Nearly a third of college kids think ADHD meds boost grades

October 16, 2017 by Amy Norton, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

Past research has found that commonly misuse medications such as Ritalin and Adderall as "study aids." That's despite the fact that there is no evidence the drugs help kids who do not have (ADHD).

The new study said that roughly 29 percent of students at nine U.S. colleges thought that stimulant medications boost . Many others—38 percent—were "unsure."

And that misperception was especially common among students who admitted to abusing the drugs.

Just over 11 percent said they'd used stimulant medication for "non-medical" reasons in the past six months. And of that group, almost two-thirds believed the drugs would improve their grades.

The findings came as no surprise to Dr. Jess Shatkin, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

But they do highlight an ongoing issue, according to Shatkin, who wasn't involved in the study.

"When kids do not actually have ADHD, these drugs are not helpful for their school performance," Shatkin said.

More concerning, he said, are the risks of misusing the medications—such as altered heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, heightened anxiety, and even hallucinations.

"So no, we do not want students abusing these drugs," Shatkin said.

How do you stop them? It's possible, according to Shatkin, that if more college kids are aware of the reality—that their grades will not see a Ritalin-fueled rise—then fewer will try the drugs.

But, he said, the medications are effective at one thing: Helping harried college students stay up later.

"So they'll at least finish that paper that's due tomorrow—even if they won't get better grades," Shatkin said.

It all points to wider issues, according to Shatkin: Many college students need help with basics like time management, dealing with stress, and knowing how to generally take care of themselves.

Dr. Matthew Lorber is director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

He said stimulant abuse is a common problem not just among college students, but high school kids as well.

When Lorber prescribes stimulants for children with ADHD, he encourages parents to "hold on" to the drugs themselves. That will limit the chances of their child sharing the drugs with their friends.

He also counsels teens on the risks of medication-sharing once they are on their own at college.

"We need to be discussing the dangers of these drugs for people who don't have ADHD," said Lorber, who wasn't part of the study team.

The findings are based on a survey of almost 7,300 students. None had ever been diagnosed with ADHD.

Overall, students who believed that stimulants improve school performance were 2.5 times more likely to abuse the drugs, versus their peers who were "unsure." And students in that unsure group were about twice as likely to misuse stimulants as those who did not believe the medications helped with grades.

Like Shatkin, Lorber said that trying to disabuse kids of that notion is unlikely to be enough.

"But," he said, "it's information they should have—along with information on the risks of misusing stimulants."

He encouraged parents to talk to their kids about those dangers, just as they would when it comes to alcohol or illegal drugs.

Shatkin recommended the discussions be even broader than that. "What do you do when you're depressed? What do you do when you're stressed? We often don't have these conversations with kids," he said.

Shatkin also suggested that parents be mindful about how much pressure they put on their kids to succeed at school. "We don't want them to catastrophize over every grade," he said.

The study was published earlier this year in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Explore further: ADHD meds may be a prescription for bullying

More information: Amelia M. Arria et al. Perceived academic benefit is associated with nonmedical prescription stimulant use among college students, Addictive Behaviors (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.07.013 , www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S0306460317302757

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on misuse of prescription drugs.

Related Stories

ADHD meds may be a prescription for bullying

November 20, 2015
Kids and teens who take medications like Ritalin to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are twice as likely to be physically or emotionally bullied by peers than those who don't have ADHD, a new University of Michigan ...

One in ten teens using 'study drugs,' but parents aren't paying attention

May 20, 2013
As high schoolers prepare for final exams, teens nationwide may be tempted to use a "study drug"—a prescription stimulant or amphetamine—to gain an academic edge. But a new University of Michigan poll shows only one in ...

College students who misuse stimulants more likely to have ADHD, substance-use disorder

August 8, 2016
A new study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators finds that college students who misuse stimulant drugs are more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder or substance-use ...

Many Ivy League students don't view ADHD medication misuse as cheating

May 1, 2014
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, ...

U.S. kids use ADHD meds more during school year

October 18, 2014
(HealthDay)—American children's use of stimulant medications is 30 percent higher during the school year than in the summer, a new study indicates.

Do ADHD medicines boost substance abuse risk?

July 15, 2016
(HealthDay)—Parents often worry that their children who take stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be at higher risk for substance abuse later.

Recommended for you

What can twitter reveal about people with ADHD?

November 9, 2017
What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania ...

Brain imaging reveals ADHD as a collection of different disorders

November 8, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the ...

Can adults develop ADHD? New research says probably not

October 20, 2017
Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research by FIU clinical psychologist Margaret Sibley.

Nearly a third of college kids think ADHD meds boost grades

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

School year 'relative age' causing bias in ADHD diagnosis, says research

October 9, 2017
Younger primary school children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older peers within the same school year, new research has shown.

Eye movements reveal temporal expectation deficits in ADHD

September 12, 2017
A technique that measures tiny movements of the eyes may help scientists better understand and perhaps eventually improve assessment of ADHD, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.