Prevalence and Correlates of Prescription Stimulant Use, Misuse, Use Disorders, and Motivations for Misuse Among Adults in the United States

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OBJECTIVE: The authors sought to simultaneously examine the prevalence and correlates of prescription stimulant use, misuse, use disorders, and motivations for misuse in the U.S. adult population.

METHOD: This was a nationally representative household population study of adults age 18 or older from the 2015 and 2016 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (N=102,000). Measurements included prescription stimulant use, use without misuse, misuse without use disorders, and misuse with use disorders, as well as sociodemographic characteristics, health conditions, and mental health factors.

RESULTS: Among U.S. adults, 6.6% (annual average) used prescription stimulants overall; 4.5% used without misuse, 1.9% misused without use disorders, and 0.2% had use disorders. Adults with past-year prescription stimulant use disorders did not differ from those with misuse without use disorders in any of the examined sociodemographic characteristics and in many of the examined substance use problems. The most commonly reported motivations for misuse were to help be alert or concentrate (56.3%). The most likely source of misused prescription stimulants was by obtaining them free from friends or relatives (56.9%). More frequent prescription stimulant misuse and use disorder were associated with an increased likelihood of obtaining medications from physicians or from drug dealers or strangers and less likelihood of obtaining them from friends or relatives.

CONCLUSIONS: Approximately 16.0 million U.S. adults used prescription stimulants in the preceding year (annual average), 5.0 million misused prescription stimulants, and 0.4 million had use disorders. Cognitive enhancement was the most commonly reported reason for misusing prescription stimulants. Patients who are using their medication for cognitive enhancement or diverting their medication to others present a high risk.

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The American Journal of Psychiatry, v. 175, issue 8, p. 741-755