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ADHD drug abuse spikes during final exams, trends on Twitter

May 2, 2013 at 11:55 PM   |   Comments

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SALT LAKE CITY, May 2 (UPI) -- A growing number of college students abuse the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder medication Adderall especially during final exams, U.S. researchers say.

Lead researcher Carl Hanson, a professor of health science at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, said a growing number of college students abuse Adderall to give them an academic edge, and they're tweeting about it. Hanson and colleagues tracked roughly when and where Adderall use occurred using twitter over a six-month period.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, produced two major revelations about Adderall:

-- It is mentioned most heavily among students in the northeast and south regions of the United States.

-- Tweets about Adderall peak sharply during final exam periods.

"Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students," Hanson said in a statement. "Our concern is that the more it becomes a social norm in online conversation, the higher risk there is of more people abusing it."

The researchers monitored all public-facing Twitter mentions of "Adderall" from November 2011 to May 2012, but removed tweets from users whose screen-names indicated they were promoting Adderall.

The study showed 213,633 tweets from 132,099 unique users mentioned the drug during the study, with an average of 930 per day. Though the analysis didn't sort out "legal" vs. "illegal," use, Adderall tweets spiked sharply during traditional finals periods, with peaks on Dec. 13 at 2,813 tweets and April 30 at 2,207 tweets.

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

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