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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


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.

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eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685