Illicit use of prescription ADHD medications on a college campus: a multimethodological approach

J Am Coll Health. 2008 Nov-Dec;57(3):315-24. doi: 10.3200/JACH.57.3.315-324.


Objective: The authors used quantitative and qualitative methodologies to investigate college students' perceptions and use of illegal Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) stimulants during spring and summer 2006.

Participants: From fall 2005 through fall 2006, the authors studied 1,811 undergraduates at a large, public, southeastern research university in the United States.

Methods: The authors administered surveys to these students and conducted 175 in-depth interviews.

Results: Of the study participants, 34% reported the illegal use of ADHD stimulants. Most illegal users reported using ADHD stimulants primarily in periods of high academic stress and found them to reduce fatigue while increasing reading comprehension, interest, cognition, and memory. Furthermore, most had little information about the drug and found procurement to be both easy and stigmafree.

Conclusions: This study supplies a rich understanding of the growing national trend of illegal ADHD stimulant use. The authors discuss strategies for stemming the tide of ADHD stimulant use.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Amphetamines / therapeutic use*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Data Collection
  • Dextroamphetamine / therapeutic use*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Adderall
  • Amphetamines
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dextroamphetamine