One in six college students misuse stimulant drugs prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent literature review. Findings from the meta-analysis are published in Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina, Tulane University School of Medicine, and UCLA pooled 30 articles to summarize the current data on rates and demographic and psychosocial correlates of stimulant medication misuse among college students. Misuse was defined as taking more than prescribed or taking the medication without a prescription.

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The random-effects meta-analysis showed that the rate of misuse among college students was about 17% (95% CI 0.13, 0.23, P<0.01). Some psychological variables that distinguished misusers vs. nonusers included symptoms of ADHD, problems with alcohol use, and marijuana use. Greek organization membership, academic performance, and other substance use were also associated with misuse.

Study authors call for further studies on stimulant medication misuse and extracurricular participation, academic outcomes, depression, and eating disorders. Also, more research is needed on why students divert or misuse, and the impact of campus policies on the high rates of misuse. Prevention strategies for reducing diversion and misuse of stimulant medication on college campuses should also be a topic of future research.

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