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Risk/benefit perceptions underlying lower African American Students’ illicit stimulant use

There has been research surrounding college students illicit stimulant use showing that it is on the rise across the United States. However, adequate research has not been completed to look at racial/ethnic differences of illicit stimulant drug use. This study looks at racial/ethnic differences in illicit stimulant use and the potential explanations for differences along with risk and protective factors against this stimulant use.

To complete the study, college students from a large Southeastern university were enrolled over two semesters. Only those identifying as Caucasian or African American were considered for the research with a total of 1,589 students. The mean age was 19.14 and over half of the participants were first year students at the university. To obtain data, a questionnaire was created that asked questions about basic demographics, history of ADHD along with treatment, illicit stimulant drug use, and risk/benefit perceptions around this use. They asked yes and no questions as well as scaled questions (1= “Very Dangerous” to 4= “Not Dangerous”).  The study showed that African American participants self-rating of ADHD symptoms were lower than Caucasian participants. It also showed that African American students were less likely to perceive benefits associated with the effects of using a stimulant. These included things like increased concentration, increased alertness, and helping the studying.

Overall, African American students were more likely than Caucasian students to associate higher levels of social risk with illicit stimulant use. However, they did not perceive higher levels of legal or health risks. While there does seem to be lower illicit stimulant use throughout the African American racial group, prevention and intervention is still important for this group of individuals. Knowing more information about perceived information surrounding this use is important when creating programs that may need to be centered around Caucasians because they are at a higher risk of using these illicit drugs. 

Take Away: Research has shown that students’ illicit stimulant use is on the rise across the United States. This study specifically looks at an African American population and their use and perceived risks surrounding illicit stimulants. They surveyed 1,589 students from a large Southeastern university. What they found was African American students are reporting less ADHD symptoms, lower perceived benefits of using these stimulants, and higher levels of perceived social risk. While this does seem to show that there may be lower illicit stimulant use throughout this population, prevention and intervention is still important to incorporate on a college campus. However, it may be more beneficial for these programs to target Caucasian students who seem to be at a higher risk for misuse.

Nayfa, K. L., & Armstrong, K. J. (2019). Risk/benefit perceptions underlying lower African American Students’ illicit stimulant use. Addictive Behaviors . doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106118

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