Study Drugs: A Growing Problem

image of the author, Jessica

By Jessica Bigley, AOD PHE

        Every year, the academic stage seems to get more competitive. Students wonder if they are taking the most advantageous classes for their career plans, if they are working in the correct research labs, if they have spotless resumes and if they are taking advantage of every option to allow for optimal success in college. Many students are tempted to explore a solution that allows for quicker retention of study material. The use of “study drugs” is becoming more popular and use of these drugs can lead to addiction. A large, national survey by the National Center for Health Research showed that about 7% of college students use study drugs with some colleges showing as high as one in three students using these medicines.

         These “study drugs” are mostly stimulants. The most commonly used stimulants are Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Concerta, Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Focalin. Stimulants are a class of drugs that enhance brain activity. These medications are often prescribed by a physician to treat asthma, obesity, neurological disorders, and ADHD. Since these drugs increase concentration, students find that by taking these medications they are more focused during their study sessions. Since a student’s brain is still developing, the persistent use of study drugs could have effects that may contribute to developing an addiction in adulthood and possibly while still enrolled in college. This is further complicated by the fact that stimulants use can be habit-forming and have a high potential for misuse. Also, individuals taking these drugs who do not have ADHD have a much higher rate of addiction.

         A study performed by the National Center for Health Research of more than 10,000 college students from across the country found that more than half of students with an Adderall or other ADHD drug prescription were asked to sell the medication to peers and friends. If you are a student that has a prescription for one of these medications, you might be confronted to sell some of the pills. A few pieces of advice: Keep your medicines in a safe, private spot where only you know the location, avoid carrying your entire pill bottle or monthly supply in your backpack, and tell the drug seeker that you only have enough medication for yourself.


         If you are misusing prescription drugs, contact Habif Health and Wellness or your primary care physician for an appointment, and/or utilize the Prescription Drop Off Box inside WUPD where you can dispose of expired or excess prescription drugs. Additionally, for resources for stress, anxiety, or depression, there are multiple mental health services at WashU including Let’s Talk, TAO (Therapist Assisted Online), and various group therapy services. Visit to learn more about the programs and services offered.