“Polluting pharmaceutical atmospheres: Compulsion, resistance, and symbolism of buprenorphine in Norway”

This article offers a counter narrative to the current ethnographic studies on treatment with buprenorphine, in which notions of promised and experienced normality dominate. In some countries, introduction of buprenorphine led to a perceived “normalisation” of opioid substitution treatment, and this new modality was well received. However, in Norway the response has been almost the opposite: patients have reacted with feelings of disenfranchisement, failure, and mistrust. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Norway, this article offers comparative insight into local experiences and subjectivities in the context of the globalisation of buprenorphine. By outlining the ethnographic description of the pharmaceutical atmosphere of forced transfers to buprenorphine-naloxone, I show that the social history of the medication is as significant as its pharmacological qualities for various treatment effects. An analysis of the reactions to this treatment modality highlights the reciprocal shaping of lived experiences and institutional forces surrounding pharmaceutical use in general and opioids in particular. Read article

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