ADHD Medication Misuse Isn't Cheating, It's A Competitive Advantage - If You're Rich
    By News Staff | May 3rd 2014 09:30 AM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    In the 1960s, "speed freaks", people hooked on amphetamines, still avoided Ritalin. It was too dangerous. In the 1990s, Ritalin suddenly became a medication. For kids diagnosed with ADD, it sped them up so much it basically slowed them down.

    But for people who don't need it, ADD medication is just a stimulant, and nearly 20 percent of 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 according results presented today at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver.

    Stimulants are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Recent studies have shown that students without ADHD are misusing these medications in hopes of gaining an academic edge. This study looked at the prevalence of medication misuse at a highly selective college and whether students believe misuse of ADHD medications is a form of cheating.

    Researchers analyzed responses from 616 sophomores, juniors and seniors without ADHD who completed an anonymous online questionnaire in December 2012.

    Results showed:

    • 18 percent 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;

    • juniors reported the highest rate of stimulant misuse (24 percent);

    • 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; and

    • 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.

    "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. "Because many students are misusing prescription stimulants for academic, not recreational purposes, colleges must develop specific programs to address this issue."

    Survey results also showed 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. Specifically, 37 percent of those who had misused an ADHD prescription thought that more than 30 percent of students had done the same compared to only 14 percent of students who had never misused a stimulant.

    The findings from this and similar studies pose a challenge to pediatricians, Dr. Adesman said. "To the extent that some high school and college students have reported feigning ADHD symptoms to obtain stimulant medication, should physicians become more cautious or conservative when newly diagnosing ADHD in teens? Additionally, should pediatricians do more to educate their ADHD patients about the health consequences of misuse and the legal consequences that could arise if they sell or give away their stimulant medication?"

    It also is important to consider the ethical implications of prescription stimulant misuse in higher education, said principal investigator Natalie Colaneri, a research assistant at Cohen Children's Medical Center.

    "It is our hope that this study will increase greater awareness and prompt broader discussion about misuse of medications like Ritalin or Adderall for academic purposes," she said. "It is important that this issue be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective: as an issue relevant to the practice of medicine, to higher education and to ethics in modern-day society."


    I find this article to be thought provoking. Will they be prohibited from using the medication or how exactly can an institute address this issue? If educational institutions take action against students using ADHD medication, I feel it complicates the learning experience of students who are actually dependent on the medication(Suffering from ADHD). Students who admitted to feigning symptoms of ADHD in order to get a prescription,as mentioned above, present major ethical issues in my opinion.

    I was interested to hear that some schools put the use of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin in their honor policy, seems a bit extreme to me but they are a private institution and I respect their right to do that.
    Makes me wonder if these PED's will ever be tested like sports players are, I hope not.

    For a supposed scientific blog I find it funny that you can say: `In the 1960s, "speed freaks", people hooked on amphetamines, still avoided Ritalin. It was too dangerous.` - that is ridiculous. The chemist working for Ciba (Novartis), who first synthesized methylphenidate would give it to his wife - Rita - for her low blood pressure and to prevent syncope when she played tennis.

    For the incredible amount of drug that is consumed in this country, it has an even more incredible low rate of side effects. Less than 10,000 side effect reports were provided to the FDA Adverse event reporting system between 1997 and 2014 - most for product quality issues, lack of efficacy, and headache.

    Saying that the guy experimented on his wife is actually not an endorsement, you realize that, right? 
    I find it quite alarming that such a large number of students are using these drugs in order to help them concentrate and focus on their studies and to complete tasks. I personally believe that there are many healthier alternatives to these drugs. There are of course extreme cases where these drugs need to be administered in order to help certain individuals with problems pertaining to focus and concentration, but in general I believe that doctors prescribe these drugs far too easily and that there are many negative side-effects which most students do not give enough attention to when they start using them. With regards to the title of the article - "ADHD Medication Misuse Isn't Cheating, It's A Competitive Advantage - If You're Rich" - I completely disagree with the title and believe that it is both morally and ethically wrong to use these drugs to your advantage regardless of whether or not you are able to afford them.

    If such behaviours are illegal. Then supposed they're outlawed. Now what would prevent a bright student from instead just inventing their own form of a stimulant. This isn't sports which are tandem to a joke with such large paychecks. It's academia if students are having to go to lengths that might possibly harm their lives, perhaps we need to rethink academics.

    Criticizing using pharmaceuticals is hypocritical in an American culture at this point, but instead of regulating off the counter formulas like 5 hour energy with more scrutiny, and of course arguably the more dangerous 'energy drink' which can be obtained by those who are even less aware of the risks. We perpetuate hiding away formulas with the highest lab checked safety, and instead ensure that non-medically scrutinized compounds get the spotlight. What a joke.

    If it wasn't this due to its effectiveness it would be the stimulant taken everyday: Coffee, just done in amounts that are extremely dangerous, and this is the same with any other stimulant out there. You need to know the risks, and you need to have the willpower. It's never any different.

    When you lay the bargain out differently to students in the new face of the economy, and the hyper globalized hyper competitive one at that. Walking near the precipice is a risk many of them are willing to take. That or face being underemployed in a constantly growing income inequality.