The Effect of ADHD and Psychotropic Medication use on College Performance
Melody Y. Knight, Larry P. Knight, Lorraine Killion

The use of psychotropic medication in children and adolescents has been increasing steadily over the past 20- 25 years. Of particular concern are medications for the control of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Olfson, Marcus, Weissman, & Jensen, 2002; National Conference of State Legislatures, 2004; Kelleher, McInerney, Gardner, Childs, & Wasserman, 2000; Safer, 1997; Zito, Riddle, Safer, & Magder, 1995). The percentage of college students using prescription psychoactive medications for ADHD is unknown. Of all medications used for this disorder, stimulants are most often prescribed for treatment of ADHD in this age group and are seen as an effective treatment for this disorder (Staufer & Greydanus, 2005; Baverstock & Finlay, 2003). Students enrolled at a regional university in South Texas were surveyed (N=199). Of students surveyed, only ten identified themselves as having been diagnosed with ADHD and of these only seven used prescribed medications. The most commonly prescribed medication was Ritalin, followed by Concerta, Adderal and Vivance. The behaviors the medications were used to control included: excitability, disruptive behavior, inability to be still, inability to concentrate and the inability to follow instructions. All students with diagnosed ADHD identified at least one of these behaviors as needing to be controlled. Two students reportedly had difficulties with four of the five listed behaviors, while most indicated at least two. Side effects of the medications mentioned by the students included: sleeplessness, loss of appetite, feelings of fatigue, headaches, dehydration, feeling like a zombie, and in one case, worse behavior. Several students indicated that they had moved from medication to medication in an effort to minimize these side effects. In two cases, use was discontinued because the side effects were so bothersome. In this study, students with self-reported ADHD, with or without medication, did not have a significantly lower GPA than those not diagnosed with ADHD. Though the overall mean was lower (2.799 for those with ADHD, compared to 2.968 for those without), this difference was too small to be significant.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijhs.v3n2a2