The Truth About Study Drugs and College Students

study drugs

When we think of college, many people picture the stereotypical late-night study session. They may imagine a student surrounded by books, printouts, and notes, fueled by copious amounts of caffeine. For some, caffeine is not enough. Today, study drugs are a fixture of many college campuses. But what makes some students begin to abuse these medications, and how can we stop this unsettling trend?

The Study Drug Epidemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, campus life is more stressful than ever before. College students find themselves dealing with heavy course loads, multiple majors, and countless assignments, whether they’re at school or learning remotely. Many collegians believe that taking prescription drugs will solve their problems. However, these substances cause many more issues than they remedy.

Prescription stimulants are frequently misused on college campuses. Study drugs like Adderall or Ritalin are commonplace – in fact, one in five college students admits to misusing these medications. These drugs are popular for a few reasons.

First, study drugs are less stigmatized than other substances on campus, in spite of the significant risks they carry. This is partially because of the prescription nature of these medications; young people may believe that because prescription stimulants are mass produced and prescribed by doctors, they are safe. This could not be further from the truth.

Why Do College Students Misuse Stimulants?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people between the ages of 18 and 25 use stimulants at significantly higher rates than any other group. Additionally, college students overestimate the percentage of their peers using Adderall and other drugs – they guess that the number is 33%, when the real number is closer to 18%.

This is probably because students think these drugs work. According to a study from Ohio State University, 85% of students who took prescription stimulants chose to do so because they thought they would help with studying or improving their grades. They may have felt the pressure of deadlines, a pile of assignments, or decreased motivation, and then believed that stimulants would address these problems. However, in reality, study drugs don’t significantly impact GPA.

What Are Study Drugs?

Study drugs are prescription stimulants used in an effort to improve academic performance. They work by increasing alertness and attention, which students may believe will help them get through long nights of studying or homework. Many of these drugs are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning that they carry a significant potential for abuse and eventual addiction.

Commonly abused study drugs include:

  • Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate hydrochloride)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
  • Provigil (modafinil)

Signs of Addiction to Study Drugs

Stimulants are usually prescribed to people for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but they may also be obtained secondhand through friends, family members, classmates, or drug dealers. These drugs are unsafe for misuse; although they have been cleared by the FDA, they can have serious side effects when used incorrectly. Taking study drugs with other substances, especially alcohol, can have significant consequences.

Side effects of study drugs include paranoia, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, hallucinations, depression, suicidality, weight loss, dizziness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.

Because these side effects can be serious, especially when the drug is snorted, it is vital for friends and family members to identify a loved one’s addiction as early as possible.

Signs of addiction to study drugs include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Changes to sleeping habits
  • Seeming hyper, excitable, or talkative
  • Social isolation
  • Lying about one’s whereabouts or substance use
  • Memory problems
  • Frequently observed taking pills
  • Needing new prescriptions frequently
  • Aggression and agitation
  • Financial difficulties
  • Manic episodes
  • Seeming overworked or hyperfocused

Treatment for Stimulant Addiction

Students addicted to Adderall and other study drugs require intervention and professional help. At Pine Grove, we provide comprehensive treatment for those addicted to all substances, including prescription stimulants. We recommend that family members seek an accredited treatment program rooted in clinically sophisticated, evidence-based practices. Our approach to recovery is holistic; we heal the whole person and address the physical, mental, and social issues that have contributed to their addiction.

Treatment for an addiction to prescription stimulants consists of individual and group therapies. Each person receives a fully individualized treatment plan, which is tailored to their substance use history, severity of addiction, and personal needs. Our approach involves…

  • A comprehensive intake assessment
  • Detoxification from study drugs
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Life skills training
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Ongoing supportive care
  • Step-down programs to transition back to daily life
  • Group therapy
  • Family education and programming
  • 12-Step meetings

Through a blend of these modalities, Pine Grove provides a range of age- and gender-specific treatment options personalized to each individual. To learn more about finding recovery for you or your loved one, contact us today.

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