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Prescription Study Aid Abuse

Overworked college students are turning to “study aids” at an alarming rate. These often include prescriptions like Adderall or Ritalin, which can lead to addiction.

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Understanding Stimulants and Study Aids

Stimulants are drugs that engage the central nervous system, causing increased alertness and brain function. Most prescription stimulants are formulated to counteract the negative effects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Providing similar effects to these prescriptions—though shorter and more intense—speed and cocaine are also classified as stimulants.


Why College Students Turn to Stimulants

Academic pressure to succeed is the most common reason college students give for using stimulants. Designed to help ADHD patients focus, prescriptions can play a part in college students’ ability to continue working or studying for longer hours. Commonly abused prescriptions include:

Other students take these drugs to help them lose weight, as stimulants often act as appetite suppressants. Student athletes have also been known to abuse stimulants to give them more energy and focus during long practices and games.

The Prevalence of Study Aids in College

Approximately one-third of college students have used stimulants non-medically, according to research.

This doesn’t even mention the fact that symptoms of ADHD, the condition for which prescription stimulants exist, are easy to fake. A 2008 experiment conducted by undergraduate psychology students showed that up to 93 percent of them were able to receive a positive diagnosis.

Side Effects of Stimulants

Many college students don’t fully realize the negative side effects that stimulants can cause, which leads to these drugs being commonly abused. In one study, the majority of college students said they believed illicit use of ADHD medication was “not dangerous at all” or “slightly dangerous.”

Contrary to popular opinion, there are unpleasant and potentially dangerous effects of stimulant use, including:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
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Adderall and Alcohol

A big concern on college campuses is not just that students are abusing substances like Adderall but that they are abusing multiple substances that may have dangerous interactions. Most students who abuse Adderall are also binge drinkers. Mixing stimulants with alcohol can leave the user unaware of when they’ve reached their limit. This in turn can result in injury, assault, or even death.

The majority of emergency room visits involving Adderall (instances of which nearly tripled between 2005 and 2010) also involve alcohol.

According to one report, a full third of student users said they take prescription stimulants to “stay awake to party.” The biggest concern of mixing stimulants with depressant alcohol (“uppers” and “downers”) is the strain it puts on the user’s heart, leading to long-term damage.

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Statistics of Study Aid Abuse in College:

  • Full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were twice as likely as their counterparts who were not full-time college students to have used Adderall non-medically in the past year
  • Nearly 90 percent of full-time college students who used Adderall non-medically in the past year were past month binge alcohol users, and more than half were heavy alcohol users
  • Full-time college students who used Adderall non-medically were 3 times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year
  • Between 2005 and 2010, emergency room visits related to ADHD stimulant medications used non-medically tripled from 5,212 to 15,585 visits

Get Help for an Addiction to Stimulants

Although many college students abuse stimulants and discontinue use after graduation, many others have developed a cycle of addiction that haunts them long into adulthood. If you or someone you know can’t imagine a life without the dangerous and illegal use of prescription drugs, get the help you need to break free today. Contact a treatment provider for information about finding treatment.


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