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ERIC Number: ED548936
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 320
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2677-5295-6
Academic Performance Enhancement Drugs in Higher Education
Aikins, Ross Douglas
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles
Higher education is a place where students are known to navigate various stages of psychosocial development, and experiment with psychoactive substances. Extant research detailing the relationship between drugs and student development typically frame the impact of substance use as exclusively negative or harmful to student health and the outcomes of college going, including individual achievement and degree completion. However, with the rise of ADHD stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall, new drugs with purported cognitive benefits (i.e., "nootropics") are increasingly used by college students to augment productivity and meet academic goals. The shift from recreational to functional, academically motivated drug use problematizes prevention and revives an urgent need for student health research in this modem "enhancement" context. Previous research has called for more atheoretical, descriptive data about how nootropic drug circulate illegally on college campuses. The present study responds to this call and aims to uniquely situate this new phenomenon using the theoretical framework of perceived self-efficacy (PSE), identifying underexplored risk factors and psychological covariates. Through in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of forty-one undergraduate and graduate students at a highly selective university, this doctoral dissertation employs a phenomenological approach to explore the lived experiences of students who use drugs both licitly and illicitly for academic purposes. Participants were asked about their experiences and specific habits with drugs, and about the perceived risks, benefits, or harms attributable to drug diversion and use. Interviews yielded valuable descriptive data about varying use habits, which ranged from legal, responsible, or occasional use, to alarming dosages, violent dealer interactions, and intranasal or polydrug abuse. Results suggest that students generally feel that the academic benefits of stimulant medications overwhelmingly outweigh negative physiological side effects. Most students were also wary of the long-term risk of developing psychological drug dependence, and several resented feeling reliant. The impact of stimulant medications on students' procrastination and study habits was especially surprising. Theoretically, nootropics seem to temporarily inflate PSE, but whether they do so at the expense of developing autonomous, generalizable, self-regulative skills that persist without drugs is unclear. Results suggest that the favorability of these developmental tradeoffs depends on the strength and source of achievement attributions-either intrinsically (to the self) or extrinsically (to drugs or medicated self). The findings of this study illuminate several avenues for future research, also providing suggestions for drug policy and prevention. As prescription stimulant use continues to trend upward on college campuses, the significance of these research contributions cannot be understated in an era of increasing pharmacological reliance. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A