Cognitive enhancement drug use among resident physicians: Prevalence and motivations for use - results from a survey

Dafna Sara Rubin-Kahana*, Ziv Rubin-Kahana, Maya Kuperberg, Rafael Stryjer, Dorit Yodashkin-Porat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Non-medical use of prescription drugs for the enhancement of cognitive functioning has gained popularity in recent years, especially among young educated adults. To our knowledge, no previous study investigated this phenomenon among resident physicians. Objective: To analyze cognitive enhancement drugs use motivations and patterns among resident physicians. Methods: A survey and statistical analysis regarding the use of drugs traditionally prescribed for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: stimulants, amphetamines and modafinil. Participants: 1,453 residents who took their written residency exam in the summer of 2017. The response rate was 32.3%. Results: 28.1% of responders reported past use, with 73.67% of them reporting use without a related medical diagnosis. Almost half of the users (47.1%) acquired the drug with a prescription, but without a diagnosis of a related medical disorder. The first use was predominantly during residency (54.3%), with 45% reporting it as related to the residency exam. Factors found to positively impact non-medical use include: declaring undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, fear of failing the exam, a belief that more than 30% of other examinees take cognitive enhancements drugs, and a learning disability diagnosis. Self-reports of being a competitive person and being a parent, were negatively correlated with non-medical use. Conclusions: The use of drugs that are taken traditionally for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is common among resident physicians, both with and without related medical indication. Interestingly, factors associated with the fear of being “left behind” increase non-medical use and not the desire to succeed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-256
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Addictive Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2020


  • cognitive enhancement
  • physicians
  • prescription stimulants
  • residents
  • substance misuse


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