Non-medical Use of Prescription Drugs and its Association with Socio-demographic Characteristics, Dietary Pattern, and Perceived Academic Load and Stress in College Students in Puerto Rico

Jesmari Betancourt, Josué L. Ríos, Ideliz Pagán, Carla Fabián, Anaisa M. González, Sonia Y. Cruz, Michael J. González, Winna T. Rivera, Cristina Palacios


Objective: Stress can have deleterious effects on health and academic performance. Common stress-relieving activities among college students include the non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD). The aim of this study was to determine the associations between self-perceived academic load and stress, NMUPD (stimulants, depressants, and sleeping medication), and dietary pattern in college students in PR. Methods: A questionnaire to evaluate academic load and stress, NMUPD, and dietary pattern was used on a representative sample of 275 first- and second-year students from one campus. Results: In total, 27.6% reported NMUPD in the past 6 months, with higher use among students aged 21-30 years (93.4%) than in those aged 31-53 years (6.6%; p=0.062). Those with high levels of stress had higher NMUPD (42.1%) than did those with low (26.3%) or moderate (31.6%) stress levels, after controlling for age and sex (p=0.03). Among those who reported NMUPD over the previous 6 months, 74% reported that such use was effective as a coping strategy, and 35% reported that it helped them to improve academic performance. Although no significant association was found between NMUPD and dietary pattern, 57% of the participants reported that their appetites decreased when they engaged in NMUPD. Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study that has associated selfperceived academic load and stress, NMUPD, and dietary pattern among college students in Puerto Rico. NMUPD’s prevalence was 27.6%, which prevalence appeared to be higher in students aged 21-30 years than in those of any other age. High levels of stress were significantly related to high NMUPD in this sample.


academic stress, non-medical use of prescription drugs, dietary patterns

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