For some college students, their new freedom at the university may be the first time they have handled certain responsibilities. Many are new at managing money, their nutrition and health. While there are campus services available to assist students with juggling the new areas of responsibility in their lives, many students try to solve problems on their own.
In some areas, the students may be taking unnecessary risks, such as in the area of self-treatment for mental disorder symptoms. There is a trend among college students to self-diagnose and then treat what they suspect are symptoms of depression, insomnia or ADHD.
A recent study by Peterkin and colleagues (2010) looked at the widespread use of ADHD drugs to self-treat suspected symptoms of ADHD and to see if there is a large number of students who are exhibiting symptoms of ADHD and not seeking treatment from a doctor.
The researchers wanted to explore whether there was a connection between students using unprescribed ADHD medications, such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall to improve academic performance, and undiagnosed ADHD.
A survey was issued to 190 college students who had volunteered to participate anonymously regarding cognitive performance enhancement. The survey asked students to report whether they had ever been diagnosed with ADHD and whether they had treated symptoms without a prescription.
The survey’s measures included the World Health Organization Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale, which is 97.9 percent accurate in identifying ADHD symptoms.
The results of the survey showed that those who used ADHD medication without a prescription were 7 times more likely than participants who did not use the medications to exhibit ADHD symptoms. 70 percent of students who used ADHD medications without a prescription showed ADHD symptoms, while only 30 percent of those who did not use the medications showed symptoms.
The study’s results may be limited because the recruitment methods used flyers that advertised that they were looking for people interested in cognitive performance enhancement. This method may have oversampled students who use medications to improve academic performance.
The results of the study indicate that there may be an increased need for promotion of health services available on campuses. Students may need more encouragement to use student health services to diagnose symptoms of ADHD, where healthcare providers can not only diagnose their problems, but also educate the student about the dangers of self-medicating and sharing prescription drugs with other students.