Study Drugs

While prescription drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin are intended to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), these prescription stimulant medications are sometimes abused as “study drugs” to increase concentration and stamina for the purpose of studying and pulling all-nighters. Many students feel pressured to use study drugs to increase their academic performance.

However, over 90% of college students do not use study drugs.

Illegal Use and Implications

Buying and/or using prescription medications without a doctor’s prescription is illegal, as is selling or giving your own prescription medication to others. Illegally using or distributing prescription drugs can have far reaching implications, ranging from legal (e.g., police citations, arrests) to academic (e.g., student conduct and academic integrity violations, dismissal). Most drugs commonly used as a study drug are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they have recognized medical benefits as well as high potential for abuse and addiction. These substances are heavily regulated by the Federal government.

What Study Drugs Do to Your Body

Using prescriptions improperly not only presents a legal risk, but also can jeopardize your health. Misuse of prescription stimulants has been linked to several health-related consequences, including but not limited to:

  • dangerously high body temperature
  • heart problems
  • seizures
  • psychosis
  • addiction

Students can experience a “crash” once they stop taking the drug, given these substances are intended to be taken on a fixed, regular schedule outlined by a medical professional. During this crash, it is possible the user will experience anxiety, paranoia, and exhaustion. Overdosing on prescription stimulants can result in heart attacks, circulation failure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions, coma, and death.

Choose Healthy Habits Over Perceived Benefits of Study Drugs

What is most vital to your academic success is the development of healthy study habits, proper planning and organization, and avoiding procrastination. Colleges and universities have many resources specifically designed to help ensure your academic success. For instance, the Learning Center on campus can provide tutoring, help you learn study strategies, and provide time management tips. Also, the Counseling and Mental Health Center on your campus can provide assistance with navigating the stressors and anxiety that come with being a college student.

Any perceived benefit from taking a study drug can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle:


In addition to providing important health benefits (e.g., energy and improved blood flow), exercising can provide a reprieve from mental fatigue associated with studying. Exercise can also be a healthy form of coping with stressors associated with assignment deadlines and exams. Yoga, in particular, can help provide a form of exercise and stress-relief. As part of your student fees, you pay for campus facilities (e.g., recreation center, intramurals) that offer a wealth of physical activity options.



Carving out time to engage in focused breathing exercises and activities designed to calm, decompress, and focus can have very positive effects on one’s mental and physical health. Many campuses have created specific spaces designed to foster meditation and relaxation. Contact the student life department to learn about the options available at your campus. There are also various online apps (Calm, Headspace) that can help you with meditation, mindfulness, and breathing.


Balanced Diet

Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet can have important implications on your energy levels and focus.



Getting consistent quality sleep is extremely important and provides many health benefits. Lack of sleep can result in impaired cognitive functioning, inability to focus, and difficulty completing mental tasks.


National Institute on Drug Abuse, Prescription Stimulants
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Other Drugs