‘abuse’ of pharmaceutical pain medications. The paper contextualises these emerging discourses of of non-medical consumption within the social and political histories from which they have emerged by exploring the role of pleasure and pain in shaping individualized modes of medication consumption in a neoliberal age of anxiety.
George (Kev) Dertadian, PhD is a social researcher interested in alcohol and other drugs, the sociology of crime and deviance, and social and cultural theory. Kev has conducted several projects on the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals, focusing in particular on young people's use of opioids. He is currently a Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Social Sciences, UNSW.