Faculty Publications


Stimulant medication use in college students: Comparison of appropriate users, misusers, and nonusers

Document Type



ADHD, College students, Emerging adults, Psychostimulant misuse

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors





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Last Page



While stimulant medication is commonly prescribed to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in children and adolescents (Merikangas, He, Rapoport, Vitiello, & Olfson, 2013; Zuvekas & Vitiello, 2012) and is considered an empirically supported intervention for those groups (Barkley, Murphy, & Fischer, 2008; Pelham & Fabiano, 2008; Safren et al., 2005) surprisingly little is known about the efficacy of stimulants in the slightly older emerging adult population. A focus has emerged, however, on illicit stimulant use among undergraduates, with studies suggesting such behavior is not uncommon (e.g., Arria et al., 2013). Unfortunately, details are lacking regarding outcomes and personal characteristics associated with different patterns of stimulant misuse. The current study compares the characteristics of four groups of college students, including those with stimulant prescriptions who use them appropriately (i.e., appropriate users), those who misuse their prescription stimulants (i.e., medical misusers), those who obtain and use stimulants without a prescription (i.e., nonmedical misusers), and those who do not use stimulant medications at all (i.e., nonusers). Undergraduates (N = 1,153) from the Southeastern, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain regions completed online measures evaluating patterns of use, associated motives, side effects, ADHD symptomatology, and other substance use. Both types of misusers (i.e., students who abused their prescriptions and those who obtained stimulants illegally) reported concerning patterns of other and combined substance use, as well as higher prevalence of debilitating side effects such as insomnia and restlessness. Research and practical implications are discussed. © 2012 American Psychological Association.

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DOI of published version