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Nov 26, 2013 03:00 PM EST

College Students Using Adderall, Combining it With Other Substances and Tweeting About it More Often


A lot of college age people are discussing the use of Adderall, a medication often used to treat ADHD, on Twitter, according to a new Internet-based study.

According to news release accompanying the study, a leading reason for the use of Adderall, especially for students in college, is to sharpen their focus on tests and for other academic purposes.

For example, instead of getting a full night of sleep, a student may cram for a test, barely sleep and take Adderall before the test to enhance their focus. The researchers found the drug is used most in the middle and end of semesters, or time periods most associated with exams. They also found the drug was most frequently mentioned by users from the Northeast and Southern regions of the U.S.

"It's not like they're using it as a party drug on the weekend," lead researcher Carl Hanson, a professor of health science at Brigham Young University (BYU), said in the release. "This data suggests that they're using it as a study aid. Many of the tweets even made a study reference."

The study found that those who use the pharmaceutical drug are not just doing it, but discussing it openly on Twitter.

To avoid what is known as the Hawthorne Effect, "where the presence of the researchers biases the response," the researchers collected data from Twitter keyword searches. They also were able to track the geographical locations of the Twitter users with the social media's location services feature.

The researchers collected 213,633 tweets from 132,099 unique users from Nov. 29, 2011 to May 31, 2012 containing the keyword "Adderall."

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

Although not typically associated with partying, many people who mentioned Adderall also mentioned other substances, mostly alcohol and stimulants like Red Bull and coffee. Other substances included Xanax, cocaine and marijuana.

"Tweets hinting at co-ingestion are particularly troubling because morbidity and mortality risk increases when substances are combined," said study co-author Michael Barnes.

The study authors hope their work encourages the promotion of natural health practices on campus and proper use of substances like Adderall and other prescription drugs.

Their work was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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