By Sandy Baker
Study drugs, or prescription drugs used to improve a person’s ability to concentrate with the goal of improving results on tests, are not uncommon. Most often, these drugs are prescribed to people who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). They work as a stimulant to help provide self-discipline and hyperactivity. Yet, some students gain access to them for the sole purpose of improving their ability to focus on a test.
Which Drugs Are Used as Study Drugs?
The most common drugs used in this manner include Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, and Adderall. Others include Phenylpiracetam, Adrafinil, and Modafinil. These drugs fall into a category of nootropics. They are designed to help improve cognitive function in some people. Some students gain access to these drugs from other students who have a prescription from their doctor. According to the Monitoring the Future study, after marijuana and amphetamines, these study drugs are some of the most commonly used substances by college-age students.
If a Doctor Prescribes It, It Has to Be Okay, Right?
One of the common misconceptions regarding study drugs is that they are okay to use because doctors prescribe them. These drugs are only legal to buy if you have a prescription written in your name. If you do not, it’s illegal to own them or to use them. Many police departments treat the illegal use of prescription drugs in the same manner they would the possession of other illegal substances.
Side Effects Can Be Worrisome in Many People
What makes study drugs dangerous is the way they work in the body. In a person with ADD or ADHD, they work specifically to address the brain chemistry in these individuals. However, in people without these conditions, they can create very dangerous side effects.
Common side effects of study drugs include mild symptoms such as agitation, headaches, and dry mouth. This can lead to appetite loss, weight loss, sleep troubles, and restlessness. In others, they can worsen anxiety, confusion, and dizziness. Some people may experience delusions and blurred vision as well. High-risk side effects include:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Anxiety and depression
- Increased blood pressure, including potential damage to the heart
- Loss of consciousness
Some study drugs have addictive qualities. That means that you may feel a sense of withdrawal, pain, and agitation if you stop using them. That’s because drugs like Ritalin and Adderall have both psychological and physical dependency risks in those who do not have ADD or ADHD.
Do Study Drugs Really Help You Improve Your Grades?
With all of this to take into consideration, what’s even more worrisome is that these drugs have no real link to improved grades. These drugs may create a change in a person’s ability to focus and in their productivity. Some of that may stem from a heightened sense of adrenaline already present. In others, these drugs can work as a stimulant to keep the brain working hard while taxing the other organs. Yet, this does not mean more information is taken in or that a paper is better written than others.
Knowing the Risks and Getting Help
Study drugs are common. A study published by Stanford Children’s Health found up to 29 percent of students who use these drugs for necessary purposes through prescriptions from their doctors have been asked, at some point, to sell their drugs to others. If you are a parent, recognize that these drugs are readily available on most college campuses. You cannot prevent your student from using them outright.
If you are a student, realize that study drugs offer very little long-term benefit. They don’t get you through the test or help improve your grades. Yet, they can cause addiction. They can also tax the body. As a result of this, it’s best to avoid the use of study drugs. Instead, consider these tips:
- Seek out help from your professors and supportive staff to help you prepare for your test. Skip the drugs.
- Ensure you get enough sleep in the days leading up to the test. This is one of the most important factors in improving test scores.
- Be organized in your study efforts by planning what you will study and when. Plan group study sessions that can improve your outcome.
Students using study drugs and facing addiction can get help. At The Ranch at Dove Tree, a Texas addiction treatment center, we offer a collegiate residential drug abuse treatment program that can help you to get back on track. Contact us to learn more about the services we can offer if you are a college student or a concerned parent.