Studying with stimulants

 SEAN ALTENDORFGuest Columnist

We all know that college is full of stressors like papers, projects and tests. Most of us manage our time and pull an occasional all-nighter to get a good enough grade so we don’t disappoint our parents. But some people take a different approach to the traditional college experience. They use, or sometimes abuse, prescription stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin or Vyvanse.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a legitimate medical issue that requires treatment. But problems occur when children with ADHD enter college. In the dorms and group study sessions, anecdotal stories of stimulants being “performance enhancers,” “smart drugs” or “grade boosters” arise. These stories are passed along and become accepted belief.

If I polled a class of a hundred students on whether or not they like studying, I’d get one raised hand from the oddball in the corner. The fact of the matter is that no one wants to study and everyone wants to succeed. Therein lies the draw of prescription stimulant use.

And these drugs are readily available. According to an article in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, a study of 81 college students with ADHD revealed that an alarming 62 percent diverted the medication to someone without a prescription. The legality of medication diversion is rarely discussed during these transactions.

The adverse effects of these medications aren’t told either. Prescription stimulant users can experience anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, insomnia, seizures and more. These medicines are potentially dangerous and require the attention of a qualified physician.

Prescription stimulants should only be used by those with a true need and not by individuals looking for an easy way out of studying for a big test.

The good news is that there are alternatives to medications for students who want to get an A on this semester’s finals.

Treat the underlying causes of distraction. Learn what behaviors and environments lend themselves toward your academic success. Most importantly, make time to study.

You shouldn’t be taking prescription stimulant drugs unless you have a documented medical condition. Not only can they be dangerous, but it is illegal to take them without a prescription. There are many ways to study and succeed in school. You really don’t want that little incident in college to prevent you from getting your dream job.

Sean Altendorf is a second year pharmacy student. Email him at

Leave a comment

All fields marked (*) are required