Study drugs refer to any prescription stimulants that are used without a prescription to increase energy and concentration. The use of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall for studying is a common trend among high school and college students to improve their performance at school. And while some swear by this method, does it hold any truth? Does Adderall help you study, or is it just a myth?
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall is a combination medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is characterized by symptoms like impulsivity, excessive and constant physical movement, and poor concentration and focus.
Adderall works to reduce these symptoms by increasing (or stimulating) nerve activity in the central nervous system (CNS), which can lead to higher energy levels, improved motivation, improved focus, and decreased restlessness and fidgeting. However, as with all drugs, Adderall doesn’t come without side effects.
Common side effects of Adderall include:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Difficulty sleep or interrupted sleep patterns
In addition to these side effects, Adderall is a Schedule II substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. For this reason, Adderall and other prescription stimulants should only be taken with a prescription and as directed by a healthcare provider.
Does Adderall Help You Study?
Adderall is often referred to as the study drug because of its focus-boosting effects in people with ADHD. Students and young professionals will lie about ailments to get prescription Adderall, use others’ prescriptions, or find ways to purchase the drug illegally.
According to one study conducted by Nature on 1,4000 people from 60 countries, 1 in 5 people said they had used study drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus and improve their concentration or memory. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Bethesda, Maryland, has also shared that household surveys indicate that stimulant abuse is highest among people between ages 18 and 25, as well as in students.
But is taking Adderall to study effective? Experts say no. Adderall does not help you study. Rather, the misuse of Adderall can cause severe harm.
According to a 2016 analysis published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, people without ADHD who’d been taking prescription stimulants did not experience improvement in executive function. Basically, stimulants didn’t improve their ability to concentrate or focus.
Additionally, while healthy students taking Adderall to study may experience increased energy levels, the drug does not enhance their academic performance.
Taking Adderall Without ADHD
Adderall is designed for people with ADHD, so, unsurprisingly, it can have adverse effects on people who do not have this disorder. ADHD is linked to an imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, two important neurotransmitters that play roles in functions like mood, energy levels, motivation, concentration, and focus. Not having a proper balance of these chemicals can lead to symptoms of ADHD.
Adderall improves ADHD symptoms by causing the brain to relapse more dopamine and norepinephrine, increasing attention and concentration. Since Adderall can improve these symptoms, it can help people with ADHD develop better habits at work, school, and home and equip them to function better socially, academically, and professionally.
So, what happens when you take Adderall to study without ADHD? Mounting evidence has linked the abuse of ADHD medications like Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin to serious harm.
The risks of using Adderall for studying without ADHD include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach problems
- Heart attack
In addition to these side effects, there’s also a rise in emergency room trips linked to Adderall misuse. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that Adderall abuse among young adults without ADHD jumped 67%, and emergency room visits related to these medications jumped 156% between 2006 and 2011.
The study also found that most people misusing stimulants didn’t have a prescription and usually got them from a friend or family member. This lack of medical supervision would explain the rise in ER visits.
Stimulant Addiction Treatment
Taking Adderall without a prescription increases your risk of developing physical dependence and addiction, as well as overdosing and even dying. Prescription drugs are not meant to be taken without a prescription from a doctor, as doses are given to patients according to individualized factors.
Therefore, each dose is unique to the individual, and one dose that’s effective for one person can be harmful to another. Unregulated use of drugs, even if they’re prescription, can lead to serious harm and addiction.
If you or someone you care about is showing signs of stimulant abuse, don’t wait to get help. Our California detox center offers medically assisted detox and addiction treatment for different types of substance use disorders, including addictions to prescription stimulants.
Our medical staff addresses the physical challenges of recovery – such as withdrawal symptoms – to increase a client’s likelihood of remaining sober and continuing treatment. Programs like our prescription drug addiction treatment also utilize evidence-based practices like CBT to address the emotional and behavioral aspects of drug use and help clients create healthier habits.
- FDA - Adderall (CII)
- Nature - Poll results: look who's doping
- NIH - Prescriptions, Nonmedical Use, and Emergency Department Visits Involving Prescription Stimulants