A large number of students with ADHD attending Universities around the country are taking medication to assist them in leveling the playing field and achieving their academic goals. However, there is a growing concern regarding the illegal use of these ADHD medications by students who do not have an ADHD diagnosis.

In response to these concerns, a recent study was conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Michigan. The study, which was published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, surveyed 3,407 students to determine the most important factors cited by students for using the ADHD drugs without prescriptions and if the students achieved the desired effect of enhancing their academic abilities through the use of ADHD medications.

Most of the drugs being taken without prescriptions were either sold or given to the students by other students on campus who were prescribed the drugs and were rarely stolen. The majority of students surveyed using these medications illegally were Caucasian, had lower grade point averages and were members of fraternities or sororities. It was also determined that most of these students engaged in the use of other illegal drugs and risky behaviors.

It was determined that the key motivating factor in using these drugs was academic performance, although there were some who used the medication for recreational or social reasons. The majority of students (89%) stated that they used these drugs to assist with concentration and noted that they were able to study for longer periods of time while feeling less restless while studying.

The majority of these students using these drugs to assist in achieving their academic goals felt that the drugs were effective. In addition to the 89% who stated that they were able to achieve better concentration while studying, 89% stated that they were able to study for longer periods of time, felt less restless while studying (81%), had better concentration in class (87%), were less restless in class (74%), and kept better track of assignments (74%) . In addition to the academic enhancements, 64% said that they used these drugs to “feel better”, 59% said they used them to get high, and 38% said they use them to lose weight.

Discouraging students to stop using drugs illegally to enhance academic performance is further complicated by the lack of adverse reactions to the use of these ADHD drugs. Most of the negative side effects indicated in the study were reduced appetite (in about 24%) and difficulty sleeping (in about 20%). The other side effects such as headaches, stomach aches, irritability, sadness, dizziness and social difficulties were reported rarely, if ever.

Given the large percentage of perceived benefits of using these kinds of drugs for enhancing ones academic performance, and the minimal perceived negative side effects, it seems unlikely that these students would feel motivated to stop using them. In my opinion, until our culture rethinks what it truly means to learn and achieve in our society, it seems even far less likely.

Author's Bio: 

Leslie Rouder is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Director of Disability Services at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida where she has the opportunity to coach and assess many students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) that are presently attending the university. She currently has a private practice in Boca Raton and is considered an established expert in the field of adult Attention Deficit Disorder, having studied and specialized in the area of ADD for the past 10 years. She has conducted and hosted numerous workshops, trainings, and as well as radio shows related to this subject.
In addition to the work she does in the area of ADD, Leslie is a trained crisis intervention counselor and provides on-site crises counseling in a variety of business and governmental settings . She is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Integrative Breathwork (leslierouder.com) from the Eupsychia Institute and continues to study with the Eupsychia founder and renowned author, Jacquelyn Small.