Almost One in Five College Students Misusing ADHD Drugs, New Study Find

adderallabuseNearly one in five college students abuse drugs used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. Considering the fact that these drugs, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are Schedule II controlled substances — the same category that cocaine and methamphetamine fall into — these students face serious legal and health-related consequences.

When the researchers first began their work, they reviewed the studies that had been previously published, and found that the rates of college student misuse were all over the place, ranging from just 2% to a whopping 43%, which led them to do a meta-review of all the existing studies. They pooled and standardized data from 30 articles, allowing for a much larger sample size than any individual study, and allowing for greater statistical certainty in conclusions.

As a result of their efforts, the researchers found that about 17% of college students misuse the medications commonly prescribed for ADHD, taking too much, or using them when not prescribed. A qualitative review of the 30 studies also suggested that membership in a fraternity or sorority, academic performance, and other substance abuse were associated with misuse.

While it’s logical to think that students misuse ADHD drugs to improve their academic performance, the meta-analysis suggests that the opposite is true. It correlates poor academic performance with the misusage of ADHD medicines.

Recreational use of ADHD medicines, such as taking them to prolong the amount of a time student can go out drinking for, is not as prevalent, but incredibly dangerous. Instead of winding up passed out, a student may find him or herself in the hospital, having his or her stomach pumped.

The review also found that students most commonly bought the drugs from their friends, which means that students are sharing Schedule II controlled substances, putting each one of them at an extreme legal risk. Not only can the students be charged with possession and trafficking, but also for the consequences of another’s hazardous, potentially fatal abuse of the drugs.

Researchers’ next step, they say, is to use the findings to examine the specific characteristics associated with the misuse of ADHD drugs, allowing campus intervention programs to identify targets more easily, allowing them to help more people.