Adderall’s focus-boosting effects can be tempting to people without an ADHD disorder, but misusing Adderall to study can be risky, addictive and dangerous.

Despite the risks and the fact that it’s a controlled substance, people have started using Adderall for studying. It’s not uncommon on campuses across the country to see students using it for studying on a regular basis. The drug is relatively easy for them to obtain, and the theory is that it allows them to focus for long periods of time without falling asleep or losing interest.

This overview covers how the drug affects the body, why people use it for studying, and the potential risks involved.

The “Study Drug”

Adderall is often referred to as a “study drug,” and students and young professionals frequently use it to increase their focus and level of productivity. Adderall and drugs like it are also called “smart drugs,” and even with the potential risks, 1 in 5 students use study drugs. Many college campuses around the country report that it’s an increasingly significant problem. Along with students using it without a prescription, there has also been a rise in prescription rates.

According to one study of more than 10,000 college students, more than half of the students surveyed were asked to sell their Adderall prescription to other students and peers.

There tends to be a misconception that prescription drugs are safer than drugs sold on the street, but the effects and consequences are often very similar. So, while Adderall may work in the short-term for studying, there are many caveats involved.

Does Adderall Work For Studying?

When Adderall is used for academic purposes, stimulant-abusers often cite using the drug to help them stay awake or focus before an exam. As the effects wear off, however, people will go through a comedown that is similar to what happens with other drugs. During this time, the person will likely feel adverse side effects like anxiety and depression, which can counteract the productivity achieved while on Adderall.

A person can quickly develop a tolerance to Adderall. When someone has a tolerance to a drug, it means the drug no longer has the effect it once did. Instead, it may have a diminished effect or no effect at all. When someone develops a tolerance to a drug, they have to take higher and higher doses for the same effects. Eventually, it may not work at all to help them study.

If someone is regularly relying on Adderall to study, they may become addicted to the drug.

How Does Adderall Help With Studying?

When someone takes Adderall, it acts on the central nervous system in a stimulating way. It does this by affecting specific brain neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Adderall is primarily prescribed for the treatment of ADHD, but it’s also prescribed for narcolepsy in some situations. When someone is diagnosed with ADHD, the stimulant can help them by allowing them to concentrate and focus more, and it can also improve behavioral control.

Adderall comes in different types and doses. Immediate-release versions of the medicine are shorter-acting and usually wear off after a few hours, while the effects of extended-release Adderall can last up to 10 hours in some cases.

Alternatives to Adderall For Studying

People frequently wonder if there are safer alternatives to Adderall for studying. There aren’t going to be many non-prescription products that are as potent as Adderall, which is why it’s a controlled substance that is only legally available by prescription.

However, some products promise to have at least some of the benefits of Adderall without as many of the risks. There’s a field of products called nootropics, which are also often called smart drugs, and they aim to provide cognitive benefits.

Nootropics and other herbal supplements may help boost your energy and cognitive skills, but you’re not likely to experience the euphoric high of Adderall or similar drugs like Ritalin. With that being said, you’re also not likely to have the uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects of so-called prescription “study drugs” either.

The Risks and Side Effects of Adderall

Adderall can be helpful for the disorders it’s prescribed to treat, but it also has potential risks and side effects associated with its use. These side effects can include loss of appetite, insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

These are relatively common side effects, even for people who are prescribed the medicine. However, there can also be severe side effects of Adderall use, particularly when it’s used without a prescription. Some of the more serious side effects can include:

  • Mood changes, such as depression
  • Heart-related problems
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure.

It should be noted that if someone likes how they feel when they use this drug, they probably don’t have ADHD, and should not be using Adderall for studying. Research has shown that people who feel euphoric when taking a stimulant like Adderall are less likely to have genes predisposing them to ADHD. This is probably a major reason why people with well-treated ADHD are less likely to abuse substances.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Adderall misuse or addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn about addiction treatment programs and recovery resources that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.