Attribution and the drug use process

by Louis A. Morris, David E. Kanouse

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Each year the average American obtains 5.8 prescription drugs and, additionally, takes numerous over-the-counter medications. The total annual cost of prescribed medicines is $5.75 billion, a figure that does not include costs for about 950 million prescriptions dispensed to hospital inpatients and another $4 to 8 billion for OTC medicines. These drugs are taken to prevent, cure, or alleviate a wide variety of diseases and symptoms, both real and imaginary, mild and serious. Questions of interest to attribution theorists regarding this drug use process include the following: what events lead to decisions to initiate, modify, or discontinue drug therapy; what sources of information about one's state of health are used to judge a drug's success or failure; what causal explanations accompany these judgments? This paper explores drug use from an attribution perspective, with a special focus on how people interpret physical and behavioral events before, during, and after drug therapy.

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