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Campus Study Aims to Examine Scope and Correlates of Prescription Stimulant Misuse

Dr. Niloofar Bavarian Photo

Prescription stimulant misuse is a growing issue in the college population. This health-compromising behavior has become so prevalent that popular television shows and movies have started incorporating the topic into storylines. Dr. Niloofar Bavarian (Health Science) has been studying the behavior ever since she was a graduate student at Oregon State University. At that time, research on the issue was in its infancy.

For her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Bavarian used an ecological theory (The Theory of Triadic Influence) to examine the behavior. After an extensive literature review, Dr. Bavarian developed and validated the Behaviors, Expectancies, Attitudes and College Health Questionnaire (BEACH-Q), an instrument that allows for prescription stimulant misuse to be comprehensively studied.

After receiving a grant from the Pacific Coast College Health Association, Dr. Bavarian implemented the survey amongst a sample of students. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Bavarian received a grant to replicate the study. She was able to use structural equation modeling to test the predictive ability of the Theory of Triadic Influence in explaining prescription stimulant misuse (the first known study to test the full theory). Findings from both studies, which illustrate the motives (e.g., academic and recreational) and multifaceted etiology of the behavior (correlates occur at the intrapersonal, social, and environmental levels), have been published in Drug & Alcohol Dependence, Health Education & Behavior, and Substance Use & Misuse. Moreover, findings from both studies have been used by each campus to better address the high-risk behavior.

Stimulant misuse

Motives for prescription stimulant misuse are often, though not always, academic in nature (Photo from Kenneth Song of the Daily Nexus).

Now an Assistant Professor at CSULB, Dr. Bavarian, along with a team of student research assistants, will conduct a pilot study to examine the extent of the problem among undergraduate students at CSULB. In early Spring 2016, randomly selected instructors will be invited to share 20 minutes of class time to have their students complete the survey.

Once the data are analyzed, high-risk groups and modifiable risk factors will be identified, and findings will be shared with key stakeholders in order to develop and implement prevention and intervention strategies. Moreover, given the varying policy environments at the three campuses that will have implemented the BEACH-Q to date, Dr. Bavarian looks forward to examining whether variations in campus policies that affect the availability of prescription stimulants will influence prevalence of misuse.

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