The Increase of Illicit Stimulant Use on College Campuses
Upper Iowa University
December 5, 2011
Numerous studies are finding that college students in the United States are relying on stimulant medications prescribed for ADHD without a prescription and for nonmedical reasons, most commonly because students believe these medications can enhance their cognitive performance. Research finds that students report these stimulants have become a part of the college culture and are easier to obtain than alcohol. This paper will discuss the prevalence of use on college campuses in the United States and both the academic and nonacademic motivations these students use prescription stimulants illicitly. In the United States, the domestic sales for prescription stimulant ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) medications such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine are increasing at significant rates. Between 1991 and 1999, sales of these prescription stimulants increased over 500 percent. As the rate of legal use increases, so does the rate of illegal or nonmedical use, especially on our college campuses. Data shows that these drugs have high abuse potentials and produce effects very similar to cocaine. Because of the potential for physical and psychological dependency and risk of abuse, the US Drug Enforcement Administration classifies these stimulants as Schedule II substances (Woodworth, 2000). Unfortunately, most students consider these drugs safe and do not realize the potential side effects and risk for abuse. There is a perception that nonmedical use of these drugs is morally acceptable if used for academic rather than recreational purposes (DeSantis, 2008).
In, 2002, there had not yet been a lot of research conducted on illicit stimulant use on campus. At this time, Graf Low and A.E. Gendaszak surveyed undergraduates at a small college in the United States to gather information on the legal and illegal use of stimulants on the college campus. The authors also wanted to explore how perfectionism and sensation seeking behavior contributed to abuse of both legal and illegal stimulants. Low and Gendaszak hypothesized that students influenced by perfectionism would be likely to abuse prescription stimulants (i.e. Ritalin, Adderall) and sensation seeking students would be more likely to abuse both prescription stimulants and illegal stimulants (i.e. methamphetamines, cocaine). Of 160 questionnaires distributed to students in an undergraduate psychology course, 150 questionnaires were returned. The questionnaires assessed selected demographic variables and the abuse of prescription and illegal stimulants during the previous 12 months. It is important to note that for this study, illicit stimulant use is defined as taking prescription stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin, etc) without a prescription. Illegal stimulant use is defined as taking the illegal “street” stimulants cocaine or MDMA (ecstasy). Participants were also questioned about their reasons for using stimulants. Two measures that have demonstrated reliability and validity with college students were administered to assess possible correlates of use: the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale and the Sensation Seeking Scale. Ten percent of the students participating were prescribed stimulants by a medical professional and researchers automatically categorized them as non-abusers. In this journal article, the authors do not report the total number or percent of participants that were considered illicit users. They do report that analysis of the illicit users showed that 10% abused stimulants monthly and 8% weekly. There were a significantly higher number of men than women reporting illicit use, but no difference in their motivations for use. The common motivations for use were: to improve intellectual performance, to be more efficient and to use in combination with alcohol. Of the total...
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