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    Survey on Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Stimulants Among College Students and Other Young Adults

    Published: November 2014

    A nationally representative survey confirms that the intentional misuse of prescription stimulants is becoming normalized among current college students and other young adults.

    Key Takeaways

    The study found that young adults often misuse prescription (Rx) stimulants as a way to manage the daily demands of academics, work and social pressures. Research also found that many young adults exaggerate symptoms to facilitate Rx stimulant misuse. Additional findings include the following:

    • 1 in 5 college students (20 percent) report misusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 7 non-students (15 percent).
    • Older students are also more prone to engage in these behaviors, with sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students significantly more likely to misuse Rx stimulants than college freshmen.
    • Half of all young adults surveyed (50 percent) report using Rx stimulants to study or improve academic performance.
    • More than 4 in 10 (41 percent) say they use Rx stimulants to stay awake.
    • Almost one-fourth (24 percent) use Rx stimulants to improve work performance at a job.
    • College students perceive tangible rewards after misusing Rx stimulants, with nearly two-thirds of college students (64 percent) who reported misuse of Rx stimulants indicating that doing so helped them obtain a higher grade, improve work performance or gain a competitive edge.

    Last Updated

    November 2023