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Soc Sci Med. 1998 Nov;47(9):1313-23.

The meaning and management of neuroleptic medication: a study of patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

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National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, UK.


The meaning of medication and the way in which people use medicines has been the focus of a number of studies in recent years. However, there has been little attention directed to the meaning and management of neuroleptic medication by people who have received a diagnosis of schizophrenia. This topic is highly relevant to policy because of the central role given to neuroleptics in contemporary mental health and community care services. Using data from in-depth interviews with people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia we explore patients reasons for taking neuroleptics and the ways in which patients self-regulate their medication. The data suggest that the main utility of taking neuroleptic medication is to control specific symptoms and to gain personal control over managing symptoms. The costs of taking medication were side-effects which at times equalised or outweighed the positive gains of the neuroleptic medication. Patient accounts suggest that everyday medication practices are to a significant degree related to a policy context which stresses the need to survey and control the behaviour of people living in the community and the wider meaning and symbolic significance that schizophrenia has for patients in their everyday lives. For this reason, self regulatory action in this group of patients tends to be less evident and the threat of external social control greater than patients taking medication for other chronic conditions. The findings suggest the need to develop a collaborative patient-centred model of medication management for patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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