Study Drugs

Study drugs, as their name implies, are often used to improve performance in high school and college. Some people use them to enhance their work performance. Although they seem beneficial, these drugs can cause problems with your physical and mental health. Many young people, including college students, develop addictions to these drugs.

Study Drugs: The Basics

Study drugs are stimulants that are typically prescribed to help with symptoms of ADHD. In people with this condition, the drugs help with concentration and reduce distractibility.

What Are Study Drugs?

Study drugs may be referred to as nootropics or cognitive enhancers. Some of the most common study drugs among college students include the following:

  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Vyvanse
  • Concerta
  • Focalin
  • Attenade
  • Dexedrine
  • Provigil

Why Do Young People Take Study Drugs?

Although only about 9% of adolescents are diagnosed with ADHD, approximately 30% of college students use study drugs. Many of them purchase them from friends or acquaintances and don’t have a valid prescription.

Students usually take these medications for the following reasons:

  • To be more productive in class
  • To keep up with their school work
  • To stay up late and study
  • To increase their energy and focus for extracurricular activities
  • To help them stay awake at parties

Many of these students take these drugs on an as-needed basis. However, some take them as part of their daily routine.

If you have ADHD, the drugs may not have a pronounced effect on you. In fact, stimulants have a calming effect on individuals with ADHD. They don’t necessarily make people with ADHD feel more alert.

But if individuals without ADHD use study drugs, they may feel like they can stay up late without feeling sleepy and concentrate on their work without being distracted. This is due to the activating effect of the drugs. But even though it may feel as though you can get more done when you take stimulants, research shows that the academic benefits are negligible.

How Do Study Drugs Affect the Brain and Body?

Your body is constantly sending messages throughout the central nervous system using a network of neurotransmitters and receptors. Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals that your body produces to communicate with other parts of your body. Study drugs increase dopamine and serotonin levels in areas of your brain that are associated with motivation, cognition and action.

However, any time you use a substance to alter your body chemistry, you face certain dangers. For some people who have valid prescriptions, the benefits of study drugs outweigh the risks. Moreover, working with a doctor while taking a controlled prescription as indicated reduces the dangers.

What Are the Risks of Study Drugs?

When a doctor prescribes stimulants, the medical professional assesses your health status to ensure that the medication will be safe for you. The doctor also follows up with you to track negative side effects and keep you healthy. If the substance has detrimental effects, you can discuss its benefits and dangers with your doctor.

But buying study drugs off the street or from a friend comes with a wide range of potential pitfalls. Without medical supervision, you have no idea whether you will react positively to the substance.

Physicians usually start patients out on the lowest dose that is likely to be effective. If you’re purchasing each pill illegally, though, you probably want to get the most for your money. You may take a dose that is higher than what your body can handle.

In the short term, taking a high dose of stimulants increases certain perils. There are different dangers associated with long-term use of study drugs.

Short-Term Risks of Study Drugs

You can usually feel the moment when these drugs kick in. Your body and brain are activated, and it feels as though they work more efficiently.

What is happening in your body at this time is that your heart rate and circulation are revving up. Some of the short-term risks of using these drugs include the following:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Agitation or aggression
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased danger when mixed with other drugs
  • Sudden death

Taking cognitive enhancers to cram for a test can also make you crash. Your body goes into overdrive while you’re taking the drug. It gets used to the elevated dopamine levels. When you stop taking study drugs, the sudden drop in dopamine levels can make you feel exhausted. If you can’t stay awake for a test, the drugs aren’t going to help you much.

The sudden release of neurotransmitters can dramatically alter your mood. Some people become more talkative and bubbly when they take these pills. Others become agitated, paranoid or short-tempered. If study drugs have a calming effect, they can make you feel numb and robotic.

Long-Term Risks of Study Drugs

Many people take stimulants regularly to maintain their performance. But there are dangers associated with long-term use of these substances, especially when you’re not being supervised by a doctor.

Relying on these drugs now can hinder your performance over time. Some evidence also demonstrates that study drugs impair your ability to perform tasks that require planning, flexibility and adaptation. Eventually, you may find it harder to study or multitask without taking the drugs.

Study drugs also alter your sleep schedule. College students already tend to have irregular sleep patterns. They may stay up late for several days to complete schoolwork and crash afterward. They can usually catch up on their sleep deficit. But the pressure to perform may encourage them to continue pushing the envelope by taking the pills to stay awake. Chemically altering your sleep cycle can lead to restlessness and insomnia down the road.

Some other long-term side effects of these substances include:

  • Dizziness
  • Digestive distress
  • Headaches
  • Exacerbation of other mental health disorders
  • Financial stress

Can You Become Addicted to Study Drugs?

As your body gets used to stimulants, you may become dependent on them. You may find it hard to focus when you’re not taking them. You might also need to take higher or more frequent doses to deliver effects.

Addiction is particularly concerning among college students and young people. If you misuse these drugs at an early age, you can develop long-term behavioral and cognitive problems.

seThere are many healthy ways to manage the pressures of college. However, swapping out study drugs for better study strategies can feel impossible if you’re struggling with addiction or a co-occurring disorder.

At Burning Tree West, we understand the specific pressures that young people face. We help our clients relinquish the addiction while developing skills and strategies to manage stress. You can learn constructive habits that will help you succeed in college and in your career. Furthermore, your physical, mental and emotional health will improve when you treat the addiction, helping you perform well in all areas of life.