Academic strain and non-medical use of prescription stimulants among college students

  • Ford J
  • Schroeder R
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Recent research indicates that the prevalence of non-medical prescription drug use is now greater than the prevalence of other illicit drug use, with the exception of marijuana. Existing research focuses on demographic characteristics of users, risk factors and motivations for use, and sources of diversion. A significant gap in the extant literature is an examination of theoretical predictors of use. Using data from the Harvard School of Public Health's College Alcohol Study, the current research addressed this limitation by applying Agnew's general strain theory to the study of non-medical prescription drug use. Specifically, we examine whether academic strain is associated with the non-medical use of prescription stimulants. Findings are supportive of general strain theory, as students who experience academic strain report higher levels of depression, our measure of negative affect, and students who report higher levels of depression are more likely to report the non-medical use of prescription stimulants.

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