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Study Drugs in High School and College: What are they?

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

What Are Study Drugs?

“Smart drugs” and “study drugs” are more than a chemical escape hatch from reality. Individuals commonly abuse them to boost the brain’s ability to think under stress, stay alert and productive for long hours, and keep track of large amounts of information. High school and college students, shift workers, and individuals working long hours or demanding jobs are most likely very aware of Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Concerta, and Dexedrine. These “study drugs” are prescription stimulants that belong to a family of drugs called amphetamines and are generally prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Children, adolescents, and college students who abuse study drugs usually obtain these pills from a friend or relative with a prescription. Often individuals with prescriptions for Adderall or Ritalin do not realize their medicine is missing until they renew their prescription because they ran out of pills and cannot refill their prescriptions. Since these pills are DEA-scheduled medications, pharmacies keep a close count on each prescription dose and will not renew a prescription until the next prescribed date. This prevents individuals from filling prescriptions too early or stashing or selling unused pills.

These study drugs are also commonly sold on high school and college campuses and can range anywhere from $5-$25 a pill, depending on the strength.

Are Study Drugs Addictive?

Yes, study drugs (stimulants) work to rewire the brain by releasing more neurotransmitters that increase alertness in both the mind and the body. Unfortunately, over time, the brain and body become used to this, and your body will crash when you stop taking the study drug. You will feel sluggish, irritable, depressed, disconnected, and may even struggle with sleep and concentration problems. In other words, your body and brain will withdraw once you stop taking the study drugs.

Do Study Drugs Make You Smarter?

Study drugs do not make you smarter, nor are they known to boost your test scores. Study drugs are known to increase energy, alertness, and impulsiveness and can help you pull all-nighters to cram for a test, but all this short-term cramming is stored in your short-term memory. Good test performance and academic achievement are accomplished through long-term memory learning and studying consistently over a period of time. You are better off signing up with a tutor or taking advantage of other study-support options at your school.

What Symptoms Should I Look For?

Stimulants (study drugs), when not taken as prescribed, can have some severe side effects and addiction potential. While not everyone will experience all of the symptoms listed below these are known side effects associated with study drug abuse:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Excessive wakefulness resulting in delusions and sleep deprivation
  • Emotional mood swings (extreme high energy to very low/depressed personality)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dry Mouth

Does This Mean My Child Needs Treatment?

Treatment for stimulant use disorder is necessary. Not only does addiction come with physical health issues, but it can also result in trouble with the law or expulsion from school. Although there is no specific medication to ease the withdrawal effects associated with study drugs, psychotherapy is the mainstay of treatment. Developing healthy coping skills and learning how to curb cravings through cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to decrease relapses associated with study drugs. Treatment also focuses on more robust ways to boost concentration and energy, such as adopting a healthy bedtime routine, meditation, adequate exercise, and a healthy diet.

AKUA Mind and Body Treatment

AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service treatment program for those 18 years and older. AKUA offers a wide range of “east meets west” treatment modalities for many different populations struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. AKUA makes your recovery a priority. AKUA Mind and Body treats co-occurring disorders and works diligently with each client and their family to ensure that treatment is specifically tailored to their needs and not just their disorder.

AKUA Mind and Body offers detoxification, intensive treatment programs, gender-specific facilities, outpatient, and virtual treatment programs. AKUA Mind and Body uses a blend of holistic approaches combined with evidence-based treatment to help individuals who have been affected by substance use and mental health disorders to recognize their underlying triggers and develop healthy coping skills. Regardless of where you are in your recovery process, AKUA Mind and Body can help.

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