National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Fall 2017


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2017), pp 41-77.


© Copyright 2017 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


“I don’t know that many kids that have done coke, none that have tried crack, and only a few that have dropped acid. I can’t even count all of the ones who’ve taken Adderall” (Stice). This statement made in an interview by a freshman art history major at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2007 effectively highlights a still growing problem among undergraduate students in the United States: the nonmedical use of stimulant medications prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as “study aids.” Even as early as 2004, up to twenty percent of college students had used Adderall or Ritalin, both drugs used to treat ADHD, according to a report released by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (Stice). This phenomenon of abusing prescription stimulant medications is well-documented not only in research literature but also in numerous news articles. A 2009 NPR article documented the increasingly prevalent use of ADHD medications by college students to help them study and included commentary from Martha J. Farah, director at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, who described the behavior as “worrisome” due to the drugs’ serious side effects and the potential for addiction (Trudeau). In 2012 The New York Times published just a small fraction of the submissions they received after inviting students to share personal accounts of taking prescription medications for academic purposes, and almost all of them were written by high school students or recent graduates (Schwartz). In 2016, CBS News published a story titled “Adderall misuse rising among young adults,” making it clear that this problem has not lessened in the decade or so that has passed since publication of the 2007 article describing the growing trend of “young people taking prescription drug abuse to college” (Kraft; Stice).