Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Eric Benotsch


The non-medical use of prescription drugs is an important public health concern. Non-medical use of prescription stimulants (NMUPS), specifically medications used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is particularly concerning. One timely concern regarding NMUPS, especially among young adults, is their role in appetite suppression/weight loss. Indeed, some individuals are motivated to misuse such drugs for the purpose of losing weight. Engaging in NMUPS for weight loss has been examined only minimally in the research literature. However, extant data demonstrate that this behavior is associated with other unhealthy behaviors and poor psychosocial health. Limitations of prior research include the exclusive use of college student samples and little attention to relevant health behavior theory. The current study investigated NMUPS for weight loss in a national, young adult sample (n = 1526), ages 18-25 years, utilizing Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Motivations and attitudes about NMUPS were evaluated, within the framework of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). A structural equation model (SEM) was analyzed, which included attitudes; social norms; and perceived behavioral control (PBC) to lose weight without stimulants, as predictors of engaging in past year NMUPS for weight loss. Approximately 12.0% of participants reported lifetime NMUPS for weight loss, and of these, 48.4% reported past year use. Findings demonstrate that use is related to disordered eating and unhealthy weight loss behaviors, including vomiting; high rates of other substance use; and psychological concerns, including body dissatisfaction and depressive symptomatology. These results suggest that NMUPS for weight loss is associated with a variety of negative consequences and users are not well-informed regarding medication knowledge. The SEM provided adequate overall fit to the data; two of the four social norms and both PBC factors were significantly associated with NMUPS for weight loss. This study extends the literature on the utility of the TPB in examining NMUPS, and provides the first research on utilizing the TPB to examine NMUPS for weight loss. Methods aimed at increasing PBC regarding stimulant use and weight loss, and emphasizing healthful and sustaining weight loss strategies, improving mental health, and educating about polysubstance use are potential intervention targets.


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