Respectable deviance?
: negotiating the opportunities and risks in online medicine purchasing

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores online medicine purchasing and provides insight into how people account for this activity via the application of the concept of respectable deviance. Drawing together established deviance theories; respectable deviance considers the construction of online medicine purchasing, the justifications presented to challenge how it is labelled, and how the behaviour is managed. Those purchasing medicine online are not necessarily criminalised, however, the behaviour has been constructed as risky. This is because people can buy medicines that traditionally require prescription from registered practitioners. These new opportunities to purchase illicit medicines have implications for the pharmaceutical marketplace, regulation and governance, and healthcare expertise. The specific risks associated with online medicine purchasing, namely counterfeit medicines, criminal activity, and health implications, merge with the challenges to the marketplace, the challenges to regulation and governance, and the challenges to healthcare expertise. People purchasing medicines online acknowledge these ‘risks’, and redefine them in terms of justifications. Utilising an interpretivist mixed-methods study encompassing forum observations, online survey, and interviews, this research allows an understanding into how those engaging in ‘risky’ behaviour breaking with accustomed practices (i.e. purchasing prescription/ unauthorised medicine online), manage their performances with techniques of neutralizations, specifically challenging governance and medical expertise. At the same time, as the Web provides a space for deviance, it also provides a space for people to manage how their actions are perceived. Respectable deviance highlights how people respond to the unique risks and opportunities afforded in online medicine purchasing
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Southampton
SponsorsResearch Councils UK

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