"Adderall is definitely not a drug": justifications for the illegal use of ADHD stimulants

Subst Use Misuse. 2010;45(1-2):31-46. doi: 10.3109/10826080902858334.


In-depth interviews were conducted in 2007 with 175 undergraduate students (94 males, 81 females, 13 non-Caucasian) at a large, public southeastern research university located in an urban area in the United States. Our primary goal was to identify how these students conceive of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) stimulants and their illegal use. We discovered that these students frame stimulant use as both physically harmless and morally acceptable. Specifically, these students justify their drug use through the use of four recurring prostimulant arguments: 1) comparison-and-contrast, 2) all-things-in-moderation, 3) self-medicating, and 4) minimization arguments. We discuss limitations to the study and conclude by suggesting five strategies for prevention researchers that would directly target these four arguments.

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamines / administration & dosage*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Administration
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Universities


  • Adderall
  • Amphetamines
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants