Non-medical use of ADHD medication among Dutch college students

Thursday, 24 November, 2022 - 10:50 to 12:20


From previous research, we know that many students in the Netherlands experience performance pressure. Some students report the non-medical use of performance enhancing drugs, mainly ADHD medication, to cope with this pressure. Use of these drugs without a doctors’ prescription poses risks. This study investigated the motives to use performance enhancing drugs that exist within the student population, as well as the positive and negative effects students experience from their use of these drugs.

Both quantitative and qualitative research was conducted. Analyses were conducted on various available data sets from previous quantitative studies (16 – 34 years old; N=+/- 40.000) and interviews were conducted with students (16 – 34 years old; N=21).

The analyses show a lifetime prevalence of 8 to 19% and a last-year prevalence of 3 to 9% of non-medical use of ADHD medication (16-35 years old). Main motivations for use were expected and perceived increased focus and being able to continue longer with study activities. Little is known about whether the non-medical use of ADHD-medication actually causes these effects, or whether a placebo effect may be involved. Negative effects experienced by interviewees were headaches, trouble sleeping and decreased appetite. Students often obtained ADHD-medication through friends or family members, who either received the medication on prescription directly or (also) through friends or family.

The current research provides the first insights into the non-medical use of ADHD medication among students in the Netherlands. The insights provide input for the development of prevention materials to eventually reduce non-medical use of ADHD medication.




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