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Students Admit Using ADHD Drugs for Better Grades

18 percent surveyed said they've used meds like Adderall to stay alert when cramming
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Students who'd used the drugs said they relied on them to write an essay (69 percent), study for an exam (66 percent), take a test (27 percent) or engage in research (32 percent).

Twenty-eight percent of students surveyed who both played varsity athletics and were part of the Greek system said they'd used the drugs, compared to 16 percent of other students. McCabe said these students may use the drugs because they're having more trouble managing their time and studying properly.

Those who'd used the drugs were less likely (18 percent) to think using the drugs is cheating compared to those who'd never used the drugs (46 percent). A third of students surveyed overall said they don't think using the drugs counts as cheating.

Is it, in fact, cheating? Study co-author Adesman said there should be a discussion about this question because so many students believe it is.

But McCabe said there's a twist to any assumptions about the drugs: Their ability to help students get better grades "appears to be more of a myth than a reality."

As for their source of the medications, the overwhelming majority of students who use the drugs get the stimulants from other students who are prescribed them, McCabe said. "Research indicates peers often share these medications with one another for free. The majority of adolescents 18 to 22 years of age believe it is 'fairly easy' or 'very easy' to get prescription stimulants," noted McCabe, who was not part of the study team.

The researchers chose to keep the campus anonymous "to avoid any negative backlash against the school," McCabe said, "although realistically I do not think things are any different compared to the other Ivy League schools."

The findings are to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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