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Research: Study Drugs Are Addictive and Ineffective

High school and college can be tremendously stressful for students. Juggling class assignments with extracurricular and social activities can be overwhelming, on top of the peer pressure that often characterizes this time in a young adult’s life. So-called study drugs – illicitly used prescription stimulants – are a much-touted “solution” for helping improve people’s ability to focus and concentrate. However, you should know the dangers of taking stimulants without a medical reason for doing so.

Before you start looking around campus for illicit pick-me-ups, learn why study drugs aren’t safe or healthy, and what other options can help you balance your schoolwork and social life.

What Are Prescription Stimulants?

People living with narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may need extra help in staying alert, awake and focused throughout the day. Their doctor might prescribe them medications, which you probably know best by the brand names Adderall or Ritalin. These drugs work by increasing the activity of two neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine. 

When taken as directed under the supervision of a medical professional, study drugs can benefit people who struggle to concentrate on the task at hand. On the other hand, people who take stimulants without a legitimate medical reason are putting themselves at higher risk of dangerous side effects like addiction and overdose. Other severe side effects people experience on these drugs include:

  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle pains and weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Can Study Drugs Make You Smarter?

Many people take prescription stimulants in hopes of sharpening their mental edge. It’s common for high school and college students to experiment with these drugs with the goal of improving their grades, pulling an all-nighter or becoming a more competitive athlete. However, the evidence shows if you don’t have ADHD or narcolepsy, prescription stimulants won’t benefit you.

The prevalence of Adderall and Ritalin on high school and college campuses might make them seem safe, despite the risks they pose. Still, you should be aware that selling or giving away prescription drugs is illegal, and so is taking medications you don’t have a prescription for. Like cocaine and heroin, study drugs are Schedule II controlled substances. While the medicines have recognized medical benefits, their high potential for abuse and addiction means they are dangerous and require strict regulation.

How to Improve Your GPA Without Drugs

Now that you know study drugs won’t work for you if you don’t have a medical reason to take them, what else can you try to do better in school?

  • Create a schedule: You go to your classes at the same times each day. Account for any free time by planning how you’ll use it. Give yourself plenty of opportunities to study and do schoolwork, but make sure to build in leisure time, too. The social aspect of student life is an essential part of high school and college.
  • Seek help when you don’t understand something: If a specific topic isn’t coming naturally to you, ask your teacher to explain it differently, or seek the services of a tutor who can help you make sense of the material.
  • De-stress: Being a student can be demanding. If you feel overwhelmed, step away for a bit. Go for a walk to clear your head, chat with a friend or read a book that isn’t on your class syllabus.

Addiction Treatment Tailored to Young Men

At Spearhead Lodge, we have created a world-class addiction treatment program for young men dealing with substance use disorders. If you’re living under the shadow of addiction, connect with us to learn more about our programming.