Students’ stimulant use for cognitive enhancement: A deliberate choice rather than an emotional response to a given situation

Koen Ponnet, Robert Tholen, Sara De Bruyn, Edwin Wouters, Joris Van Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Guido Van Hal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Prescription stimulants such as methylphenidate are usually prescribed to treat attention deficit (and hyperactivity) disorders (ADHD). Recently, these drugs have gained popularity among college students, because of the belief that they can help improve academic performance. Objectives: This study assessed whether engaging in nonmedical use of prescription stimulants for cognitive enhancement is a rational or a more spontaneous decision-making process. Method: A survey was conducted among 661 students (63.5 % females, n = 420, Mage = 21.40). Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Results: A total of 15.9 % (n = 105) of the students had previously taken stimulants to improve their academic performance. The use of stimulants was significantly higher among males (22.4 %) than females (12.1 %). Positive attitudes toward stimulant use for cognitive enhancement were strongest related to students’ intention to take stimulants for increasing their academic performance, followed by the norm of parents. Additionally, the more the students identified themselves with the prototype of a student using stimulants for cognitive enhancement, the more likely they were to be willing to misuse stimulants. Conclusions: The findings suggest that using stimulants for cognitive enhancement is a rational choice rather than an unplanned one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108410
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume218
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Academic performance enhancement
  • College students
  • Nonmedical stimulant use
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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