3 Popular Study Drugs and How to Spot Their Use
Teens and young adults face increasing pressures and responsibilities, and many students in the current generation are turning to controlled substances to help them balance a growing workload of school, jobs, internships, and extracurriculars. In particular, so-called “study drugs” have gained notoriety for their use on college campuses and even among high school students.
What Are Study Drugs?
As the nickname suggests, study drugs are typically used by students hoping for an energy boost to help them study, complete essays and assignments, or prepare for looming exams. This classification of drugs is made up of stimulant medications that are being used illegally by students who do not have their own prescriptions — or who are intentionally using their prescription drugs inappropriately.
Unfortunately, some students with their own legal access to these medications have been known to give or sell study drugs to friends or classmates. This commonly happens around exam periods, and the students providing these drugs may not even realize the harm they’re inflicting. In their minds, they’re doing other students a favor by helping them get through a stressful academic challenge.
By their second year of college, around 50% of students have been offered the opportunity to use a prescription drug, and 25% of college students report having used medications for non-medical reasons. In fact, among people in the 18-22 year age bracket, full-time students are twice as likely to misuse stimulant medications as people in the same age group who are not in college.
The most popular study drugs are those prescribed to help patients who have issues focusing, often due to conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because these medications are intended to aid mental focus and clarity, students take them in the hopes of achieving more efficient and effective academic performance.
Among the various stimulants available on the market, several substances are particularly prone to be misused as study drugs.
Perhaps the most famous study drug, Adderall is a stimulant medication that comes in pills or tablets. It is also the study drug most commonly abused by college students, who use Adderall to increase their alertness and productivity.
However, Adderall can also cause users to experience side effects that range from mild, short-term symptoms to long-term psychiatric disorders. Among its more severe effects, Adderall can contribute to heart attacks, seizures, hallucinations, and psychosis.
The second most popular study drug, Ritalin, bears many similarities to Adderall — though they include different ingredients. As a medication intended to assuage ADD or ADHD, Ritalin can increase focus and make students feel as if they can concentrate on their studies for longer.
Ritalin works in the human brain by increasing the chemicals that regulate our attention and impulse control, and as with any drug that affects brain chemistry, it is very dangerous to use Ritalin irresponsibly. Misuse of stimulants like Ritalin can not only lead users to develop an addiction but can also cause a heart attack, stroke, or serotonin syndrome.
3. Caffeine Pills
In addition to prescription medications, caffeine pills also hold a significant foothold in the realm of study drugs. True, caffeine is commonly found in our society, appearing in foods and beverages ranging from coffee and tea to soda and chocolate. But while caffeine is not itself a controlled substance, it can have lasting health ramifications if used in excess.
Caffeine pills tend to be of particular concern because they contain caffeine in such concentrated doses. Taken moderately, they are considered safe. After all, each pill only contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a large cup of coffee. But students using caffeine pills as study drugs may consume multiple pills at a time or in a shorter timespan than they would consume the equivalent amount of coffee or tea. Furthermore, caffeine pills — like any other stimulant — have the potential to become addictive.
Experts recommend limiting caffeine intake to 400mg per day. Otherwise, users may experience dizziness, nausea, vomiting, seizures, or other serious side effects.
How to Spot Study Drug Abuse
Do you believe a friend, student, or child is using study drugs? Some common signs of study drug abuse include:
- Becoming extremely talkative or unusually outgoing
- Showing sudden, unexplained weight loss and lack of appetite
- Struggling with financial difficulties
- Experiencing irritability, manic episodes, or dramatic mood swings
- For students with their own prescriptions, running out of ADD or ADHD medications early
You can also look for signs of specific study drug side effects. Depending on the drug, these may include:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Increased blood pressure or heart rate
And remember, the three study drugs we’ve explored in this article are not the only medications that can be abused in this manner. You may want to consider whether your loved one has access to other prescriptions which may be used as study drugs.
Other Common Study Drugs:
What to Do If Someone You Know Is Abusing Study Drugs
When study drug abuse is left unchecked, users can develop a dependence on these substances and suffer withdrawal symptoms such as exhaustion, insomnia, and depression. And health risks aren’t the only dangers of study drugs — students who are found to be selling, sharing, or using prescription drugs illegally may face serious backlash. This can involve suspension or expulsion from school, legal fines, or even criminal charges.
In short, the use of study drugs may start innocently enough but can quickly cause dire consequences in the user’s life. So if you think that someone you know is struggling with study drug abuse, it’s important to reach out and provide them with your support and assistance.
There are many ways to help. Encourage your friend to enroll in a support group or seek help from a therapist. If they are reluctant to get help in person, they can also access various drug helplines such as SAMHSA’s National Helpline, which is available for substance abuse support 24/7, 365 days a year. Or, for more serious cases, call the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for assistance finding local drug treatment centers.
If you’re monitoring a loved one for signs of study drug abuse, Countrywide Testing can deliver the answers you’re looking for. Our online store can provide for all of your drug testing needs with test kits that are affordable and convenient for in-home use. Plus, you can rest easy knowing that our lab is SAMHSA accredited, so your test results will meet the highest possible standards.
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