study drugs

Study Drugs

As competition increases amongst college students (for better grades, internships and ultimately jobs), so does the pressure to perform. And today, more and more students are turning to so-called “study drugs” (typically stimulants prescribed for the treatment of ADD or ADHD, such as Adderall) to help them increase productivity. But with a high potential for abuse and serious side effects, these drugs are creating serious problems for colleges (and their students).

Who is Using Study Drugs?

According to a 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, full time college students are twice as likely as non full time students to have misused study drugs. Some researchers put this number at 30% of college students, with higher misuse at competitive universities. Upperclassmen are also more likely to misuse study drugs as their course load becomes more difficult and demanding.


Why Are Students Misusing Study Drugs?

Study drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are typically prescribed for people who suffer from ADD or ADHD. These drugs change the chemicals in the brain and increase certain neurotransmitters, allowing higher levels of focus and concentration. Many students turn to study drugs as a way to study for extended periods of time without rest.


Are Study Drugs Dangerous?

While these drugs may, in the short term, help the student to concentrate, there are extremely negative side effects for the misuse and/or abuse of study drugs. Some of these potential side effects are:

  • Increased nervousness/anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking/Tremors
  • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
  • Stomach pain and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Dehydration (especially dangerous when combined with alcohol)

Study drugs also have a high risk of dependence and addiction. And what’s scary is that many college students don’t see these drugs as harmful. According to a 2008 study of nearly 2000 college students, 81% surveyed said they considered the misuse of ADD or ADHD medication was “not dangerous at all.” Many students look at these drugs as harmless and believe they are taking them for the right reasons (i.e. to succeed academically). That combined with the general social acceptance of study drugs on college campuses has created a widespread dependence problem.

Common Study Drugs - Adderall Ritalin

What Do I Do if I Think My Child is Abusing Study Drugs?


It can be difficult for a parent to know if their child is abusing study drugs. Keep your eyes open for physical signs (such as erratic behavior, clear lack of sleep or unexplained weight loss) and listen to your child. Are they constantly pulling “all-nighters?” Are they overly concerned with academic performance and willing to go to any lengths for a certain grade? Often times, our loved ones will tell us everything we need to know if we make ourselves available to listen.

If you find out your child is abusing study drugs, you will want to connect them with a recovery community, drug rehab or addiction specialist to assess their level of dependence and get them the help that they need to quit study drugs once and for all.

While study drugs are a growing problem in the college community, there is much we can do to combat it. Talk to your loved ones early and often about the harmful effects of study drugs and how they can avoid falling into abuse while at school.


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