Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Donna Goldstein

Second Advisor

Jay Ellis

Third Advisor

Carla Jones


In the past two decades, prescription drug use has grown exponentially. Increased awareness surrounding conditions such as clinical depression and attention deficit disorder have led to a biomedical response to what was once considered a psychological problem and was therefore treated with talk therapy. Drug prescriptions are now quite common. A more recent occurrence among my generation is the trend of self-medicating. The Millennial generation have started taking “study drugs” in order to work faster and more efficiently, and self medicate by taking other forms of medication for recreational or “self help” purposes. This habit has received national attention with articles appearing in prominent news outlets such as The New York Times and Time, questioning the efficacy of taking psychiatric medications and the rise of a self medicated generation. In this thesis I analyze why this is occurring in the specific context of the University of Colorado Boulder. I conducted interviews with medical professionals, doctors, a clinical psychologist, and a homeopathic specialist, to understand how their professions have engaged with prescription drugs in this generation. Furthermore, I anonymously surveyed University of Colorado Boulder students to ask about their experiences and uses of prescription pharmaceuticals. The side effects of drugs used to treat psychiatric conditions are numerous, and their benefits are touted through inconclusive science. We are entering a new era of what anthropologist Emily Martin calls the “pharmaceutical person”[1] is becoming the new norm, and no one seems to be asking why and what this could mean for our future. In this thesis I argue that students at the University of Colorado Boulder are apart of a privileged demographic that situates and justifies their pharmaceutical usage through building a collective subjectivity as consumers raised in a neoliberal economic environment.

[1] Martin, Emily. “The Pharmaceutical Person.” BioSocieties 1, no. 3 (September 2006)., 273–87.