Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants Among US High School Students to Help Study: Results From a National Survey


Mixed findings exist regarding extent and efficacy of nonmedical use of prescription stimulants (NMUPS) for study enhancement (SE). This national study of US high school seniors examined NMUPS for SE and addressed risk/benefit questions: To what extent are students reporting NMUPS specifically for SE, and do these individuals demonstrate fewer problem behaviors and superior academic performance?


Total of 15 098 US students surveyed (2009-2015) and divided into 4 subgroups: (1) no past-year NMUPS (nonusers), (2) past-year NMUPS to help study (NMUPS-SE only), (3) past-year NMUPS for study/nonstudy motives (NMUPS-SE+ other), and (4) past-year NMUPS for nonstudy motives (NMUPS-nonSE only). Student characteristics (eg, grade point average [GPA]) and substance-related problems (eg, binge drinking) compared between subgroups.


Among students who reported past-year NMUPS (n = 781), 7.4% reported NMUPS-SE only, 40.9% NMUPS-SE+ other, and 51.7% NMUPS-nonSE only. Odds of binge drinking, cigarette smoking, marijuana, and opioid nonmedical use significantly higher among all NMUPS subgroups. GPAs significantly lower among subgroups reporting NMUPS nonstudy motives; did not differ between NMUPS-SE only and nonusers.


7% of US high school seniors engaged in NMUPS for SE only (0.4% total population). Findings indicate greater substance-related problems without superior academic performance among NMUPS-SE subgroups.