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Preventing College Student Nonmedical Prescription Stimulant Use: Development of Vested Interest Theory-Based Persuasive Messages

Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants (NUPS) has become a major public health concern in college students. There has been previous research on targeting cognitive enhancement beliefs using central tenets of vested interest theory (VIT). The current study focuses on VIT-based messaging to reduce attitude favorability and usage intentions of NUPS use which in turn may change cognitive enhancement perceptions to help prevent use in college students.

Participants had to be 18 years of age along with live in the United States. The study first included screening students about their past NUPS and future usage intentions.        658 students completed this study and 641 participants completed a bonus survey. The participants then rated one of four 3-minute videos that surrounded VIT and Harms interventions.  They completed posttest measures of vested interest, attitudes, and intentions.  The experimental manipulations included VIT and physical harms, physical harms only comparison, VIT only comparison, and pure control.

The final sample included 282 participants with an average age of 24.5. Results from the study showed messages were successful in reducing use when focused on lowering vested interest by telling students NUPS did not enhance cognitive functioning. Researchers also found that the messages of not enhancing cognitive functioning reduced vulnerable nonusers’ intentions of using NUPS. Results showed that physical harm communications did not have an impact on participants perceptions. These findings show that VIT-guided messages may have a positive impact in NUPS preventions and interventions for college students.

Take Away: The current study focuses on VIT-based messaging to reduce attitude favorability and usage intentions of NUPS use which in turn may change cognitive enhancement perceptions to help prevent use in college students. The final study included 282 participants with a mean age of 24.5 that completed an online study. The study included participants rating one of four 3-minute videos that surrounded VIT and Harms interventions.  They then completed posttest measures of vested interest, attitudes, and intentions.  Results showed messages focused on lowering vested interest by telling students NUPS did not enhance cognitive functioning were more successful. These findings show that VIT-guided messages may have a positive impact in NUPS preventions and interventions for college students.

Donaldson, C. D., Siegel, J. T., & Crano, W. D. (2020). Preventing college student nonmedical prescription stimulant use: Development of vested interest theory-based persuasive messages. Addictive Behaviors, 108, 106440. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106440

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