The only safe way to use prescription medications is to use those that are prescribed to you by your doctor and to use them only in the way that they are prescribed. Using a medication that belongs to someone else is risky in a lot of ways. 

"Study Drugs"

The term "study drugs" refers to prescription drugs used to increase concentration and stamina for the purpose of studying or cramming. Study drugs are prescription stimulant medications that are used improperly by a person with a prescription, or more often, illegally by a person without a prescription. These medications are used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They include Ritalin®, Adderall®, Concerta®, and others. Using or buying these medications without a prescription is illegal. Selling your own prescription also is illegal.

Feel like everyone is doing it?

Some students feel like everyone they know is using study drugs, and they feel pressured to use or to “catch up” with peers. A recent Springfield College* survey found that the majority (91 percent) of students do not use study drugs.

Side Effects

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Mouth dryness
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Impotence or changes in sex drive

Prescription stimulants like Adderall® and Ritalin® also have the potential for physical and psychological dependence, especially among people who do not have ADHD. Continued use will result in higher tolerance to the drug and eventually require larger doses to reap the same effects. Once discontinued, withdrawal effects such as depression may occur.

Protecting your prescription

If you are one of the many students who use prescription stimulants as they are prescribed, it's important to know how to protect your prescription from others who might want them for study aids.

You should consider:

  • Keeping 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.
  • Set a reminder on your cell phone for refills, so that you can take your medicine as prescribed without missed or "made up" doses.
  • Tell someone seeking your medication that you only have enough for yourself and not enough to share or sell.
  • Tell someone seeking your medication that you no longer take the medication. This may be a good option for people who approach you repeatedly.

Other Prescription Drugs

The most commonly misused prescriptions, other than stimulants, are:

  • Pain medications, like Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin
  • Sedatives like Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin
  • Sleeping medications, like Ambien

Misusing any type of medication can have serious side effects. Mixing these with alcohol is even more dangerous because they may have serious effects that you did not intend, such as seizures, slow or irregular heartbeat, and slow or stopped breathing. It's also possible to become dependent on these medications very quickly. 

This information was adapted from UT Austin HealthyHorns.
*CORE Survey, administered at Springfield College, spring 2017