College Students Split On ADHD Prescription Stimulants Abuse

By Elana Goodwin on December 7, 2014

A national survey recently found that college students have a complicated view on ADHD prescription stimulant misuse, abuse and redirection, according to this press release.

The study was conducted by Harris Poll for the newly-created Coalition to Prevent Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Medication Misuse (CPAMM).

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The results show that while students are aware of the risks of misusing, they can understand why some students may decide to misuse, especially due to the pressures on students in today’s college environments.

CPAMM’s survey was done online from May 15 to June 11, 2014 and 2,056 adult college students in the U.S. who were enrolled in a 4-year college or university and going to some in-person classes were participants.

The purpose of the study was so CPAMM could better advise and develop an educational strategy to aid in preventing the non-medical use of ADHD prescription stimulants.

According to the survey, college students think that taking ADHD prescription stimulant medications that weren’t prescribed to them would be unethical (75 percent), a form of cheating if used to help with schoolwork (59 percent), extremely harmful (73 percent), and a “big deal” (80 percent) if someone who doesn’t have ADHD uses the medication.

Of those surveyed, 65 percent compared students misusing ADHD prescription stimulants for academic purposes to athletes using performance-enhancing drugs.

While it seems that that most college students view the misuse of ADHD prescription stimulants as wrong, 24 percent of students thought it was okay for someone who didn’t have a prescription for the ADHD drugs to use them to help with school.

Meanwhile, 48 percent believed students who misused ADHD prescription stimulants are only doing what’s necessary to keep up with the demands and pressures of college.

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Additionally, 42 percent of students wrongly thought that using unprescribed ADHD prescription stimulants is not any more harmful than an energy drink or strong coffee. Most participants also thought that the main reasons students start misusing ADHD medicine are a determination to get good grades (70 percent) and pressure to succeed (68 percent).

A belief that the majority of participants expressed was that other students are using ADHD prescription stimulants not prescribed to them, though a 2013 survey reported a rate of 9.3 percent of college students using prescription stimulants for non-medical purposes.

“The misconception that ‘everybody is doing it’ and that misusing will somehow guarantee better grades is something that CPAMM hopes to challenge by creating peer-to-peer interventions for use by college students,” said Ann Quinn-Zobeck, Senior Director of the BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA, a CPAMM partner.

The study also identified that those more likely to misuse ADHD prescription stimulants are members of Greek fraternities and sororities and athletes, and they are also more likely to think using ADHD medicine will help them achieve better grades.

CPAMM plans to study medical professionals to recognize primary-care based policies to help decrease ADHD prescription stimulants misuse, abuse and redirection.

Throughout 2014-2015, CPAMM will also run focus groups among college students and administrators to try to better understand how the college environment influences the misuse of ADHD medication and what kind of preventative efforts would work best.

“The survey shines a light on the stress permeating the lives of students on today’s college campuses. We want to communicate as a Coalition that there are better, healthier ways to cope,” said John MacPhee, Executive Director and CEO of The Jed Foundation, a CPAMM partner.

By Elana Goodwin

Uloop Writer
I am currently serving as the Director/Managing Editor for Uloop News. I've been part of the Uloop family since 2013 and in my current role, I recruit writers, edit articles, manage interns, and lead our National Team, among other duties. When I'm not writing or editing, I love being outside, reading, and photography! I have a Bachelor's degree in English with a double-minor in Sociology and Criminology & Criminal Justice from The Ohio State University. If you have questions or just want to chat, don't hesitate to reach out! Email me at

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