Background: Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students. Social media provides a real-time avenue for monitoring public health, specifically for this population.
Objective: This study explores discussion of Adderall on Twitter to identify variations in volume around college exam periods, differences across sets of colleges and universities, and commonly mentioned side effects and co-ingested substances.
Methods: Public-facing Twitter status messages containing the term "Adderall" were monitored from November 2011 to May 2012. Tweets were examined for mention of side effects and other commonly abused substances. Tweets from likely students containing GPS data were identified with clusters of nearby colleges and universities for regional comparison.
Results: 213,633 tweets from 132,099 unique user accounts mentioned "Adderall." The number of Adderall tweets peaked during traditional college and university final exam periods. Rates of Adderall tweeters were highest among college and university clusters in the northeast and south regions of the United States. 27,473 (12.9%) mentioned an alternative motive (eg, study aid) in the same tweet. The most common substances mentioned with Adderall were alcohol (4.8%) and stimulants (4.7%), and the most common side effects were sleep deprivation (5.0%) and loss of appetite (2.6%).
Conclusions: Twitter posts confirm the use of Adderall as a study aid among college students. Adderall discussions through social media such as Twitter may contribute to normative behavior regarding its abuse.