Cognitive performance enhancement: Misuse or self-treatment?

Alexander L. Peterkin, Catherine C. Crone, Michael J. Sheridan, Thomas N. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objective: This cross-sectional survey study examines the link between ADHD medication misuse and a positive screen for adult ADHD symptoms. Method: Surveys from 184 college student volunteers in Northern Virginia are collected and analyzed. Results: A total of 71% of ADHD stimulant misusers screen positive for ADHD symptoms. Misusers are 7 times more likely to be symptomatic for ADHD than those who do not misuse. Also, 87% of misusers indicate that they do so for academic reasons, and 76% believe that the misuse of the ADHD stimulants improve their grades. Conclusion: ADHD stimulant misuse in college students is found to be strongly linked to having symptoms of adult ADHD. The desire for cognitive performance enhancement in college students may be a form of self-treatment for undiagnosed ADHD. College students need more accessibility to medical diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD to reduce the incidence of misuse in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-268
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ADHD
  • cognitive performance enhancement
  • stimulant misuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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