Patterns and Knowledge of Nonmedical Use of Stimulants Among College Students

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To determine patterns and knowledge of nonmedical use of stimulants among a sample of college students.


Completion of an anonymous survey consisting of 23 questions designed to explore college student use of medications intended to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


A private liberal arts college in New England.


Three hundred forty-seven undergraduate students.

Main Outcome Measure

Nonmedical use of stimulants.


Thirty-one students (9.2%) reported nonmedical stimulant use. Two hundred forty students (71.4%) had peers who used nonprescribed stimulants, 149 (44.3%) knew of peers who made stimulant medication–seeking visits to a physician although they did not believe that they had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and 178 (53.0%) knew of people who sold stimulants to students. Nonprescription users were significantly more knowledgeable about the effects of stimulants than nonusers, and nonusers whose peers used nonprescribed stimulants were more knowledgeable about the effects of stimulants than nonusers whose peers did not use nonprescribed stimulants. After controlling for age, race, and sex, the variables that predicted nonmedical use of stimulants were beliefs that stimulants help individuals study better, stay awake, and lose weight.


A substantial proportion of college students in this sample were using nonprescribed stimulants. Among nonusers, those whose peers use nonprescribed stimulants were much more knowledgeable about the effects of stimulant use than those whose peers do not use stimulants. This knowledge may confer an increased risk of future nonmedical stimulant use if students become tempted to seek the beneficial effects experienced by their peers.

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