Stimulant Use Among Medical Students

Stimulant medication use is known to be high among high school and college students. Many report that these medications help them focus, stay awake longer, and perform better on tests. While over 40 such studies have been done in this population, almost nothing is known about use among medical students. This is surprising since these students will eventually become the prescribers of such medications.  

Jadon Webb, a child psychiatry fellow at the Yale Child Study Center, and his colleagues investigated stimulant use in medical students, and found it to be quite high. Approximately 20% reported having used stimulants in their lifetime, while 15% report use during medical school. Nearly 1 in 3 white medical students reported using stimulants at some point, and over 80% report using them specifically to help with academic work.

Dr. Webb says, “College students who use stimulants often were noted to be having academic difficulties, and may have been using stimulants as a way of catching up or simply using them recreationally. Medical students in this survey were different. Those who used them had the same medical school test scores as those who did not, and perceived themselves to be just as healthy. Perhaps stimulant use in medical students has a more pragmatic, functional quality to it. The use of performance enhancing drugs is a tough issue that we will have to confront in coming years.”

Jadon Webb obtained his M.D. and Ph.D. at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX, and is a first year fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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This article was submitted by Emily E.H. Hau on March 21, 2013.

Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.