The misuse of prescription stimulants (MPS) has been identified as an adverse health behavior among college students. Because stimulant medication is often taken to increase focus and decrease reaction time, these substances have the potential to enhance athletic performance. However, the role that athlete status (varsity athlete vs. non-athlete) has on MPS has rarely been examined in the college student population.
To examine whether there are differences in past-year MPS and MPS-related motivations between college varsity athletes and non-athletes.
A sample of 682 (482 non-athletes; 200 athletes) college students between the ages of 18 and 25 completed a paper-based questionnaire to assess MPS, MPS-related motivations, and other potential MPS correlates (e.g., gender, energy drink consumption, tobacco use, heavy episodic drinking). Then, we conducted bivariate and multivariate analyses to examine potential correlates of MPS, including athlete status. Finally, we examined differences in MPS-related motivations between varsity athletes and non-athletes.
Overall, 98 (13.9%; 16.6% non-athletes v. 7.5% varsity athletes) respondents reported past-year MPS and varsity athletes were significantly less likely (p < 0.05) to do so. Past-year MPS was also significantly associated with energy drink consumption, tobacco use, and heavy episodic drinking in our sample. Concerning MPS-related motivations, athletes more often cited a need to enhance athletic performance as the impetus for their misuse.
MPS was prevalent among the sample. Varsity athletes were significantly less likely to engage in past-year MPS and were motivated to do so for different reasons.