Adderall Abuse Among College Students, Twitter Findings Track Use

Abuse of the ADHD drug Adderall is growing among college students who use the stimulant as an academic study aid. A team of researchers out of Brigham Young University used the social networking site Twitter to track when and where Adderrall use occurs.

For the study, researchers monitored Twitter mentions that referenced the ADHD drug Adderall, omitting posts from accounts that had the term in their screen name.  Tweets were studied from November 2011 until May 2012.

The resulting data showed that from 132,099 unique users, 213,633 tweets mentioned Adderall. The average rate of Adderall mentions was 930 per day. Analysis of the mentions did not differentiate legal use from illegal use, but researchers noted a spike in Adderall tweets during college finals. Data showed that on Dec.13, there were 2,813 tweets that mentioned Adderall and 2,207 mentions of the drug on April 30.

"Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students. Our concern is that the more it becomes a social norm in online conversation, the higher risk there is of more people abusing it," lead researcher and professor of health science at Bringham Young University Carl Hanson said in a press release.

Additional findings were that Adderall tweets peaked mid week and declined by the end of the week. The new findings coincide with prior research that showed that academic stress was the cause of ADHD stimulant drug abuse by college students.

"It's not like they're using it as a party drug on the weekend. This data suggests that they're using it as a study aid. Many of the tweets even made a study reference," Hanson said.  

The highest rate of Adderall tweets came from college and universities located in the northeast and southern areas of the United States.

 Twitter analysis from the study also showed that other substances were mentioned with Adderall 9 percent of the time. The most common were alcohol at 4.8 percent and other stimulants including coffee and Red Bull at 4.7 percent. Cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines and Xanax were also mentioned along with Adderall in some tweets.  

"Tweets hinting at co-ingestion are particularly troubling because morbidity and mortality risk increases when substances are combined," health science professor and study co-author, Michael Barnes said.

Findings from the six-month study appears online in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research

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