When final exams come around, teens and college students are prone to use “study drugs,” or stimulants, to help them focus. Yet, like any drug, these stimulants can cause adverse short and long-term effects on the student’s body and mind. Learn more about what medications are considered study drugs and why teens and adults should avoid them.
What Are Study Drugs?
Study drugs are legal amphetamines and prescription stimulants used to increase a student’s focus and energy, usually used to pull all-nighters to study for exams. The desired effects last for only a short amount of time. However, users of these study drugs have a high potential for addiction, in addition to experiencing adverse side effects such as abnormal heart rate and anxiety.
The primary prescription drugs considered study drugs have a chemical structure similar to amphetamines such as Adderall, Dexedrine, or Vyvanse. Meanwhile, study drugs can also include methylphenidates like Ritalin or Concerta. Doctors usually prescribe drugs such as Adderall for those with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
For those with ADHD, Adderall can have a calming effect to help increase their attention span and reduce hyperactivity. However, when those without ADHD take Adderall to study, it can cause increased energy levels alongside dangerous side effects.
5 Reasons to Avoid Study Drugs
Similar to any drug being used without a prescription, there are downsides that can be harmful both physically and emotionally. In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported 1.4 million nonmedical users of prescription stimulants. Let’s look at why students should avoid recreational use of study drugs and how they can negatively impact their personal and academic life.
#1. Short-Term Side Effects
Before discussing short-term side effects, it is essential to note that just a one-time misuse of Adderall can result in sudden cardiac death or overdose. This outcome is infrequent for those who have been prescribed the drug. However, for those using for non-medical purposes or mixing with drugs or alcohol, this can become more likely.
When it comes to short-term side effects of Adderall and other prescription stimulants, the list is extensive. Here are some short-term side effects, to name a few:
- Fast heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Abdominal pain
- Hear attacks
#2. Long-Term Side Effects
Although short-term side effects already seem unpleasant, the negative effects caused by long-term use of study drugs are even worse. When used repeatedly, stimulants like Adderall can cause multiple physical and emotional issues. Here are some examples of long-term side effects caused by repeated exposure to amphetamines and methylphenidates:
- Inability to concentrate
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Heart disease
- Weight loss
- Sexual dysfunction
#3. Study Drugs Don’t Guarantee Straight A’s
Alongside these various side effects, study drugs are not even entirely proven to improve students’ grades. According to Harm Reduction Journal, multiple studies conclude that these stimulants do not improve learning or long-term memory. The drug only makes students perceive that they’re increasing their cognitive skills.
It is also suggested that the long-term negative effects of study drugs, such as sleep deprivation and lack of concentration, will only negatively impact a student’s academic performance. Meanwhile, using study drugs does not guarantee that the student will use the burst of energy that will immediately be focused on studying. These stimulants can instead cause users to use their newfound energy to deep clean their room or center their focus on unrelated tasks. Prescription stimulants do not ensure good grades, a higher GPA, or improved learning skills.
#4. Criminal Charges: Buying or Selling Study Drugs Is Illegal
Aside from the damage study drugs can have on a person’s mind and body, they can also put students at risk of criminal charges. The health risks aren’t the only downside to study drugs. Students sharing, selling, or using prescription drugs illegally may get expelled from their university, have to pay considerable fines, or even face criminal charges.
Even if students intend to improve their academic careers, these drugs can immediately cut these dreams short. It is crucial to understand the school’s drug policies and legal discipline that may occur when these drugs are discovered. It is also important to note that many states have a 911 Good Samaritan Law, which means someone contacting emergency services due to a drug overdose is immune to arrest, charge, and prosecution.
#5. Withdrawal Can Be Extremely Unpleasant
When Adderall or other prescription stimulants are used over a long period, it can change a person’s brain functioning and create a dependence on the drug. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for creating pleasure. Dopamine naturally occurs when we experience something to make us feel happy. However, Adderall and other study drugs will create surges in dopamine, and over time the brain will no longer be able to develop it naturally without the prescription.
When this occurs, the user will continue to use the drug in order to feel “happy” or energized; this is what leads students to become addicted to study drugs. When it comes to controlling an Adderall or stimulant addiction, it is not recommended to stop all use of the drug immediately. This “cold turkey” method can cause uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms. Those wishing to end prolonged use of study drugs should do so under medical supervision, who can help users slowly taper their use of the drug.
Using stimulants to study for exams is common among college students and has a high potential for long term, harmful effects. The potential for detrimental consequences from using non-prescribed medications to study is a painful reality for many once addicted. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to prescription stimulants, recovery is closer than you think. Avalon Malibu is an addiction and mental health treatment center in Malibu, CA. The nonmedical uses of these prescription drugs can cause an unhealthy cycle of repeated drug use. Our clinical team understands how prescription stimulant addiction affects the mind and body and will work closely with clients to ease them into recovery. We aim to address all areas our clients may struggle in, so treatment is effective. Call to learn more about our approach to treating addiction: (844) 857-5992