More Students Turning Illegally to ‘Smart’ Drugs

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Students on college campuses across the country are increasingly turning to illegally obtained prescription medications to increase their concentration and their boost academic performance.

So-called “study drugs” such as Adderall and Ritalin, which are typically prescribed to treat attention-deficit disorder, are used by as many as 25 percent of college students, the journal Nature recently reported. Students say the drugs significantly increase their focus and motivation, allowing them to engage in long hours of highly productive study.

“When I was sitting down to study, I wouldn’t be restless,” one student who used Adderall regularly told NPR. “I wouldn’t be thinking about the TV or listening to music. I would just be completely channeled into what I was doing. I was very focused.”

Adderall and Ritalin are widely available on campus and usually cost about $5 per pill, students say. The main suppliers of the drug are students who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder but do not use their entire prescriptions. Those students either sell the excess pills or give them to friends.

Experts warn that Adderall and Ritalin, which are proven to increase concentration and motivation, can cause serious side effects, such as sleep deprivation and rare heart problems. In addition, the drugs are amphetamine-based and potentially addictive.

“I started to notice my own addictive behaviors,” said one student who used Adderall frequently for two years. “The more you use it, the more you want to use more of it.” Feb. 5.