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Achievement goal orientation and stimulant misuse in college students

Stimulant medication misuse is becoming more prevalent on college campuses. There has not been much research on examining how academics play into the motivation for this misuse. This study examines the impact of achievement goal orientation on stimulant misuse across college campuses. If more information can be found about the motivation behind the misuse, preventative programs can be created that directly focus on this motivation to better help students.

Three hundred and nine participants were recruited to complete this study. The average age was 18.9 and none of the students had an ADHD diagnosis. They gathered data by having the participants answer questions surrounding misuse. This included questions about taking someone else’s prescription stimulants, success in academics, and ADHD symptoms. Questions were also asked to get a sense of what type of student the participant was. This included questions about executive function, perfectionism, stress, procrastination and others. Out of those surveyed, 12.3% had a history of stimulant misuse within the past year. Those who did misuse stimulants reported higher levels of procrastination, alcohol use, cannabis use, sensation-seeking traits, and positive subjective norms and attitudes toward stimulant misuse.

The one novel finding of the study was that those who misuse stimulants reported higher levels of performance orientation. This means that they may be motivated by academic outcomes and comparisons to other students. This new data may offer considerations for prevention and intervention of stimulant misuse in college students. If there is a strong correlation between academic goals and stimulant misuse, providers can watch for this in their students and educate them on this dangerous behavior. Campuses may also provide relevant information and resources to students in hopes of preventing misuse of stimulants.

Take Away: Stimulant misuse is happening on college campuses. It is important to know the motivation behind this misuse to determine how to best prevent and intervene. This study surveyed three hundred and nine participants without an ADHD diagnosis. They found that 12.3% self-reported misusing stimulants and there was a correlation between performance orientation and the misuse. This provides novel information about a likely motivation in students to misuse these medications.

Antshel, K. M., Parascandola, T., Taylor, L. E., & Faraone, S. V. (2019). Achievement goal orientation and stimulant misuse in college students. Journal of American College Health, 1–9. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2019.1656635

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