It’s exam time, and students are going online – not to research their work more deeply, but to buy ADHD prescription stimulants from ‘online pharmacies’.

They say the drugs help them to concentrate, stay awake, and memorise their work more effectively. Drugs of choice include Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanase – and none of these students actually has ADHD. Have they discovered the ultimate ‘performance enhancing drug’, or are they fooling themselves?

Illegal prescription drugs online: what are you getting?

You honestly don’t know. The FDA has warned consumers about illegal online pharmacies. The drugs you buy could be contaminated, contain too much active ingredient or an active ingredient that mimics the ‘real thing’ but is actually harmful.

The presentation is nice: ‘genuine’ looking bubble packs with neat rows of pills – but you have no idea what those pills contain or in what conditions they were manufactured.

“Pills make me smarter” – no they don’t!

Trying to cram too much into your head at one time is counter-productive. Even if you’re really concentrating, it’s all too easy for the information to become jumbled because you’re just trying to take in too much at once. It’s the worst way to learn.

The really smart way to study is to keep up a steady pace throughout the year. By the time exams come around, a little revision is enough to refresh your memory and prepare you for exams.

Remember, a lot of these pills are a form of amphetamine: you may feel great, but it’s a delusion. Raging on speed won’t necessarily get you through your exams – even though it may make you feel positive about your chances.

Short-term side effects

Even the short-term side effects that occur as a result of misusing prescription drugs to stay awake should put you off. You start having difficulty sleeping – so you’re super-tired. What can you do? Take another pill? What a great way to build drug dependency! Hardly a ‘smart’ move!

There are other side-effects too. You start feeling restless, you get headaches, you’re irritable and depressed. Functioning at your best? Hardly!

Here’s the contradiction. You get your full night’s study in – but then you pay the price. Even a caffeine high is like that. You feel great! Then you feel awful. You get dumped a lot harder than you were ‘helped’.

Longer-term effects

If you make a habit of using stimulants to function, you become dependent on them. You carry the drug with you beyond your studies and into your working life. How long can you live like this?

Quitting isn’t easy. Your body has an enormous sleep-debt, and when you quit, it’s payback time. If you don’t, there’s no doubt that you are putting body and mind under enormous strain, and sooner or later, you’ll be paying the price.

If you really want to succeed:

Taking drugs is the last resort of the desperate. Studies found that ‘very social’ students were far more likely to abuse stimulants. Why should that be? They’re not spending enough time on their studies and they know it! When the exams begin to loom, they give up on sleeping and pop pills. A healthy habit? I don’t think I need to answer that!

You’ll do much better in exams if you:

  • Attend classes and take notes
  • Consolidate work after every class
  • Read your set works
  • Make summaries and mind-maps
  • Do all your assignments – even if they’re not mandatory ones
  • Ask questions in class
  • Plan your time throughout the year
  • Start preparing for exams early

That doesn’t mean you can’t party. After all this hard work, you should let your hair down from time to time, but it does mean that partying and socialising won’t be your first priority. Good study habits will see you through.

Your advantage? You get to sleep at night. You don’t turn up for exams stoned. You don’t flirt with addiction – and you’ll probably get better marks than any chemically-fuelled zombie!

Do ADHD medications make you smarter?

In the same way that alcohol makes you more attractive, yes. That is to say: not at all, but you THINK you’re smarter. What a pity you’re the only one who thinks so!

Already in trouble? Get help!

You know that you’re in deep water if you’re taking prescription meds to stay awake at night, and then using them in the mornings just to get awake enough to face the day. If you use prescription meds ‘occasionally’, you can probably kick the habit, but if you’re a frequent user, you need to get help – addiction is a reality.