26

Various research articles1 have been published on the prevalence of stimulant medicine (Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin) abuse among undergraduate students.

By "abuse of stimulant medicine," I am referring to the practice of students taking prescription medication that is prescribed to someone else (or, that is prescribed to them under false pretenses) in order to improve their focus and concentration while studying.

There is some anecdotal evidence of university faculty taking Adderall and related medications to enhance academic performance (and not to treat an attention disorder).

Is there any reference to research2 on the prevalance of stimulant medicine abuse among university faculty?


1 Here is a review article that covers some of them:

Varga, Matthew D. "Adderall abuse on college campuses: a comprehensive literature review." Journal of evidence-based social work 9.3 (2012): 293-313. DOI: 10.1080/15433714.2010.525402

2 I am looking for answers that are a reference to such a study. I am not looking for answers from anecdotal evidence not supported by a study or citation. I am also not looking for answers explaining why such a study is unlikely to exist, or why it should not be trusted if it did.

  • 2
    Paul Erdős was a frequent amphetamine user (read Ron Graham's biography of Erdős, "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers" for an interesting story about that). – Jonathan Landrum Oct 14 '14 at 13:15
  • 2
    I've always wondered - if indeed there are drugs which generally enhance performance (as opposed to removing a deficit such as ADD) at the research level, given the strong competitive pressure and the large number of brilliant academics we should expect that almost all of the top researchers are drug abusers, since those that abuse naturally rise above those that refuse to. You could argue by pointing out rampant abuse among students, but students are not rational (incidentally, the abuse is not correlated with success AFAIK), nor are is exam equivalent to general research ability. – Superbest Dec 8 '14 at 22:43
  • 3
    As for reasons for lack of research: One is probably that so much attention is focused on stimulant use among students and that use probably outpaces the like among faculty in terms of pure numbers (a lot more students than faculty out there!) that it renders research on the latter an afterthought. Another likely reason is that faculty probably resort to "relaxants" (i.e. alcohol, marijuana) rather than "stimulants" because, unlike students, there is less need for them to be extremely focused for very short periods of time like a 2-hour test or an all-nighter cramming session. – A.S Jan 8 '15 at 21:12
  • 3
    I would think that alcohol abuse among faculty would be a more relevant/worthwhile research topic, due to significantly higher incidence rates and more dire consequences (addiction etc.). No matter how loaded, faculty schedules are probably more forgiving in terms of greater latitude in deadlines and ability to manage time effectively. Nevertheless, interesting question and I'd be curious what you dig up. – A.S Jan 8 '15 at 21:12
  • 4
    @Superbest but students are not rational — And faculty are?? – JeffE Jan 9 '15 at 5:07
10

There were several prominent publications in Nature, spurred by a survey that they conducted of their readers who were able to broadly identify their area of work. See this link here for information about the survey, which also cites the papers that were published in Nature. http://network.nature.com/groups/naturenewsandopinion/forum/topics/1309

In researching this topic, I used google scholar and the search terms "stress stimulants faculty -students" and published 2008 or later to arrive at meaningful search results.

The most likely reason there is more work published on student use is that students as a demographic group are both easier to study and are a more similar group of cohorts than faculty as a demographic group, which are more diverse in age, race, ethnicity, etc.

7

This is a more detailed answer explaining the results of the survey given by Sydney E. Everhart's answer.

The results of the informal 2008 Nature survey1 found that

One in five respondents said they had used drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus, concentration or memory.

More specifically, a comment attributed to the author of this article clarifies:

For the record, our poll didn’t parse out academics, or practicing scientists very thoroughly and the overall results can’t really be tied to scientists exactly. But our demographics do allow us to make some assumptions. We asked what category generally describes your field and included among the limited choices, Biology, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Science, Engineering, Medicine, Physics, and Education. So if we assume those are ‘academic’ fields and academic respondents, we have 817 respondents out of a total 1,400 that fit that loose demographic. Of those we found that 106 (13%) used neuroenhancing-type drugs for medically prescribed reasons. And 159 (19%) used drugs for non-medical (i.e. cognition-enhancing) purposes. That’s pretty consistent with the overall distribution in the poll.

Unfortunately, the data from that survey - which was previously freely available for download - seems to no longer be online.


1 Maher, Brendan. "Poll results: look who's doping." Nature 452 (2008): 674-675. DOI: 10.1038/452674a

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.