A new survey entitled Under Pressure: College Students and the Abuse of Rx Stimulants and released by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids confirms that the abuse of prescription stimulants is becoming normalized among current college students and other young adults.
It found that 1 in 5 college students (20%) report abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 7 non-students (15%).
Among young adults between the ages of 18 to 25, 1 in 6 (17%) has abused a prescription stimulant at least once in their lifetime. Young adults are most likely to abuse the prescribed stimulants Adderall (60%), Ritalin (20%) and Vyvanse (14%), which are all prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The reasons college students and other young adults cite for abusing these Rx medications are for functional reasons:
- 50% report abusing Rx stimulants to study or improve academic performance
- 41% say they misuse or abuse them to stay awake
- 24% misuse or abuse Rx stimulants to improve work performance at a job
Among current college students specifically:
- 44% say they abuse Rx stimulants in order to study and improve academic performance
- 31% say they abuse in order to stay awake
- 21% report abusing Rx stimulants in order to improve work performance at their jobs
- 27% who report abuse of Rx stimulants also hold full-time jobs, in addition to attending school compared to just 12% of those who do not abuse Rx stimulants
Perhaps most worrying of all, the research shows college students perceive tangible rewards after they’ve abused Rx stimulants. 64% who report abusing Rx stimulants indicate that doing so helped them obtain a higher grade, improve work performance or gain a competitive edge.
“Students need help in learning how to manage their busy lifestyles effectively,” said Dr. Josh Hersh, Staff Psychiatrist at Miami University. “Learning time management strategies such as ‘block scheduling’ and ‘syllabus tracking’ can help prevent ‘cramming’ – the main reason people look to stimulants at whatever the price. In addition, teaching students with ADHD who are prescribed stimulants about how to properly care for their medication will help address misuse and prevent these drugs from getting into the hands of students who might abuse the meds.”