Newswise — More than 75% of college students who reported using prescription stimulants illicitly last year chose amphetamine-dextroamphetamine products, like Adderall, over methylphenidate products, like Ritalin. The study, first-authored by Northeastern University Pharmacy Professor Christian Teter, also found that the primary motives for illicit use were to enhance academic performance, while less than a third of illicit users intended to get high or experiment with these stimulants. However, alarmingly, approximately 40% of these students had snorted prescription stimulants.
Titled, "Illicit Use of Specific Prescription Stimulants among College Students: Prevalence, Motives, and Routes of Administration," the study randomly sampled 4580 undergraduate college students from a large, midwestern university. Using a self-administered Web survey, the authors assessed lifetime and past-year prevalence to find out what prescription drugs students use illicitly, for what purpose, and how they administered these pills.
"We knew prescription stimulant abuse happened on college campuses, but until this study, data regarding the prevalence of individual drugs had been scarce," says Christian J. Teter, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Northeastern University School of Pharmacy and Clinical Research Pharmacist at McLean Hospital. "The only way to effectively combat this problem is by assessing the prevalence and motives for illicit use of these potent psychostimulants."
While there were no differences in past-year illicit use between men and women, the study found significant ethnic-racial differences. While not one African-American student reported getting high as a motive, nearly thirty percent of Caucasians and nearly twenty percent of Asians, Hispanics and others did. These groups were also more likely to experiment with prescription stimulants than their African-American counterparts.
The study found that most lifetime users started while in college. Also, those students who began using pre-college were almost three times more likely to still use during the past year, than those who began while in college.
"We also found that students who started illicitly using prescription stimulants during college were motivated primarily by a desire to improve concentration, possibly due to academic competitiveness," adds Teter. "However, most pre-college initiators reported using it to get high, lose weight, and for experimentation."
The study also puts forth several hypotheses as to why amphetamine-dextroamphetamines, like Adderall, are three times more popular than other stimulants. Authors note that Adderall might be more appealing to a student because it is an extended-release drug with effects lasting 10-12 hours, whereas Ritalin and similar stimulants may produce a so-called roller coaster response with effects lasting no longer than 6 hours in many cases. Another possibility for the overwhelming prevalence of illicit Adderall use may be the fact that it is the most commonly prescribed brand-name stimulant in the U.S.
The study appeared in the October 2006 issue of the journal Pharmacotherapy, and is authored by Christian J. Teter, Pharm.D. (Northeastern University), Sean Esteban McCabe, Ph.D., M.S.W. (University of Michigan), Kristy LaGrange, Pharm.D. (Northeastern University), James A. Cranford, Ph.D. (University of Michigan), and Carol J. Boyd, Ph.D., R.N. (University of Michigan). The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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