In high schools and colleges around the U.S., many students who abuse drugs are not doing it to experiment and get high. Instead, they’re using them to increase their efforts to achieve and excel academically. Faced with substantial pressures to compete and succeed, these students turn to so-called “study drugs” that can be dangerous, addictive, and even lethal. Here, we explore some of the dynamics that contribute to this alarming trend.
What Is a Study Drug?
Prescription medications referred to as study drugs are typically stimulants prescribed to treat ADD/ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) that are sometimes used illicitly by someone without a prescription. Since they work by increasing concentration and focus, students under pressure may use them to improve attention and increase wakefulness to help them study or do other work academically.
Medications commonly abused for this purpose include Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. Other drugs used to study include Adrafinil, Modafinil, and Phenylpiracetam, commonly referred to as nootropics and touted as improving cognitive functioning. Also known as Aricept, Donepezil is another potential study drug. It is not a controlled substance but is an FDA-approved medication used to treat the symptoms of moderate dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Because most of these stimulants are classified as controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration, students usually must obtain their study drugs by buying them online or from dealers or other students with a prescription.
Why Do Students Abuse Them?
Study drugs are abused by students who view this as standard practice to deal with their academic success pressures. In addition to using study drugs to cope with academic pressures, students may use them to enhance mental focus and productivity.
One such example is the pressure encountered by many students who strive to perform well on exams and during finals. A hefty class load or an overwhelming amount of material may prompt students to look for help with concentration in the form of pharmaceuticals. This situation can lead to the abuse of ADD/ADHD drugs.
Moreover, students with ADD/ADHD are sometimes pressured to sell their medication around the time of finals. Research has revealed that as many as 29% of students with prescriptions for ADD/ADHD have been asked to sell their drugs to friends or other classmates. However, students with ADD/ADHD need both their medication and behavioral therapy for proper treatment, so selling their much-needed medicine to those who are not prescribed can create an unhealthy and unproductive gap in their treatment plan.
What is vital in this context is understanding and identifying contributing factors to the misuse of ADHD medication so students can be offered better and more effective solutions.
Can the Abuse of Study Drugs Result in Addiction?
In addition to the legal, social, and academic repercussions of abusing study drugs, they also have many undesirable side effects and can lead to addiction for some young persons. Because teenagers still have developing brains, the persistent abuse of study drugs could have long-term cognitive and behavioral effects that may develop a substance abuse habit in adulthood.
This fact is further complicated because stimulants used to treat ADD/ADHD can be habit-forming and have the potential for dependence and addiction. Persons who do not have ADD/ADHD but misuse drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall may be more vulnerable to their potentially addictive effects.
In addition, using some of these drugs can lead to highly adverse consequences. For example, an overdose of Adderall can lead to liver failure, heart attack, and stroke, and taking it with other psychoactive or intoxicating substances can be lethal in extreme cases.
Getting Professional Treatment
In instances of moderate-severe stimulant dependence or addiction, detox and professional treatment are warranted. Although there are no specific medications intended to “cure” stimulant withdrawal, several pharmaceutical interventions can be used during medical detox to relieve some of the worst symptoms.
Following detox, patients are urged to undergo a long-term recovery program to prevent relapse and help individuals identify the reasons for their substance issues. Aftercare treatment following a residential or intensive outpatient program may consist of continuing therapy, counseling, and 12-step meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Just Believe Recovery Center offers a comprehensive, specialized approach to substance abuse and addiction treatment. We aim to ensure that all individuals we treat receive the most effective, state-of-the-art care and support available, including evidence-based services, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, psychoeducation, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more.