Non-medical use of prescription drugs and its association with socio-demographic characteristics, dietary pattern, and perceived academic load and stress in college students in Puerto Rico

P R Health Sci J. 2013 Jun;32(2):89-94.


Objective: Stress can have deleterious effects on health and academic performance. Common stress-relieving activities among college students include the non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD). The aim of this study was to determine the associations between self-perceived academic load and stress, NMUPD (stimulants, depressants, and sleeping medication), and dietary pattern in college students in PR.

Methods: A questionnaire to evaluate academic load and stress, NMUPD, and dietary pattern was used on a representative sample of 275 first- and second-year students from one campus.

Results: In total, 27.6% reported NMUPD in the past 6 months, with higher use among students aged 21-30 years (93.4%) than in those aged 31-53 years (6.6%; p=0.062). Those with high levels of stress had higher NMUPD (42.1%) than did those with low (26.3%) or moderate (31.6%) stress levels, after controlling for age and sex (p=0.03). Among those who reported NMUPD over the previous 6 months, 74% reported that such use was effective as a coping strategy, and 35% reported that it helped them to improve academic performance. Although no significant association was found between NMUPD and dietary pattern, 57% of the participants reported that their appetites decreased when they engaged in NMUPD.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study that has associated self-perceived academic load and stress, NMUPD, and dietary pattern among college students in Puerto Rico. NMUPD's prevalence was 27.6%, which prevalence appeared to be higher in students aged 21-30 years than in those of any other age. High levels of stress were significantly related to high NMUPD in this sample.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prescription Drug Misuse*
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Puerto Rico / epidemiology
  • Self Medication / psychology
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Prescription Drugs