Taking pills for developmental ails in Southern Brazil: the biologization of adolescence?

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In the late 1990s researchers in Pelotas Southern Brazil began documenting what they considered to be unacceptably high rates of licensed psychotropic use among individuals of all ages, including youth. This came as a surprise, since the vast majority of psychiatrists in Pelotas draw on psychoanalytic theory and approach pharmaceutical use, especially for children and adolescents, in a consciously tempered way. Drawing from a longitudinal ethnographic sub-study, part of a larger 1982 birth cohort study, this paper follows the circuitous trajectories of emergent pharma-patterns among "shantytown" youth over a ten-year period, exploring the thickly layered and often moralized contingencies in which psychodynamic psychiatrists' intention to resist excessive pharmaceuticalization both succeed and crumble. I juxtapose these trajectories with the growing salience of an "anti-biologizing" explanatory framework that psychiatrists and researchers are using to pre-empt the kind of diagnostics-driven "biopsychiatrization" so prevalent in North America. My analysis suggests that psychiatrists' use of this framework ironically contributes to their failed attempts to "resist" pharmaceuticalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-328
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue numberOctober
Early online date13 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2015


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