5 Important Things to Know About Study Drugs

college students

College is an important time in a young person’s life, as they get to spread their wings and leave home for the first time. While this can be exciting, it can also become overwhelming. When the pressures of academics, extracurricular activities, employment and social activities pile up, many college students end up feeling stressed. And, since they don’t have their parents watching over them, they may not know how to cope. 

According to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, half of the 5.4 million full-time college students in the U.S. use drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month. Furthermore, about 23 percent of college students met the medical definition for alcohol or substance abuse or dependence. While rates of cannabis are high, prescription drugs and illicit drugs are becoming more popular, particularly, study drugs. 

What are Study Drugs? 

Study drugs are stimulant prescription medications used illegally for the purpose of being able to focus and stay awake. Research consistently shows that these drugs are a problem on college campuses, with as many as 20 percent of college students misusing them. The most commonly used drugs are those that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. 

If you have a child in college, or you are in college, it’s important to know about the dangers of study drugs. They might appear harmless due to the fact that they are prescribed by doctors, but misusing these medications carries risk. 

5 Things to Know About ADHD Drugs 

Education is crucial when it comes to prescription drug misuse. Here are five important things to know about ‘study buddy’ pills like Adderall. 

1. Study drugs do not improve academic performance. 

Prescription stimulants are used to increase alertness and energy for a short period of time. Sometimes, people will take them without a prescription or not as prescribed to increase their stamina, energy or concentration. That’s why they are called ‘study drugs.’ 

While ADHD medications can help you stay awake longer, they do not increase learning or thinking ability, and they do not lead to improved grades. In fact, research shows that study drugs can lead to more erratic thinking and a false sense of security.

2. Some people experience negative side effects. 

Just like other medications that have risks and side effects, so do prescription stimulants. When doctors prescribe these medications for a patient, they start with a low dose and monitor them for side effects. When someone uses these medications without a prescription or not as prescribed, they are more likely to experience side effects such as: 

  • Increased anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia 
  • Headaches 
  • Mood swings 
  • Increased heart rate 

two college students studying

3. College students often mix study drugs with other substances. 

Another concerning element is that many college students combine ‘study buddy’ pills with other substances like alcohol or cannabis. One report found that 90 percent of college students who used Adderall illegally also binge drank. Stimulants make it harder to determine how intoxicated you are, raising the risk for overconsumption, impaired coordination and judgment, black-outs, pass-outs and even death.  

4. ADHD medications can be addictive when misused. 

In people who have trouble controlling their behavior or paying attention, ADHD drugs can be beneficial. But in someone who does not have these issues, ADHD medications can be addictive. For someone who uses them regularly, withdrawal symptoms can occur if they try to quit or cut back, such as tiredness, depression and sleep problems. If the person can no longer access the drug, they may turn to other substances, progressing the cycle of substance use

5. There are effective alternatives to study drugs. 

There is no evidence that shows that taking prescription stimulants enhances performance. Even though these drugs can make you feel more alert does not mean this improves test-taking skills. Fortunately, there are safer alternatives that can increase performance:

  • Scheduling study time. Studying doesn’t need to happen all at once. Break up your time into chunks and study when you feel your best. Taking breaks in between is also helpful, as it prevents mental fatigue and improves productivity. 
  • Getting enough rest. It’s not always easy to get restful sleep in college, but it’s one of the best ways to improve grades. Be consistent, create a routine and limit caffeine before bed. A 15-minute power nap can also do wonders for increasing alertness and attention. 
  • Reduce distractions. Find the best environment to study in, such as a library or lounge. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode, let friends know you can’t make plans that day and eliminate anything else that might disrupt your studies. Also, have everything required to study efficiently - water, snacks, good lighting, etc. 

By practicing these healthy habits from the start, college students can reduce the risk of turning to substances like study drugs. These drugs create the illusion that you’re being more productive, as they do improve focus and alertness. However, this does not translate to better grades or athletic performance and can actually make them worse by creating a false sense of security. Most concerning is that study drugs can raise the risk for dependence, addiction and mental disorders. 

Getting Help for an Addiction to Study Drugs 

If you are experiencing an addiction to study drugs, contact Recovery Cove in Easton, PA today. We work with young adults to help stabilize addictive behaviors, uncover their root problems and provide a clear path to recovery. With our convenient outpatient programs, it’s even possible to continue school while receiving a high level of treatment. You can reach our admissions team at 484-549-COVE, or fill out our contact form and someone will contact you shortly.