Pi Phi Chapter

Abuse of Prescription Stimulants Among College Students

Nursing Research on the Green

2016 Abstract

Christina Ware, Nursing Student – Winona State University

  • Background:  Within the past 10 years non-prescription stimulant drug use has increased in prevalence across college campuses raising concern for this high risk population.
  • Significance:  Healthcare professionals, especially nurses, play a predominant roll in providing stimulant abuse information for high risk populations. By year 4 of college, 61.8% of students have been offered prescription stimulants for nonmedical use and 31% then used. Also, diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been on the rise the last couple of years with roughly 11% of children ages 4-17 being diagnosed with ADHD in 2011. This is a substantial increase from 7.8% in 2003, and 9.7% in 2007. With the increase in diagnoses, a rise in the number of prescriptions for ADHD medications has exponentially increased as well. With those that have a present diagnosis, two-thirds of them received prescriptions for stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin.
  • Purpose/objective:  Explore the use, perceptions, availability and effects of prescription stimulant use/abuse of Adderall and Ritalin among college students. Through increased awareness, goals are that attitudes and perceptions of peers and healthcare professionals about non-medical use of prescription stimulants will allow for positive changes and interventions to occur to decrease the number of students who take these prescriptions non-medically.
  • Methods/project:  An integrative review was conducted to analyze, critique and draw conclusions from previous research studies.
  • Results:  Through in-depth examination of multiple literary resources, it is found that many students use prescription stimulants to increase focus, study longer, and gain an edge when used for social purposes. With the rise in ADHD diagnoses, more circulating students on college campuses are holding prescriptions for stimulants, leading to an increased availability.  Students use the easier access to obtain prescription stimulants from a friend or fellow classmate with the medication. Also, it was found that college students believe that it is easy to fake ADHD symptoms to get a diagnosis from their physician and get a prescription for stimulants. College students experience a lot of stress when trying to manage extra curricular activities while also maintaining good grades. This stress was found to exacerbated by parenteral expectations leading students to use prescription stimulants non-medically to stay up longer to study and perform well in school.
  • Clinical implications:  Nurses can caution students that selling or giving away their prescriptions is illegal, to help students become more aware of the possible consequences of sharing their medications with friends or other classmates. Nurses can also be instrumental in being involved in programs within college campuses on helping students cope with the transition from high school to college by demonstrating effective ways to manage stress. As the research has shown, parents can play a huge role in college students stress levels, so nurses can help parents understand the consequences of the extra pressure they may put on their child.

Return to 2016 Abstracts