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Subst Use Misuse. 2017 Apr 16;52(5):555-561. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2016.1245338. Epub 2016 Dec 23.

Motives for Prescription Stimulant Misuse in a College Sample: Characteristics of Users, Perception of Risk, and Consequences of Use.

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a Department of Psychology , Virginia Tech , Blacksburg , Virginia , USA.
b Alpert Medical School of Brown University , Providence , Rhode Island , USA.
c Butler Hospital , Providence , Rhode Island , USA.



Prescription stimulant misuse is increasingly prevalent in college populations, with some misuse estimates over 40%. Stimulant use is associated with a variety of health and psychological problems. Motives for use may provide insight into problematic trajectories.


The purpose of the current study was to evaluate characteristics of users and motives for prescription stimulant misuse in a large southeastern university.


College students reported on prescription stimulant use, motives for use, consequences associated with use, perceptions of risk, and social norms. We specifically elicited participation from prescription stimulant misusers. Of the 199 participants, 86 reported misusing prescription stimulants in the past 60 days. We assessed motives for use, rates of substance use, risk perception, normative beliefs, and consequences associated with use. We evaluated differences between misusers and non-misusers, differentiate motives subscales, and identify relationships between motives subscales, rates of use, and consequences.


Misusers used more alcohol and other drugs, held different normative beliefs regarding stimulants, and had lower risk perceptions than non-misusers. We evaluated seven motives subscales among misusers: coping, social, enhancement, expansion, conformity, academic performance, and weight loss. Enhancement, social, weight loss, and expansion scales were correlated with negative consequences, while social motives were correlated with use. Results from regression analyses revealed positive associations between weight and expansion with negative consequences, and a negative association between conformity and consequences. Conclusions/Importance:Motives for prescription stimulant use and user characteristics may provide insight into prevention and treatment. Continued work is needed to refine item content and replicate findings.


Prescription stimulants; motives; norms; risk perception; substance use

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