These 3 Substances Are Used Most by College Students to Help Them Study

College students returning to school or currently in school are at risk of substance abuse and mental health issues. Studies are finding that college students are under more stress than the average person due to pulling all-nighters (less sleep), writing papers that require a lot of stamina and focus, and attempting to do what feels impossible by cramming work, school, and extracurriculars all into their schedule. It makes them exhausted, depleted, and at risk of getting involved with substances to cope. Learn more about the three substances most used by college students to help them study and how to know when they need help.


Many students will complain they cannot simply get by without any substances. Caffeine is one that students don’t think is a drug, but can have long-lasting side effects. Caffeinated drinks are marketed towards students because the companies know they will be most likely to go after them. Caffeine can make people feel like they have a lot of energy but there is a downside. The crash they experience can hurt their bodies and minds. Aside from beverages, caffeine is also found in pills. Caffeine pills are relatively cheap and easy to buy. The pills are sold over-the-counter with as much as 250 mg of caffeine or as much as three 5-ounce cups of coffee. Several studies have demonstrated that people who consume large amounts of caffeine have higher rates of:

  • Kidney and bladder cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety

Attention-Focused Drugs

There are drugs that are called ‘study drugs’ because they are used by students to help them study and stay focused. These drugs include Adderall and Vyvanse, or other similar drugs. On college campuses, these are called ‘focus drugs.’ they are easy for students to obtain from friends or abuse a prescription. When they abuse a prescription, they are getting stimulant effects but also putting themselves at risk for addiction. In addition to working long hours, studying hard, and being part of a campus community, students often are sleep-deprived and in need of a space to find healing. They are not going to find it in drugs but they may end up believing the drugs are safer than street drugs, even though this is not true. They are more dangerous in some ways because of the assumption they can do no harm to a person’s body or mind. Stimulants used to treat ADHD are controlled substances and may be habit-forming. The misuse of prescription drugs can lead to major health problems like elevated body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, seizures, or cardiac arrest. The energy drinks that are combined with alcohol are especially deadly because they are combining stimulants with depressants. 

Mind Drugs

Drugs that are taken to enhance cognition, or the mind, are called ‘nootropic,’ or Greek ‘noos’ for the mind. These supplements are supposed to improve cognitive function, concentration, and feelings of alertness. They also strengthen memory and recall. These drugs can treat narcolepsy, a condition that involves sleep-wake cycles. Nonprescription drugs are not regulated by the FDA and long-term effects of mixing these with other drugs are unknown. The risk can include brain changes that may be long-lasting, increased blood flow to the brain and shifts in how a person perceives their world or is able to navigate studying and life. It may lead to better test scores but it is unknown how each person may be impacted over time. 

Safety First

Students love to use soda and other drugs like caffeine to help them stay up and study longer and perform academically. The challenge is that people who use these often suffer side effects. To take the edge off the pressure, many students turn to other drugs to deal with the challenges of being in school. These substances may offer temporary improved performance but they are not necessarily safe to continue using on a long-term basis. They can lead to dependence, addiction, and health complications including severe health issues like cardiovascular challenges. For college students looking to cram, there are alternatives. When people struggle with addiction, they may consider some of the rehab and counseling places that provide help for college students stuck in the loop of feeling like they have to study harder and keep up with everything. There may be a better way to navigate their academic life so they don’t feel so stressed and pressured while maintaining a better sense of health and well-being. 

College students are susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse at higher rates than the average young person. At Burning Tree West, we help students find their footing without using substances. Our goal is to help young college students stay in school while receiving treatment. We provide access to online classes and opportunities to find hope and healing in recovery with our programs and services. If you are between the ages of 18-29 years old and looking to get help for addiction, call us at 866-287-2877