People seem to busier than usual these days, to a point when 24 hours in a day may seem too short. A lot of people in the workforce employees would drag their feet every morning to make sure that they leave the house before heavy traffic hits the streets. By the time they get to their office, tons of paper work and scheduled meetings after office hours are waiting for them.
The same is true with students who need to accomplish so many responsibilities in an out of campus. The hectic schedules and demanding commitments have led some students and professionals to resort to something that’s not legally prescribed but seems to be working for them: study drugs.
What are study drugs?
Study drugs are stimulants that are used inappropriately to help enhance mental focus such as memory, motivation, alertness, attention, concentration and productivity that helps in studying.
These drugs – also known as “smart drugs”, “cognitive enhancers” and “neuro enhancers” – are designed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When these drugs are used without any prescription, these can pose danger to an individual’s health. In fact, any substance that is taken without a medical advice or prescription is considered illegal and dangerous.
These drugs are referred to as “nootropic”, which translates to “mind affecting”. This term was coined by a Romanian psychologist, Corneliu E. Giurgea back in 1972.
How Study Drugs Affect the Brain
Stimulants have chemical structures that are similar to some neurotransmitters. When an individual takes this kind of drug, it boosts the effect of the neurotransmitters in the body and brain. Once this happens, brain activity increases which include increased focus and concentration.
The “feel good” phase persists for only a few hours. Once the effect wears off, the individual may feel disconnected, sluggish or depressed.
Statistics on Study Drugs Use
According to a 2015 study, about 17% of students are taking these ADHD drugs. Such medications include Adderall and Ritalin, both categorized under Schedule II of the Controlled Substances which clearly shows that these drugs are within the range of substances like methamphetamine and cocaine.
These smart drugs were developed to primarily treat people with ADHD for the purpose of helping them to stay focused to be able to understand better. Being a stimulant, it has a calming and focusing effect on people having ADHD especially when prescribed to be used in a daily basis. This comes in two forms: capsules or tablets. As the ADHD symptoms improved, people taking these drugs will show an increase in self-esteem and social interactions.
A 2011 report showed that an estimated 5% of Americans illegally used prescription psychotherapeutic drugs between the ages 18-25. While it may appear that we should not be too alarmed considering that it was just 5%, it is significantly higher than those individually illegally using cocaine and hallucinogens combined.
A survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids in 2014 reported that there were at least 20% among college students are engaged in prescription stimulants abuse. The most popular drug in the survey was Adderall that is used by 60% among those taking stimulants. Half of the students surveyed said that the reason why they used the drugs was for improving their academic performance.
Why Study Drugs are Abused
Misuse of these drugs are either taking them without prescription or taking the drugs more than what has been prescribed. The main reason why these are misused by some individuals is because of its supposed “positive effect” in improving academic performance.
Recreational use of ADHD medications along with alcohol prolongs the ability of an individual to tolerate alcohol, thus, making the individual drink more alcohol that he can actually handle. In doing so, the individual may not be aware that he is crossing a very dangerous line.
It was reported that the most common source of ADHD stimulants was among friends who are members of a fraternity or sorority which makes it very popular in different campuses.
Since college students may be too stressed to cope up with so many things that they need to do, that they have resorted to ADHD medications with the hope that they can easily absorb everything that they need to study.
First time users may not have the intention of getting hooked on the drug but rather just wanting to be able to cope with demands in school. However, using the drug without supervision poses a high risk of developing a problem.
The pressure that college students feel may be the reason why they resort to using these drugs. They may not be aware of its long-term effects but are just rather focused on what their current need in using the drug.
Adverse Effects of Study Drugs Misuse
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the abuse of these stimulants may lead to:
- Cardiovascular complications, such as stroke
- Irregular heartbeat
- Suppressed appetite
- Impotence or changes in sex drive
- Increased blood pressure
- Mouth dryness
Individuals who may have just occasionally used these drugs may experience exhaustion and depression once the effect of the drug has worn off.
Consequences of Taking Unprescribed ADHD Medications
Apart from the health consequences that one may suffer from taking these drugs, the individual could face serious legal consequences such as fines, serving jail time and consequently suspension from school. In addition to taking of the drug is the increased possibility of committing a crime.
The long-term risk of taking these drugs is dependency and addiction which can lead to various health conditions and eventually can be the cause of death.
The reality in taking these drugs as an aid to enhance attention and mental focus is that those individuals who used them had lower GPAs.
Common Study Drugs
When we talk about drugs, we would often associate them to party drugs or club drugs. But now, there are various prescription drugs that are misused hoping that it can be their solution of having concentration to boost their grades.
This is the most famous of all study drugs. It is prescribed to individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This drug is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that directly affects the chemicals in the brain and nerves.
Its chemical name is methylphenidate. It similarly acts like Adderall. It is a drug that can help increase attention span and to keep an individual more focused.
These pills can also help boost energy that taking a cup of coffee may not be enough. It was discovered to boost long term memory and pattern separation.
Just like Adderall and Ritalin, it is a prescription drug that is used to manage ADD and ADHD and can help increase attention and absorb information for long hours. It chemical is methylphenidate.
This drug increases blood flow in the brain thereby increasing neurotransmitter activity that enhances attention and focus.
It is currently banned in France but remain unregulated in the US.
Its chemical name is dexmethylphenidate. It is a mild stimulant that can affect hyperactivity of the brain thereby increase focus and attention similarly as Adderall and Ritalin.
This drug is specifically prescribed to individuals who are suffering from narcolepsy. This drug helps in increasing blood flow to the brain and makes the user alert as long as 12 hours.
History of ADHD Drug Components
Below are the list of chemical substances and how they emerged as prescription drugs to treat ADHD
As previously mentioned, this drug is known by its trade names Ritalin and Concerta. This drug was synthesized by a chemist names Leandro Panizzon in 1944 who then worked at the Ciba Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland. This drug was introduced in the US market in 1956 after it was approved for the treatment of depression, lethargy and narcolepsy by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA).
This drug is known by its trade names Focalin and Attenade which contains on the D-TMP for of the drug. This means that there is just a small dose needed to get the same effect of Ritalin. This was first introduced in 2002.
It was in 1887 that a Romanian chemist names Lazar Edelenau first synthesized amphetamine. Researchers did not find any practical use for this drug that it was only after 40 years that the American chemist Gordon Alles studied the same compound in the hope of developing a new asthma medication.
He tested the drug to himself by using 50g and reported to have heart palpitations, a feeling of euphoria and “sleepless nights”.
It was then proven to have no important effect with regards to asthma. Its stimulant properties were then used to treat depression, weight loss and as energizing pills of World War II soldiers.
The Adderall brand, which consists of 12 different molecular structures of amphetamine, was introduced in 1996.
This was developed as an alternative for amphetamine whose effect is longer and has a lower potential for abuse. It is the newest ADHD drug in the market and has received its approval from the FDA in 2008.
Penalties Imposed on Study Drugs Abuse
Since ADHD drugs are controlled substances, those people who distribute, handle prescription drugs should secure a government license and to keep records of the drugs. Possession without a valid prescription is considered illegal.
- 1st offense of possession – up to 1 year in prison, a $1000 fine, or both with escalating, with escalating offenses for subsequent offenses.
- Distributing Schedule II substances, like study drugs – a fine up to $5 Million and up to 20 years in prison for first offenders.
- Distributing drugs in or near schools and colleges could double distribution penalties.