Waking up to sleepiness: Modafinil, the media
and the pharmaceuticalisation of everyday/night life

Williams SJ, Seale C, Boden S,
Lowe P, Steinberg DL.
Department of Sociology,
University of Warwick, UK.
Sociol Health Illn. 2008 Apr 28.


This paper examines the social construction of the new wakefulness-promoting drug Modafinil (brand name Provigil) in the British press. Key themes in this newspaper coverage include the potential 'uses' and 'abuses' of this drug in relation to: (i) medical conditions; (ii) lifestyle choices; (iii) military operations; and (iv) sporting competition. The British press, we show, play a dual role in reporting on these trends and developments: on the one hand constructing this as something of a 'wonder drug' in relation to the treatment of a number of medical complaints or conditions, on the other hand articulating and amplifying a range of cultural concerns and anxieties about the non-medical 'uses' and 'abuses' of this drug, both now and in the future. These issues, it is argued, are best interpreted in terms of media concerns over the pharmaceuticalisation rather than the medicalisation of everyday/night life. The paper concludes with some further thoughts and reflections on these issues, including the potential reworking of notions of 'pharmaceutical Calvinism' and the 'elective affinity' between this 'smart' new drug and the spirit of (bio)capitalism.

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Modafinil plus selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)