FAQ: Understanding Study Drugs in College
Study drugs tend to be less stigmatized on college campuses than other drugs, despite the risks they pose. Students often think study drugs are safe because they are prescribed by doctors, but abuse and dependence on prescription stimulants effects college students across the country, and many students use study drugs without knowing much about them. It’s important for students to understand what they are dealing with before they start relying on study drugs to get through college.
What are study drugs?
Study drugs, also referred to as smart drugs, neuro enhancers, cognitive enhancers and nootropics, are prescription stimulants intended to treat ADD, ADHD and narcolepsy. These drugs have had a colorful history and have been misused by a wide range of people, like war veterans, artists, housewives and students. Students use these prescription drugs to help them focus on tasks, like studying or finishing assignments, and maximize their time spent doing schoolwork.
Are study drugs illegal?
Study drugs are not inherently illegal. These medications were developed to treat common conditions related to mental function, and when used as prescribed by those who need them, they are legal and useful. However, selling or giving away prescription stimulants is illegal, as is possessing somebody else’s prescription. Even people who have a prescription can abuse the drug and potentially get into some trouble. For instance, a student’s doctor may investigate why the student is requiring pills at a higher frequency than prescribed and may refuse to refill the prescription, as they can get in trouble for risking their patient’s health.
How many college students are turning to study drugs?
Why are students using study drugs?
People between 18 and 25 years old use stimulants as significantly higher rates than any other age group. (Source)
College students overestimate how many of their peers use study drugs. Students estimate 33.6 percent of their peers use prescription stimulants, when usage is closer to 18.6 percent. (Source)
Despite research indicating that use of study drugs does not have a significant positive impact on their GPA, 28.6 percent of college students agree or strongly agree that study drugs will improve their grades. (Source; Source)
Students use study drugs primarily for their perceived mind-enhancing effects. According to the College Prescription Drug Study at Ohio State University, 85 percent of students who took prescription stimulants did so to study or improve their grades. When deadlines are tight or the number of assignments they have seem insurmountable, students may use study drugs to increase alertness, focus and motivation. The same study found that 26 percent of students tried study drugs just to see what they were like. Prescription stimulants are also known for their euphoric highs, which can be similar to those of cocaine. Appetite suppression is a common side effect of study drugs, so students may also choose to use them to lose weight.
What are common study drugs amongst college students?
Most of the drugs students commonly used to help them in school are Schedule II controlled substances. This means that, while the drugs are recognized to have medical benefits, they have high potential for abuse and addiction and must be heavily regulated.
Is abuse of prescription medications as dangerous as other forms of illegal drug use?
Prescription medications, including study drugs, can have just as significant impacts on people as other types of drugs. People who aren’t using prescriptions as intended to treat specific conditions not only risk legal trouble, but put their health in jeopardy, too. Very little research has been done on the side effects and risks of prescription stimulant use by those who are not treating a specific condition, like narcolepsy or ADHD, so significant danger lies in the unknowns.