Most drugs on campus are used (or abused) for the purpose of getting high—bringing about a change in feeling and perception. Users start out imitating peers, with the goal being to “have fun.” Downers are often used to potentiate the effects of alcohol; uppers to modulate its effects. Too often, the pursuit of euphoria eventually leads to a state of dissatisfaction with the “normal,” non-medicated condition, and medication becomes a needed tool to simply achieve a tolerable “normal.”

An entirely different segment of students (though there is significant overlap) uses drugs for another reason: to study. Prescription medications in the amphetamine category are being used throughout US campuses from high schools to college graduate schools, primarily to facilitate pre-finals cramming and completion of finals papers.

Adderall and Ritalin, both used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder  (ADHD), lead the pack when it comes college study drugs. Adderall, which is formulated from two varities of amphetamine, has been approved for use with ADHD patients since 1996. Ritalin has been around since 1955, originally treating what was then known as hyperactivity. In the 1990s, when ADHD became a widely accepted diagnosis, Ritalin also became popular as a treatment for children.

Both stimulants cause the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, and seem to have a calming effect on ADHD patients, helping to modulate restlessness, hyperactivity, and concentration problems. In the rest of the population, these medications act as “uppers,” increasing alertness, extending stamina and ability to focus, and allowing users to pull all-nighters for the purpose of cramming at finals time.

Much like the issue of steroids in sports, there is a fairness issue involved. Pressure to excel is intense, especially for upperclassmen in elite universities and private colleges, and those that use stimulants to study are perceived as having an advantage. Studies are, for a variety of reasons, inconclusive as to whether these medications are effective in the long run. Alcohol detox in Carson City.

The potential for abuse and dependency is present with both Adderall and Ritalin. Students crush the pills and inhale them nasally for a more pronounced effect. It is not unusual for users to add alcohol, marijuana, or tranquilizers, especially after extended periods of not sleeping, as effects of stimulants can include irritability, restlessness. headaches, anxiety, difficulty falling and staying asleep, and depression.

In addition to the problematic nature of these side effects, extended use of stimulants can cause a condition known as anhedonia, in which an individual can no longer experience pleasure from formerly enjoyable activities unless under the influence of the drugs in question. A “superman” syndrome of feeling optimally alert and competent becomes a baseline expectation, and the study-drug user is faced with the dilemma of any other addict: “normal” is no longer an acceptable condition.

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.