All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Laura L Talbott-Forbes

Advisory Committee Members

Jenna M Lachenaye

Heith Copes

John A Dantzler

Stuart L Usdan

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


Among college students, the prevalence of the non-medical use of prescription stimulants (NMUPS) is higher than other prescription drug categories and higher compared to NMUPS prevalence among the general population of young adults. NMUPS is highest among college students and continues to be growing problem across college campuses. Monitoring the Future reported the national annual prevalence of NMUPS was 8.0% among young adults aged 19-28 years and 10.1% among college students in 2014 rising drastically from 5.3% and 5.7%, respectively, in 2008. NMUPS can be defined as the use without a prescription, use for non-medical reasons (i.e. to stay awake), and/or use in excess of what has been prescribed by a health care professional. The literature reveals several factors associated with students’ NMUPS including polydrug use, family history of substance use disorders, history of major depression and anxiety disorders, poor academic performance, accessibility, peer influence, college competitiveness, geographical location, perception of risk or harm, other substance use, sensation-seeking personality, delinquent or anti-social behavior, religious beliefs, marital status, and health insurance. However, there is a lack of research that explained how these factors affected students NMUPS decisions. This study explored intrapersonal factors, social context, and cultural environment in the student experience regarding NMUPS for academic purposes on a traditional campus and an urban commuter non-traditional campus in the Southeastern US guided by the Theory of Triadic Influence (TTI). This study employed constructivist qualitative methodology with a grounded theory approach to analysis to develop a theory to explain how and why students make their NMUPS decisions. The study examined student’s decision-making process related to NMUPS and how NMUPS-related factors revealed in the literature influence students’ decision-making process. The analysis of 18 semi-structured interviews with undergraduate students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama provided an in-depth understanding of how intrapersonal factors, social context, and cultural environment influence students’ NMUPS intentions and decisions. The implications of this study provide college health educators a different perspective to build campus prevention efforts for college students.

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