Category: Professional Posters
Purpose: Multiple studies have reported nonmedical prescription stimulant use among medical, physician assistant, dental, and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) students. Limited studies have analyzed nonmedical prescription stimulant use in Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students. Cognitive enhancing drugs (CEDs) can encompass prescription stimulants as well as other prescription medications, supplements, and agents. The objectives of this study are to analyze the current trends in CED use, lifestyle, and stress levels among United States (U.S.) pharmacy students.
Methods: A 35-item web-based survey was administered through Qualtrics to five PharmD programs across the U.S between May 8 and June 7, 2019. Student participants were recruited via a listserv email announcement sent by the faculty representative from each of the five PharmD programs. Specific variables assessed included the following: demographics, CED use, lifestyle (food and housing security, sleep, exercise, work, and extracurricular activities), and stress levels. Food and housing security were measured via the validated U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement (CPS-FSS) which screens individuals for food and housing insecurity. Stress was measured via the validated Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) survey (out of 40 points) which screens individuals based on their current stress levels. Skip logic was employed throughout the survey to enhance subject motivation and alertness. Participants who completed the survey had the option of being included in a random drawing for one of 15 $10 gift cards.
Results: A total of 279 students completed the survey from the five PharmD programs. Most participants were female (69.1%) and single (89.1%) with a mean age of 20.8±1.5 years. The majority of respondents classified their race as Asian (48.4%), followed by white (20.7%), and Hispanic (12.2%). Prescription medication CEDs were misused by 9.3% of students to enhance academic performance, with stimulants being the most popular (8.2%); less common prescription medications included beta blockers, modafinil, and armodafinil. The highest rated reasons for using a prescription stimulant were to improve concentration (4.0±1.16, out of 5.0 scale) and perform better academically (3.7±1.4). The majority of students used some type of supplement or agent (87.0%) to enhance academic performance of which caffeine drinks (78.1%) and energy drinks (32.2%) were most common. Roughly 1 in 5 students were always/usually worried about having nutritious food (22.5%) or paying rent/mortgage (18.2%). Students slept 7.1±1.0 hours on typical nights, slept 5.6±1.6 hours on days before exams/deadlines, exercised 66.3±100.2 minutes/week, worked for pay 8.7±8.0 hours/week, and took part in community service/organizations/leadership activities 93.9±458.9 hours/year. The mean PSS score was 20.0 ± 6.3 (range 14-26), which is considered moderate stress and almost double the general population and U.S. pharmacy school faculty.
Conclusion: CED use, in particular prescription stimulants, continues to be prevalent among U.S. PharmD students. Student stress levels appear higher than the general population and may be attributed to food or housing insecurities as well as balancing academics, work, and extracurricular activities. This information may help pharmacy programs better understand their students and to consider a reassessment of student mental health and lifestyle resources available at their institution.