Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 50-76

First online:

Misuse of Stimulant Medication Among College Students: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-analysis

  • Kari BensonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Barnwell College, University of South Carolina
  • , Kate FloryAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Barnwell College, University of South Carolina Email author 
  • , Kathryn L. HumphreysAffiliated withTulane University School of Medicine
  • , Steve S. LeeAffiliated withUniversity of California Los Angeles

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The misuse of stimulant medication among college students is a prevalent and growing problem. The purpose of this review and meta-analysis is to summarize the current research on rates and demographic and psychosocial correlates of stimulant medication misuse among college students, to provide methodological guidance and other ideas for future research, and to provide some preliminary suggestions for preventing and reducing misuse on college campuses. Random-effects meta-analysis found that the rate of stimulant medication misuse among college students was estimated at 17 % (95 % CI [0.13, 0.23], p < .001) and identified several psychological variables that differentiated misusers and nonusers, including symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, problems associated with alcohol use, and marijuana use. A qualitative review of the literature also revealed that Greek organization membership, academic performance, and other substance use were associated with misuse. Students are misusing primarily for academic reasons, and the most common source for obtaining stimulant medication is peers with prescriptions. Interpretation of findings is complicated by the lack of a standard misuse definition as well as validated tools for measuring stimulant misuse. The relation between stimulant medication misuse and extra curricular participation, academic outcomes, depression, and eating disorders requires further investigation, as do the reasons why students divert or misuse and whether policies on college campuses contribute to the high rates of misuse among students. Future research should also work to develop and implement effective prevention strategies for reducing the diversion and misuse of stimulant medication on college campuses.


Stimulant medication Misuse College students Motives Psychological correlates