Original Research

Non-medical use of methylphenidate among medical students of the University of the Free State

Roshini Jain, Ch Chiech Chang, Mpho Koto, Alden Geldenhuys, Richard Nichol, Gina Joubert
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 23 | a1006 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v23i0.1006 | © 2017 Roshini Jain, Ch Chiech Chang, Mpho Koto, Alden Geldenhuys, Richard Nichol, Gina Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 May 2016 | Published: 20 January 2017

About the author(s)

Roshini Jain, School of Medicine, University of the Free State, South Africa
Ch Chiech Chang, School of Medicine, University of the Free State, South Africa
Mpho Koto, School of Medicine, University of the Free State, South Africa
Alden Geldenhuys, School of Medicine, University of the Free State, South Africa
Richard Nichol, Department of Psychiatry (G66), University of the Free State, South Africa
Gina Joubert, Department of Biostatistics (G31), University of the Free State, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Faced with demanding training programmes, medical students may be more prone to use methylphenidate for non-medical purposes in order to improve concentration, alertness and academic performance.

Aim: The study aimed to investigate the prevalence of the non-medical use of methylphenidate and knowledge of this drug among undergraduate medical students of the University of the Free State.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. A self-administered, anonymous questionnaire was distributed during lectures to all students in the five year groups of the undergraduate medical programme.

Results: Of the 643 undergraduate medical students, 541 completed the questionnaire (response rate: 84.1%). Approximately 11.0% of surveyed students were using methylphenidate at the time of the study, of which the majority (67.9%) used it for academic purposes and 70.6% received it from a medical health professional. Less than a third of users had been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Methylphenidate users’ median knowledge was greater than non-users, and methylphenidate knowledge increased from first-year and second-year students to third-year to fifth-year students. Median knowledge scores per year group ranged from 52.0% to 60.0%.

Conclusion: Methylphenidate is mainly used for non-medical purposes by medical students. Students generally have a low level of knowledge on methylphenidate. Specific information on methylphenidate should be included in lectures on stress management and study methods during the course of the medical curriculum.


Keywords

methylphenidate; non-medical use; medical students; knowledge

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