In recent years, there has been a growing concern for the non-medical use of prescription drugs by young adults, and particularly college and university students. These expanding practices of pharmaceutical drug use have been associated with different phenomena such as physical and cognitive enhancement, non-medical prescription drug use and recreational use. All of these various consuming practices involve a blurring of the boundaries between curing, preventing and enhancing and between recreational and productive activities. Some studies show the importance of linking pharmaceutical drug use with broader issues among students in academic settings, such as competitiveness, pressure, stress, depression and mental health issues. The main objective of this article is to explore some of the perceptions and rationales that underlie the use of non-medical and medical prescription drugs, natural products, energy drinks and other pharmaceutical or natural substances among university students in Montreal (Canada). Focus-groups and indepth, semi-structured interviews were realized with a sample of 42 students in order to link the consumption cultures of the participants with other variables, such as their lifestyle, their experience of psychological distress and anxiety and their need of achievement. Focusing on the young population fulfills the function of sociological forecast about the future trends in the expansion of pharmaceutical drug use for the management of everyday life in contemporary Western societies.
Keywords: Cognitive enhancement, Non-medical use, pharmaceuticals, performance, pharmaceuticalization, depression