Exploring memorable messages about the misuse of prescription stimulants : predicting behavioral intention and illicit stimulant use
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The illicit use of prescription stimulants among college undergraduates is a prevalent and dangerous problem on college campuses across the United States. Though classified by the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency as schedule II controlled substances (U.S. Department of Justice, 2008), undergraduates obtain these medications through peers and friends, and report misusing of these stimulants to aid their concentration and studying (DeSantis, Webb, & Noar, 2008). Because extant research concludes that the prevalence of the misuse of prescription stimulants (MPS) peaks among undergraduates, this research was guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985, 1991) as well as a memorable messages framework (Knapp, Stohl, & Reardon, 1981), and sought to examine the messages that college students recall about MPS, how those messages are associated with student’s intention to use stimulants directly, as well as indirectly through changes in attitudes, normative beliefs, and efficacy, and finally, to examine if receiving a memorable message predicts changes in intention to use, or actual use of stimulants over time. Data for the main study were collected in October 2014, and 137 undergraduate students reported a memorable message about MPS and were retained for analysis. Four weeks later, a follow-up survey was launched, and 89 undergraduates also completed the second survey. Results suggest that undergraduates do recall memorable messages about MPS, and the content focuses on the themes of academics, health outcomes, and responsible use. Additionally, memorable messages tended to be more negative than positive, and came from a variety of sources including close friends and peers, family members, instructors, and medical professionals, to name a few. Further, participants’ attitudes and normative beliefs were positively associated with behavioral intention at Time 1. Additionally, behavioral intention at Time 1 was positively associated with behavioral use at Time 2. The findings from this research provide several practical implications for future health education and promotion campaigns.