Using Students to Reduce Stimulant Abuse on College Campuses


New coalition will focus on research and education to combat the abuse and misuse of stimulant medications on college campuses.

New coalition will focus on research and education to combat the abuse and misuse of stimulant medications on college campuses.

As college students begin to form their study habits for the semester, some will turn to ADHD prescription stimulant medications to achieve their academic goals.

In a recent survey from Zogby Analytics on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance, close to one-third of students admitted that they or their friends had taken prescription medications as study aids during final exams. In a 2013 study, 9.3% of students attending a large public university said they had used prescription stimulant medications nonmedically within the past year.

To help combat the misuse and abuse of these medications, a group of medical, mental health, higher education, student, and pharmaceutical organizations have come together to form the Coalition to Prevent ADHD Medication Misuse (CPAMM). Members of the coalition include the American Academy of Family Physicians, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the Jed Foundation, Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education (NASPA), the BACCHUS initiatives of the NASPA, and Shire.

“We have a wide variety of folks on the coalition, providing diverse views on the issue,” said Ann Quinn-Zobeck of the BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA in an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times. “We can look at it from different perspectives, but we all have a common vision of wanting the work we do to be research-based and effective. Our goal is to be a trusted source of information and to help others address the problem.”

The problem is complex, Quinn-Zobeck said, and there are many reasons why students may start misusing and abusing stimulants.

“Students often don’t realize it’s illegal, that it is considered cheating, and they don’t consider the legal and academic consequences of taking these drugs,” she said. “They think taking these drugs might help their academic performance, but previous research shows that the opposite is true.”

Much of the research that the coalition will conduct will focus on identifying the perception and attitudes college students have on the abuse of the medications, and how students can help address the problem.

“We’re just starting to collect information, but we expect to see a disconnect between perceptions and reality,” Quinn-Zobeck said. “We anticipate that most don’t abuse stimulants but have the perception that a lot of their peers do. Many of them probably think it’s not OK, but don’t feel the need to take a stand and say something about it.”

The coalition will then take what they learn about students’ perceptions of stimulant use to create educational programs aimed at preventing drug abuse. CPAMM will also conduct focus groups among college students and administrators to build programs that train peer educators on the issue.

“The goal of this research is to find what messages will resonate with students,” Quinn-Zobeck said. “We believe that students play a unique role in the health decisions made by their peers on campus. Students can help to serve as messengers, reaching their classmates in ways that administration can’t.”

The coalition has also enlisted a student representative to help oversee selected student leaders of the peer-to-peer intervention programs across the country.

“Students really care about their peers and, once they realize something is harmful, they want to correct it,” Quinn-Zobeck said. “Students are a very importance piece of solving this puzzle.”

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