Repository logo

A social science perspective on literature relating to medically prescribed stimulants: a systematic review.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Introduction: Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall are well-known medical drugs used to treat and manage attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Over the past couple of decades, there has been an increase in the medical prescriptions, consumption, and research of medically prescribed stimulants (MPS). A review of the literature indicated that common areas of enquiry were the use and wrongful use of MPS and suggested a great emphasis on academics and educational settings. The research indicated an ever increasing presence of MPS and reinforced the need for a consolidated overview of the available literature so that there is a deeper understanding and a guide for future research. Method: A systematic review was conducted; this was guided by the Cochrane Framework. A predetermined inclusion and exclusion were utilised, and various journal databases were searched using the JBI Reviewers Manual three-phase search strategy. The articles were analysed for eligibility for the study and then underwent coding. SPSS was used to analyse the data and measures of frequency and measures of central tendency were used. Results: This review included 167 research articles. Of that, 67.1% of them were from the USA and 89.8% of them emerged from first-world countries. Questionnaires and surveys were the most common data collection method, with 59.9% of the reviewed articles using them, and statistical analysis was the most common data analysis method, recording 46.1% of articles with this analysis method. Adults (over 18s) were the most common sample group, recording 67.1% of articles and 66.5% of the articles focused and investigated student populations. The top emerging themes associated with MPS use were academics (46.1%), prescriptions (13.8%), socioeconomic/demographic factors (12%) and attitudes and perceptions (7.2%). The top emerging themes associated with MPS wrongful use were academics (46.7%), attitudes and perceptions (12%), socioeconomic/demographic factors (8.4%) and prescriptions (6%). The majority of the data collection took place in a tertiary education setting (57.5%). Conclusion: This review recorded an abundance of MPS literature focusing on academics or an academic setting, suggesting these are frequently linked in the literature. There is an uneven representation in the literature, with minimal amounts of research emerging from developing/third-world countries. It also indicated the high concern over the wrongful use of MPS and the need for further investigations into different settings to form a comprehensive understanding of MPS.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.