It’s that time of year again: finals. As we prepare to bunker down and finish the semester, it can be tempting for some to use study drugs not as prescribed. If you choose to use study drugs during finals season, here are a few things you should know.
What are study drugs?
Study drugs are typically defined as any prescription stimulant that is used without a prescription to increase energy and concentration. Adderall and Ritalin, which are typically prescribed to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are the two most commonly misused drugs.
Reflect on the reasons you may want to use study drugs. Think through the experiences you do and don’t want to have while taking drugs like Adderall or Ritalin. Here are a couple examples:
If I choose to use study drugs, I want to...
If I choose to use study drugs, I don’t want to...
As you think through the experiences you may want to have or avoid, consider if there are other ways to achieve the same results while avoiding unwanted experiences. For instance, you may find that you feel more energized after 7-9 hours of sleep at night or you may feel more productive if you break down your study sessions into smaller parts.
Note: Side effects can occur when stimulants are used with or without a prescription. If you are currently using stimulants as prescribed to you and are concerned about negative side effects, please contact your healthcare provider.
Use with caution
Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are safer when prescribed by a physician, and can pose additional risks when taken without a prescription. They can also cause more unwanted experiences when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. For instance, stimulants can reduce a person’s awareness of the effects of alcohol, which may cause some to drink unsafe quantities.
It's also important to know that any drug that is not received directly from a pharmacy may contain unknown substances (including, but not limited to fentanyl). It is possible for capsules and pressed pills that look just like a prescription medication to be made, altered or contaminated.
If you choose to use study drugs without a prescription, here are some strategies to reduce unwanted side effects:
Note: Possession of Ritalin or Adderall without a prescription and the sale of prescription drugs are a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and can result in criminal charges.
Know when to call for help
If you choose to use study drugs with or without a prescription, you may experience a number of unwanted side effects.
Here are a few side effects to watch for:
Restlessness, nervousness, anxiety
Headaches, dizziness, nausea
Impotence (sexual dysfunction)
Mood changes, swings
Call 911 if you or someone you know experiences any of the following:
Irregular heart beat, chest pain
Use alternative strategies to study
When it’s crunch time, some may feel like study drugs can help extend their study sessions or maintain better focus. However, studies have shown that using study drugs without a prescription doesn’t enhance academic performance. While medications like Ritalin or Adderall may make some feel more alert, they may not improve test-taking or study skills.
The most effective way to improve your grade is to start early, give yourself plenty of time to study, get consistent sleep and take regular breaks. Here are a few tips as you prepare for finals:
It’s okay to ask for help
CU Boulder has a number of resources to help students prepare for finals. These are a great alternative to going it alone and can be more effective than using study drugs.