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11/14/2014 05:08 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2014

Survey Finds 1 In 5 College Students Have Abused Prescription Medication

Photography by ZhangXun via Getty Images

A new survey released by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that abuse of prescription stimulants is "becoming normalized" among college students and other young adults.

Titled "Under Pressure: College Students And The Abuse of RX Stimulants," the survey polled over 1,600 young adults (students and non-students ages 18-25) and found that among the college students who participated, one in five had abused prescription stimulants -- such as Adderall, Ritalin or Vyvanse -- at least once in their lifetime. One in seven non-students said they had abused the medication at least once.

Among the college students who reported abusing, their top reason for doing so was to study and improve academic performance (44 percent), while 31 percent said they abused just to stay awake.

“These new data confirm that college students are misusing and abusing Rx stimulants in a misguided effort to manage their lives," Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, said in a news release, "because they are burning the candle at both ends, feeling the need to perform better and achieve their academic and social goals.”

The survey also found that, among subjects who'd been legally prescribed medication, 28 percent shared it with friends, and 52 percent reported being pressured by their friends to do so. Additionally, 28 percent reported exaggerating their symptoms to obtain a larger dosage of their medication from their physicians.

“This fact presents an opportunity for parents and health care professionals to play a pivotal role in helping students better manage their time and the commitments that are stressing them out," Pasierb said. "And most importantly, they can and should counsel young people who have been legitimately prescribed medication for ADHD to not compromise their own health by sharing or selling those medications.”

Although there's debate among students over whether or not prescription drug abuse constitutes cheating, some schools are nevertheless taking active steps to prohibit prescription drug abuse.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids provides a toll-free helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE, a nationwide support service open Monday through Friday from 10:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST, offering assistance to parents and other primary caregivers of children who want to talk to someone about their child’s drug use and drinking.

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