- What are they?
- What are the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications for the treatment of ADHD?
- Short-term effects of prescription stimulants
- Taken in large doses, prescription stimulants can lead to the following concerns/emergencies
- Conditions related to long-term abuse of stimulant medications
- Use vs. Abuse: What is the difference?
- Statistics/prevalence of prescription stimulant abuse among college students
What are they?
Prescription stimulants include medications prescribed for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a disorder often first diagnosed in childhood and diagnosed in some adults.
What are the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications for the treatment of ADHD?
- Methylphenidate: brand names include: Ritalin© and Concerta©
- Amphetamine: brand name includes: Adderall©
- Dextroamphetamine: brand names include Dexedrine© and Dextrostat©
Short-term effects of prescription stimulants
- Increased alertness, attention, energy
- Decreased appetite and delayed fatigue
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate, narrowed blood vessels, increased blood sugar, and opening of the breathing passages.
Taken in large doses, prescription stimulants can lead to the following concerns/emergencies
- Dangerously high body temperature and heartbeat
- Heart failure
Conditions related to long-term abuse of stimulant medications
Stimulant Use Disorder, i.e. addiction or dependence (feeling like you need it to study or get work done, and withdrawal symptoms when drug is discontinued)
- Heart problems
Use versus Abuse: What is the difference?
- Prescribed by a licensed physician due to met criteria for a diagnosable condition such as ADHD or narcolepsy. Neuro-psychological testing may also confirm/corroborate the presence of diagnosis.
- Taking medication as prescribed by a licensed physician.
- Taking someone else's prescription stimulant medication.
- Taking a prescription stimulant medication in a way other than prescribed (for example snorting, smoking, or injecting).
- Taking the prescription stimulant to get high.
Statistics/prevalence of prescription stimulant abuse among college students
The abuse of prescription stimulants is increasing among college students and young adults. Some college students are abusing stimulants in order to manage the demands of academics, work, and social pressure. Consider some of the recent research:
- New research found that 1 in 5 college students report abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 7 non-students. Older students are also more prone to engage in these behaviors: the data found that among current students, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students are significantly more likely to abuse Rx stimulants than college freshmen.1
- Among young adults between the ages of 18 to 25, 1 in 6 (17 percent) has abused a prescription stimulant at least once in their lifetime. Overall, young adults are most likely to abuse the prescribed stimulants Adderall (60 percent), Ritalin (20 percent) and Vyvanse (14 percent), which are prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). *Percentages based on only those students who abused a prescription stimulant at least once in their lifetime.2
- Non-medical use of prescription stimulants by college students is often motivated by perceived benefits, such as weight control or enhancement of educational performance. Though use may be thought to enhance academic performance, evidence for this is mixed and non-medical Rx stimulant use is inversely associated with GPA.3
1 & 2 The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Whitman Insight Survey online 2014.
3 Correia, C., Murphy, J., & Barnett, N. (2012) College Student Alcohol Abuse: A Guide to Assessment & Prevention.