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Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants: Risk Factors, Outcomes, and Risk Reduction Strategies

Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants (NMU) is a public health concern, especially in college students. Because of this, a systematic review aimed to review all of the existing literature on NMU and distribution of stimulants. The goal of this analysis was to gain insights on the risk factors and outcomes of NMU of stimulants in order to develop effective risk-reduction strategies.

This review searched PubMed, PsycINFO, and SCOPUS using specific search terms up until May 2018 for studies containing data on NMU of stimulants. Within this search, 109 studies met the criteria of involving stimulant diversion or nonmedical use, and these studies were analyzed. Most of the relevant research had included data on college students. The data from these studies indicated that majority of NMU of stimulants is associated with no negative effects, but serious risks are possible, particularly with non-oral use, among which nasal use is the most common.

As far as motivation for use, the literature suggests that most users do so to achieve academic or occupational performance enhancement. However, many studies reported that performance is not improved by stimulant use in either setting in individuals, with an exception for those with diagnosed ADHD.  This systematic review highlights broad themes in nonmedical use of stimulants, and emphasizes that further research is needed to identify who is at risk and how to target this population with effective interventions.

Take Away: Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants is prevalent in the United States, particularly among college students. Though negative outcomes may not be experienced often, this use is not proven to enhance academic or work performance and can be risky. More research is needed to develop effective prevention methods.

Faraone, S.V., Rostain, A.L., Montano, C.B., Antshel, K.M., Newcom, J.H. et al. (2019). Systematic Review: Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants: Risk Factors, Outcomes, and Risk Reduction Strategies. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2019.06.012

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