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Prevalence of stimulant use in a sample of US medical students

Jadon R. Webb, MD, PhD

Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

Mark A. Valasek, MD, PhD

Department of Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA

Carol S. North, MD

VA North Texas Health Care System, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Departments of Psychiatry and Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, Dallas, TX, USA

BACKGROUND: Stimulant use for academic performance is widespread among college students, but less is known about use among students obtaining advanced degrees.

METHODS: In this cross-sectional survey, we measured the prevalence and demographic correlates of prescription stimulant use among a sample of US medical students.

RESULTS: The lifetime prevalence of stimulant use in this sample of 144 medical students was 20%, and prevalence of use during medical school was 15%. More white students (32%) than Asian students (7%) had used stimulants. Nine percent of respondents reported an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, and those diagnosed were more than 30 times more likely to have used stimulants compared with those without a diagnosis. Of those who had taken stimulants, 83% reported using them specifically for cognitive performance enhancement such as studying better and staying awake longer while on clinical duties.

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests a high prevalence of stimulant use among medical students compared with the general population. Personal experience with these medications as medical students could impact physician attitudes and prescribing patterns toward patients seeking help for ADHD-related symptoms.

KEYWORDS: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, stimulants, students


CORRESPONDENCE: Jadon R. Webb, MD, PhD, Yale Child Study Center, 230 South Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06519 USA E-MAIL: jadon.webb@yale.edu
Annals of Clinical Psychiatry ©2013 Quadrant HealthCom Inc.

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