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Ivy League Students Don’t Count Misuse of ADHD Meds as Cheating

harvardWhile it may be cause for cheating in Major League Baseball, misuse of stimulants seems to be more accepted among Ivy League students.

A new study reports that almost 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.

“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.

More than 600 college students were surveyed regarding their use of prescription stimulants used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and whether these drugs provide an academic advantage. The survey found 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.

“Students without ADHD are taking these stimulants thinking that it’s going to enhance their academic performance, but we don’t have the scientific evidence to support this,” according to University of Rhode Island Psychology Professor Lisa Weyandt, who published a study in the October Journal of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. “It may increase their ability to focus, but it doesn’t make them more intelligent or a superior reader. They may complete their assignments, but the quality of their work may not be any better, and it may be making it worse.”

CNN recently reported that full-time college students were twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically as their counterparts who were not full-time students.

Results from the current report also found that:

  • 18 percent of students reported misusing a prescription stimulant for an academic purpose at least once while in college, and 24 percent of these students said they had done so on eight or more occasions;
  • 69 percent of those who misused stimulants did so to write an essay, 66 percent to study for an exam and 27 percent to take a test;
  • more students who played a varsity sport and were affiliated with a Greek house reported stimulant misuse compared to students affiliated with only one or neither
  • 33 percent of students did not think stimulant misuse for academic purposes was a form of cheating, while 41 percent thought it was cheating and 25 percent were unsure.

The study will be presented Saturday, May 3, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

(Photo by Ian Lamont via Flickr)

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