Motives for illicit prescription drug use among university students: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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    Abstract

    Background

    There is a growing body of research on the motives for prescription drug misuse (PDM) among university students. However, the overall findings of this research are hard to decipher. Studies use different methods, they examine different drug types, the motives are phrased in various ways, and the results differ widely. In order to make sense of this body of knowledge, it is necessary to synthesise the results across studies and draw out conclusions.

    Methods

    The research comprises a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on the motives of university students for illicit use of four different types of prescription medication (stimulants, analgesics, tranquillisers and sedatives). The search for studies was conducted on six bibliographic databases with stated criteria governing search eligibility and inclusion in the final review.

    Results

    Overall, the most prevalent motives for PDM among university students cover some kind of personal enhancement to the user in terms of performance (in relation to sports, and academic outcomes), mental health (ability sleep, to reduce anxiety), or physical health (manage pre-existing illnesses). Fewer than half of users said that they were involved in PDM for pleasure purposes (to party, to get high, or to experiment).

    Conclusion

    PDM among students might be viewed as a means of self-improvement when other means of achieving desired objectives are unavailable or restricted. A more thorough understanding of motives for PDM, especially in relation to their influence on behaviour, might help in devising university-based treatment and prevention programmes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1941
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
    Volume44
    Early online date23 Mar 2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2017

    Keywords

    • prescription drug misuse
    • University students
    • systematic review
    • meta-analysis

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