Psychostimulant Use Among College Students During Periods Of High And Low Stress: An Interdisciplinary Approach Utilizing Both Self-report And Unobtrusive Chemical Sample Data

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Addictive Behaviors




This study quantified psychostimulant use patterns over periods of high and low stress from both self-report measures and chemical wastewater analyses and identified possible predictors of psychostimulant abuse on a college campus. Self-report data were collected at three times of varying stress levels throughout one college semester: during the first week of school (N = 676), midterms (N = 468), and shortly before final exams (N = 400). Campus wastewater samples were collected over 72-hour periods during the same time frames as the surveys. The metabolites of Adderall and Ritalin were quantified through solid phase extraction and liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS). Samples were normalized with creatinine. Evidence was found to suggest an increase in psychostimulant use during periods of stress, with significant differences found from self-report data between the first week and midterms and from chemical data between these same two assessment periods as well as between the first week of classes and finals. Key predictors of lifetime non-prescriptive psychostimulant use included self-reported procrastination and poor time-management, use of other substances (especially nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and cocaine), and students' perception of nonprescriptive psychostimulant use as normative on campus. The findings shed further light on psychostimulant use patterns among college students, particularly as a function of stress; the study also highlights the benefit of utilizing an interdisciplinary approach that uses both subjective and objective empirical data. The results have implications for prevention/intervention programs on college campuses designed to reduce stress and facilitate healthier coping.