VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Nearly one in five students at an Ivy League
college reported misusing a prescription stimulant while studying, and
one-third of students did not view such misuse as cheating, according to a
study to be
presented Saturday, May 3, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual
meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Stimulants are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD). Recent studies have shown that students without ADHD are
misusing these medications in hopes of gaining an academic edge. This study
looked at the prevalence of medication misuse at a highly selective college and
whether students believe misuse of ADHD medications is a form of cheating.
Researchers analyzed responses from 616 sophomores,
juniors and seniors without ADHD who completed an anonymous online
questionnaire in December 2012.
“While many colleges address
alcohol and illicit drug abuse in their health and
wellness campaigns, most have not addressed prescription stimulant misuse
for academic purposes,” said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, chief
of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen
Children's Medical Center of New York. “Because
many students are misusing prescription stimulants for academic, not
recreational purposes, colleges must develop specific programs to address this
Survey results also showed that
students who misused stimulants were more likely to view this as a common
occurrence on their campus compared to students who had never misused an ADHD medication.
Specifically, 37 percent of those who had misused an ADHD prescription thought
that more than 30 percent of students had done the same compared to only 14
percent of students who had never misused a stimulant.
The findings from this and similar
studies pose a challenge to pediatricians, Dr. Adesman said. “To the extent
that some high school and college students have reported feigning ADHD symptoms
to obtain stimulant medication, should physicians become more cautious or
conservative when newly diagnosing ADHD in teens? Additionally, should
pediatricians do more to educate their ADHD patients about the health
consequences of misuse and the legal consequences that could arise if they sell
or give away their stimulant medication?”
It also is important to consider
the ethical implications of prescription stimulant misuse in higher education,
said principal investigator Natalie Colaneri, a research assistant at Cohen
Children’s Medical Center.
“It is our hope that this study
will increase greater awareness and prompt broader discussion about misuse of
medications like Ritalin or Adderall for academic purposes,” she said. “It is
important that this issue be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective:
as an issue relevant to the practice of medicine, to higher education and to
ethics in modern-day society.”
Ms. Colaneri will present “Prevalence and Student
Perceptions of Prescription Stimulant Misuse at an Ivy League College”
from 7:15-7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3. To view the study abstract, go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS14L1_1675.7&terms=.
No outside funding was received for this research.
Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations that
co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting – the American Pediatric Society, the Society
for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American
Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and
other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and
clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the
advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all
share a common mission of fostering the health and well-being of children
worldwide. For more
information, visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the
PAS meeting on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc