Student study space with a laptop lecture, notebooks, cell phone and highlighters.

It’s that time of year again: finals. While this spring’s finals may look different from previous semesters, the stress of exams remains the same. As we prepare to bunker down and finish strong, it may seem tempting to use study drugs as an aid. If you choose to use, here are a few things you should know. 

What are study drugs?

Study drugs are any prescription stimulant used without a prescription to increase energy and concentration. Adderall and Ritalin are the most commonly misused drugs.

Use caution

Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are safe when prescribed by a physician, but can be risky when taken without a prescription. They can also become more dangerous when mixed with other drugs and alcohol.

If you choose to use study drugs without a prescription, here are some strategies to reduce negative side effects:

  1. Know what drug you’re using.
  2. Start slow and use smaller doses until you know how the drug affects you.
  3. Make sure a sober person in your household is nearby.
  4. Remember to always call 911.

Note: Possession of Ritalin or Adderall without a prescription can result in felony criminal charges.

Know when to call for help

If you choose to use study drugs, you may experience a number of negative side effects. Here are some to watch out for:

  • Irregular heart beat
  • Restlessness, nervousness, anxiety
  • Headaches, dizziness, nausea
  • Insomnia

  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Impotence
  • Mood changes, swings

  • Confusion
  • Convulsions, seizures
  • Delusions, hallucinations

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 for help.

Use other tools to maximize your time

When it’s crunch time, we may feel like study drugs can help us extend our study sessions or maintain better focus. However, studies have shown that using study drugs doesn’t enhance academic performance. You may feel more alert when taking medications like Ritalin or Adderall, but they may not improve your test-taking or study skills.

The most effective way to improve your grade is to plan ahead, give yourself plenty of time to study, get enough sleep and take breaks. Here are a few tips as you prepare for finals:

  • Plan your study sessions for when you’re most mentally sharp in the day.
  • Prioritize what you study based on what will be on your exams. Start with the information you don’t know as well. If you aren’t sure what will be on your exams, contact your professor to get clarification.
  • Find ways to avoid distractions during your designated study times. Once you hit a milestone in your assignment or study guide, check your social or watch an episode of your favorite show as a reward before you start studying again.
  • Plan for at least seven hours of sleep each night, and fit a 15-20 minute power nap into your day if you need to—your brain functions better when it’s well-rested.
  • If you are having trouble getting started on a paper, create a loose outline with bullets of your main points. Staring at a blank page can make it more difficult to get started, and creating a plan with your outline can help overcome that roadblock.

Use campus resources instead

CU Boulder has a number of resources to help students prepare for finals. These are a great alternative to going it alone and are more effective than study drugs.

If you’re struggling with the course material…

Reach out to your professors

Campus faculty are hosting virtual office hours! Contact your professor to arrange a meeting and discuss any challenges you may be facing. 

Tutoring services

CU Boulder has a number of tutoring services available:

If you haven’t started a big paper or project yet…

Writing Center: Schedule a virtual meeting with a trained writing consultant to get feedback on papers, presentations and other projects. They can help you at all stages of the writing process.

CU Libraries: Students can live chat with CU Boulder librarians for help locating resources, formatting citations and more!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed…

Disability Services: Disability Services is working to provide student accommodations and ensure accessibility in virtual classrooms. They can also help if you need to implement or schedule accommodations for finals. Their office will work with you and your professors to make sure you have what you need to be test ready. 

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS): Feeling stressed or anxious about finals? CAPS can help. Students can call CAPS at 303-492-2277 to speak with a counselor or make an appointment. 

Health Promotion: Health Promotion will be hosting a free virtual Wellness Wednesday on April 22 to share stress relief activities, study strategies and other self-care tips related to finals. Students can sign into the Zoom meeting using their official CU Boulder email. 

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