12/10/2014 10:17 am ET Updated Feb 09, 2015

National Survey Reveals Conflicted Mindset of College Students About ADHD Prescription Stimulant Misuse, Abuse and Diversion

Earlier this year, The Jed Foundation was proud to join a newly formed coalition of medical, mental health, higher education, student and pharmaceutical organizations working together to help prevent misuse abuse and diversion of ADHD prescription stimulant medication.

The Coalition to Prevent ADHD Medication Misuse (CPAMM) -- recognizing that misuse, abuse and diversion are concerns among college students -- has aligned on two strategic initiatives: conduct research and develop educational campaigns to help prevent non-medical use of ADHD prescription stimulants. As a first step, CPAMM recently released the results of a national survey conducted on our behalf by Harris Poll (for an overview and basic information see:

The findings of the survey paint a portrait of students who recognize the risks of misuse, but understand why some students may choose to misuse, given the academic pressures in today's college environment.

Based on the survey, college students consider taking ADHD prescription stimulant medications that were not prescribed to them to be unethical (75 percent), a form of cheating (when used for schoolwork) (59 percent), extremely/very harmful (73 percent) and a "big deal" (80 percent) if someone who doesn't have ADHD uses prescription stimulants, with 65 percent likening the misuse of ADHD prescription stimulants to do schoolwork to athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs. However, almost one in four students (24 percent) do believe it is okay for someone who doesn't have ADHD to use prescription stimulants for schoolwork, and 48 percent believe that students who misuse are just doing what they have to do to keep up with the pressures of college. In addition, 42 percent of students incorrectly believe that using ADHD prescription stimulants not prescribed to them is no more harmful than an energy drink or a strong cup of coffee.

Further, the majority of students believe the main drivers to start misusing ADHD prescription stimulants are a desire to get good grades (70 percent) and pressure to succeed (68 percent). Overall, 64 percent of students said that they would "do anything to get an A," and 29 percent admit they will do whatever it takes to succeed academically even if it requires breaking the rules. In fact, we know from other research that students who misuse prescription stimulants tend to have lower GPA's than average.

The study shines a light on the stress permeating the lives of students on today's college campuses. As an organization with the mission to protect the emotional health of college students, and a partner in CPAMM, The Jed Foundation looks forward to using the findings to inform peer-to-peer educational campaigns designed to help prevent non-medical use. We want to communicate as a Coalition that there are better, healthier ways to cope.

The survey also reveals the groups that are more at risk to misuse, where students believe their peers are getting ADHD prescription stimulants, and students' perceptions of university policies.

To learn more about CPAMM:

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