Adderall Trending on Twitter

Adderall abuse by college students suggest problem on the rise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) College kids have been abusing Adderall to help them study for a while now. But thousands of tweets about Adderall suggest that Adderall abuse has become too much of the norm.

A recent study looked closely at social media mentions of a prescription stimulant by college students around finals week.

The results of the study showed that many college students have been misusing and abusing this prescription stimulant to study, and may be putting themselves at risk for harm.

"Only take Adderall as directed by your doctor."

Carl Hanson, PhD, associate professor of health science at Brigham Young University in Utah, led a team to research college student communications on Twitter about abusing a psychostimulant medication to study.

Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine, brand name Adderall, is a prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students,” said the study authors.

According to these authors, misuse and abuse of Adderall to help with academic performance has become quite common, with rates of abuse at certain colleges reaching as high as 43 percent of students.

For this study, the researchers monitored the social media website Twitter for public-facing messages that mentioned the word “Adderall." On Twitter, users can post a message, known as a tweet, of up to 140 characters for the public to read.

The researchers found 213,633 tweets from 132,099 different users that mentioned the word “Adderall” over the course of the six-month study period.

“The vast majority of tweets discussed Adderall use in a joking, sarcastic, or casual manner,” said the study authors.

The following are a list of original tweets found by the study authors:

  • “Adderall stockpile for finals”
  • “Running on coffee and Adderall”
  • “We would all graduate with a 4.0 if Adderall was sold over the counter”

The researchers then classified the tweets by time of day, day of the week and proximity to the nearest university.

Further digging showed that 13 percent of the tweets mentioned the use of Adderall as a tool, like a study aid. Roughly 5 percent of the tweets talked about Adderall in relation to sleep deprivation and 3 percent mentioned loss of appetite.

Nearly 5 percent of tweets also mentioned alcohol or stimulants, such as coffee or energy drinks, in conjunction with Adderall.

Spikes in Adderall mentions on Twitter were found during finals week in the fall and spring. For example, Adderall tweets peaked on December 13th with 2,813 mentions and April 30th with 2,207 mentions. On the other hand, Adderall tweets dipped to a low of 292 on December 25th and 440 on May 27th, when classes were over.

Tweets about Adderall were more common on days in the middle of the academic week compared to the weekend days.

Further, tweets about Adderall were most common in the northeast and southern regions of the US.

The authors suggested that the regional clustering of Adderall use might have to do with higher concentrations of fraternities and sororities in those regions and the increased use of Adderall in those organizations.

The authors said the tweets about Adderall could indicate that misuse and abuse of Adderall has become socially acceptable. In addition, the tweets that mentioned Adderall along with other substances could indicate that students think it’s not dangerous to mix these substances together.

A limitation to the study, according to the authors, could be that some of the tweets were quoting song lyrics that mention Adderall, rather than talking about actually using Adderall. 

“Given the risks and trends for Adderall acceptance among college-age students, there is a need to renew interest and priorities to influence college campus norms, promote the safe and legal use of these substances, and promote stronger student wellbeing and study habits to better manage the academic demands and pressures that are typical on college campuses in the United States,” the authors concluded.

This study was published in May in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

No outside funding sources were listed by the authors. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 6, 2013
Last Updated:
October 21, 2013