Dispelling the myth of "smart drugs": Cannabis and alcohol use problems predict nonmedical use of prescription stimulants for studying

Amelia M. Arria, Holly C. Wilcox, Kimberly M. Caldeira, Kathryn B. Vincent, Laura M. Garnier-Dykstra, Kevin E. O'Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study tested the hypothesis that college students' substance use problems would predict increases in skipping classes and declining academic performance, and that nonmedical use of prescription stimulants (NPS) for studying would occur in association with this decline. A cohort of 984 students in the College Life Study at a large public university in the US participated in a longitudinal prospective study. Interviewers assessed NPS; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) cannabis and alcohol use disorders; and frequency of skipping class. Semester grade point average (GPA) was obtained from the university. Control variables were race, sex, family income, high school GPA, and self-reported attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis. Longitudinal growth curve modeling of four annual data waves estimated the associations among the rates of change of cannabis use disorder, percentage of classes skipped, and semester GPA. The associations between these trajectories and NPS for studying were then evaluated. A second structural model substituted alcohol use disorder for cannabis use disorder. More than one-third (38%) reported NPS for studying at least once by Year 4. Increases in skipping class were associated with both alcohol and cannabis use disorder, which were associated with declining GPA. The hypothesized relationships between these trajectories and NPS for studying were confirmed. These longitudinal findings suggest that escalation of substance use problems during college is related to increases in skipping class and to declining academic performance. NPS for studying is associated with academic difficulties. Although additional research is needed to investigate causal pathways, these results suggest that nonmedical users of prescription stimulants could benefit from a comprehensive drug and alcohol assessment to possibly mitigate future academic declines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1643-1650
Number of pages8
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Keywords

  • Academic Performance
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • College students
  • Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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