The ADHD Drug Abuse Crisis on American College Campuses

By Watson, Gretchen LeFever; Arcona, Andrea Powell et al. | Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

The ADHD Drug Abuse Crisis on American College Campuses


Watson, Gretchen LeFever, Arcona, Andrea Powell, Antonuccio, David O., Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry


Medications to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can increase students' ability to stay awake to cram for exams. Although popularly viewed as "academic steroids," there is no evidence that ADHD medications promote complex cognitive functioning or scholarship. To the contrary, compelling new evidence indicates that ADHD drug treatment is associated with deterioration in academic and social-emotional functioning. Yet, ADHD diagnosis and drug treatment have risen unabated for decades. Today, ADHD medications are so prevalent on college campuses that students falsely perceive these drugs as relatively benign and freely use them for nonmedical reasons, resulting in record numbers of adverse events and deaths. This article describes the nature of the ADHD drug abuse epidemic, rules some colleges have implemented to manage risk, and actions that any educational institution may consider to combat ADHD drug abuse and to promote student health and campus safety.

Keywords: attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; methylphenidate; prescribed stimulant drugs; substance use disorders

In late 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an alarming rate of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis and treatment among American youth (Visser et al., 2013). Whether too few or too many people are being treated for ADHD has been a topic of public debate off and on for the past five decades. What's new is that the focus of the debate has shifted from concern about the social development of young children to the learning, health, and safety of college students.

Legally prescribed ADHD medications are highly addictive substances that are widely available on college campuses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 2011) maintains that these medications should be prescribed and dispensed "sparingly." Nonetheless, the use of ADHD drugs has become so commonplace that many students fail to appreciate the risks of misusing them, contributing to epidemic levels of prescription drug abuse (Watson & Arcona, 2014a). Students are using and abusing ADHD drugs for reasons as diverse as studying, weight loss, and partying. Consequently, since 2005, the United States has witnessed exponential increases in emergency room visits, overdoses, and suicides related to nonmedical use of ADHD drugs by college students and other young adults (Watson, Arcona, Antonuccio, & Healy, 2013).

Colleges and universities have responded to the ADHD drug crisis with a range of new campus rules, all carrying potential risk management and legal ramifications. New rules include forbidding college clinicians to diagnose ADHD (George Mason University) or to prescribe ADHD medications (College of William and Mary). Several institutions now require students who bring ADHD medications from home to sign a contract that they will not divert their medications (California State University, Fresno; Marist College; and The University of Alabama) or to sign a release allowing school officials to speak with parents to confirm medical histories and the veracity of reported symptoms (Marquette University). At least one school has incorporated ADHD drug abuse education into freshman orientation sessions (Clemson University), whereas another might start to require students to undergo behavioral therapy before getting their ADHD prescriptions refilled (George Washington University). Duke University recently took the bold step of declaring nonmedical use of ADHD drugs as a form of academic dishonesty. Schools that choose to maintain the status quo also face risk. Harvard University is currently being sued for malpractice by the parent of a student who received an ADHD diagnosis and stimulant prescription after one meeting with a clinical nurse specialist in 2007 (Schwarz, 2013a; Watson & Arcona, 2014b).

The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about the sort of issues that may affect an institution's liability with respect to the oversight of ADHD issues on campus, including diagnosis, treatment, and the diversion of prescription medications. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The ADHD Drug Abuse Crisis on American College Campuses
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.