Most Commonly Abused “Study Drugs” on College Campuses

most commonly abused study drugs, graphing calculator, homework, and pills

By Cristina Utti MFA, MA

College is a time when teenagers blossom into adulthood. Some commute to college from home, and some spread their wings and go to a college away from home, leaving their parents for the very first time.

It is common knowledge that many college students will drink and party to excess now that they do not have their parents watching over them. But along with the newfound freedom comes the stress of growing up. College students often feel overwhelmed when trying to balance intense academics, employment, extracurriculars, and social life.

More and more each day, college students are turning to “study drugs” for the purpose of having the energy to study, write papers, and cram for exams. “Study drugs” are stimulant prescription drugs used illegally for the purpose of being able to focus and stay awake longer to study. The most commonly abused study drugs for this purpose are those used for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Below are the most commonly abused study drugs in descending order:

AdderallAdderall is the most commonly abused “study drug” among college students. It is a Schedule ll amphetamine used to treat ADD and ADHD.

RitalinRitalin is very similar to Adderall. These study drugs help increase focus and attention span. Students take these so that they can concentrate on their studies for extended hours.

Concerta – Concerta is another prescription drug in the same family of drugs as Ritalin and Adderall.

Focalin – Focalin is a stimulant that is also used to treat ADD and ADHD. Students also use this for the same effect of being able to stay awake and focus on their studies for hours upon hours.

Vyvanse – Vyvanse is a prescription medication that is used for the treatment of ADD and ADHD. This is also a widely abused study drug among college students.

Modanfinil – Modafinil is used to treat narcolepsy. It is not a stimulant medication. This study drug makes the user stay awake and alert for up to twelve hours. It is only available by prescription.

Adrafinil – This drug is similar to Modanfinil. Like Modanfinil, it is a Nootropic drug. These study drugs increase blood flow to the brain, increasing neurotransmitter activity. Adrafinil is banned in France yet remains unregulated in the U.S.

Phenylpiracetam – This is another Nootropic drug which affects mental alertness. It is also unregulated in the United States and can be purchased online.

Caffeine Pills – Caffeine has been used for many years by many people. Having a cup or few cups of coffee in the morning is commonplace in most homes across the U.S. Caffeine pills have been around for awhile, too, giving the user a stronger boost of energy than that espresso or cup of coffee.

The effects of study drugs are enticing for college students. The study drugs seem to provide short-term alertness to help users get through an all-nighter of studying for exams and perform better academically. Individuals who are taking prescription medications for ADD or ADHD are known to give or sell them to friends and acquaintances during crunch time at school, thinking that they are helping them.

Here are some study drugs facts:
  • Among people 18-22 years old, full-time college students are twice as likely to use study drugs as those who do not attend college.
  • By the second year of college, roughly half of college students have been offered the opportunity to use a prescription drug.
  • One in every four college students reports using these medications for non-medical reasons at least once in their lives.
Taking these study drug medications without a prescription from a doctor can cause serious side effects such as:
  • Increased anxiety
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Impotence
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia (thus doing worse on an exam from lack of sleep)
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia

What is even scarier is that most students who misuse these ‘study drugs’ are also using other drugs and/or drinking alcohol, thus mixing these chemicals in their body. Ninety percent of college students who have used Adderall illegally are also binge drinkers. Taking prescription drugs for reasons other than prescribed is dangerous in itself, but mixing them with other pills or alcohol can result in overdose or death.

Talk to your college student about the dangers of using study drugs to maintain their grades. While having straight A’s is impressive, it is not worth their life.

Contact Ranch at Dove Tree for more information on getting help for you or your loved one at 800.218.6727. All admissions calls are completely confidential.


Brennan, Collin, Christopher Newport University. “Popping Pills: Examining the use of ‘study drugs’ during finals”. Retrieved March, 2016.

Get the Facts. Prescription Drug Use on Campus (nd.). Retrieved March, 2016.

Study Drugs (nd.). Retrieved March, 2016.