Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that cause functional impairment. Recent research indicates that symptoms persist into adulthood in the majority of cases, with prevalence estimates of approximately 5% in the school age population and 2.5%-4% in the adult population. Although students with ADHD are at greater risk for academic underachievement and psychosocial problems, increasing numbers of students with ADHD are graduating from high school and pursuing higher education. Stimulant medications are considered the first line of pharmacotherapy for individuals with ADHD, including college students. Although preliminary evidence indicates that prescription stimulants are safe and effective for college students with ADHD when used as prescribed, very few controlled studies have been conducted concerning the efficacy of prescription stimulants with college students. In addition, misuse of prescription stimulants has become a serious problem on college campuses across the US and has been recently documented in other countries as well. The purpose of the present systematic review was to investigate the efficacy of prescription stimulants for adolescents and young adults with ADHD and the nonmedical use and misuse of prescription stimulants. Results revealed that both prostimulant and stimulant medications, including lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, methylphenidate, amphetamines, and mixed-amphetamine salts, are effective at reducing ADHD symptoms in adolescents and adults with ADHD. Findings also suggest that individuals with ADHD may have higher rates of stimulant misuse than individuals without the disorder, and characteristics such as sex, race, use of illicit drugs, and academic performance are associated with misuse of stimulant medications. Results also indicate that individuals both with and without ADHD are more likely to misuse short-acting agents than long-acting agents. These findings have implications for intervention, prevention, and future research.
Keywords: ADHD symptomatology; amphetamine; lisdexamfetamine; methylphenidate; nonmedical stimulant use; pharmacotherapy.