Non-medical use of prescription stimulants among US college students: prevalence and correlates from a national survey

Addiction. 2005 Jan;100(1):96-106. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.00944.x.


Aims: To examine the prevalence rates and correlates of non-medical use of prescription stimulants (Ritalin, Dexedrine or Adderall) among US college students in terms of student and college characteristics.

Design: A self-administered mail survey.

Setting: One hundred and nineteen nationally representative 4-year colleges in the United States.

Participants: A representative sample of 10 904 randomly selected college students in 2001.

Measurements: Self-reports of non-medical use of prescription stimulants and other substance use behaviors.

Findings: The life-time prevalence of non-medical prescription stimulant use was 6.9%, past year prevalence was 4.1% and past month prevalence was 2.1%. Past year rates of non-medical use ranged from zero to 25% at individual colleges. Multivariate regression analyses indicated non-medical use was higher among college students who were male, white, members of fraternities and sororities and earned lower grade point averages. Rates were higher at colleges located in the north-eastern region of the US and colleges with more competitive admission standards. Non-medical prescription stimulant users were more likely to report use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and other risky behaviors.

Conclusions: The findings of the present study provide evidence that non-medical use of prescription stimulants is more prevalent among particular subgroups of US college students and types of colleges. The non-medical use of prescription stimulants represents a high-risk behavior that should be monitored further and intervention efforts are needed to curb this form of drug use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamines / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Dextroamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / administration & dosage
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Adderall
  • Amphetamines
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dextroamphetamine