The Cultural Production of a Pharmaceutical Market: The Making of ADHD

Melina Sherman


The pharmaceutical industry has grown into a global market worth nearly $1 trillion. How are we to make sense of this sudden upsurge? As I argue, the rising demand for pharmaceuticals must be contextualized within a culture of consumption, where health practices are yoked to individuals’ purchasing habits. Through a case study of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and behavior-controlling drugs affecting six million children in the United States, this analysis shows how discourses of prevention and the quick fix originated in the school, family, and medical establishment; shape consumer demand; and are employed effectively in pharmaceutical advertising. This article concludes that the demand for pills is constructed by entangled discourses that induce new ways of relating to health and illness.


pharmaceutical markets, ADHD, risk prevention discourses, education policy, moral panic

Full Text: