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Factors Associated With Academic Nonprescribed Stimulant Use Among College Students

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WINTER 2018
PSI CHI
JOURNAL OF
PSYCHOLOGICAL
RESEARCH
341COPYRIGHT 2018 BY PSI CHI, THE INTERNATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY IN PSYCHOLOGY (VOL. 23, NO. 5/ISSN 2325-7342)
Nonprescribed stimulant use (NPSU),
defined as using stimulants such as
Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and other
stimulants generally prescribed for attention
deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) without a
prescription, is becoming an increasing problem
across college campuses in the United States
(Bossaer et al., 2013). One meta-analysis found that
between 8% and 43% of students reported having
misused stimulants at least once in their lives, and
17% of students had misused stimulants on more
than one occasion (Benson, Flory, Humphreys,
& Lee, 2015). Although only about 2% to 8% of
college students have been diagnosed with ADHD
and have a stimulant prescription (Benson et al.,
2015), 31% of the 1,253 students in a four-year
longitudinal study admitted to using unprescribed
stimulants at some point during the study (Garnier-
Dykstra, Caldeira, Vincent, O’Grady, & Arria, 2012).
Not only is NPSU common, but stimulants
are easy to obtain and, in many cases, people with
prescription stimulants are likely to share them.
Of the college students who misused stimulants,
55% to 82% reported that obtaining the stimulant
was either somewhat easy or very easy (Benson et
al., 2015). In one study, approximately 62% of col-
lege students reported being offered prescription
stimulants at one point during their four years of
college, and in another study, the same percentage
(62%) of students with stimulant prescriptions
reported sharing their medication on at least one
occasion (Benson et al., 2015; Garnier-Dykstra et
Factors Associated With Academic Nonprescribed
Stimulant Use Among College Students
Gabrielle N. Pfund , Cindy Miller-Perrin* , and Steven V. Rouse*
Pepperdine University
ABSTRACT. Nonprescribed stimulant use (NPSU), defined in
the present study as someone taking stimulant medications
such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin that have not been
prescribed, is becoming a norm—especially on college
campuses. This study evaluated possible predictive factors of
academic NPSU in college students. We hypothesized that
students would be more likely to misuse stimulants if they
(a) perceived NPSU to be safe, (b) perceived NPSU to be
ethical, (c) were academically extrinsically motivated,
(d) perceived their college environments to be competitive,
and (e) perceived NPSU to be common. Participants
(N = 270; 59% women, 41% men) were undergraduate
students at a small, Christian, liberal arts university in
Southern California, recruited from an online research
participation management system. Spearman Rho correlations
were calculated, and significant relationships were found
between NPSU and perceptions of NPSU commonality
(r = .18, p = .006) as well as NPSU ethicality (r = .20, p < .001).
These relationships remained significant even when
controlling for the covariate of age: NPSU commonality,
r(226) = .15, p = .03; NPSU ethicality, r(226) = -.14, p = .04.
The implications of these findings are discussed.
https://doi.org/10.24839/2325-7342.JN23.5.341
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https://doi.org/10.24839/2325-7342.JN23.5.341
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Aims: With this article, we aim to use students’ moral ambivalence towards prescription stimulants and the doctor’s who prescribe them to problematize the distinction between enhancement and treatment. We do this by investigating a case in which students obtain legitimate prescriptions for (covert) enhancement purposes. Methods: The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with 20 university students from multiple universities in New York City, from which the case is drawn. Findings: Three main themes were identified in the analysis. “The doctor prescribed them” illustrates how these students use doctors as easy access to study drugs, and legitimize their use of stimulants because they were prescribed. The second theme, “A good cause”, shows that the purpose is what counts as a measure for whether stimulant use is considered morally acceptable or not. The third theme, “Being responsible” refers to how they regard themselves as responsible stimulant users, particularly when not following the doctor’s directions. Conclusions: Through an ethnographic approach, we gain a more nuanced understanding of non-medical stimulant use that takes into account the context in which it occurs. We suggest that students’ moral ambivalence reflects the increasingly blurred boundaries between what is considered treatment and enhancement in contemporary society.