What Are “Smart Drugs” and Why Are They Dangerous?

With all the pressures on students these days to pass difficult examinations and consistently be at the head of the class, it’s no wonder many are turning to dangerous prescription drugs to boost their performance. Many feel enhancing their ability to study and concentrate with so-called “smart drugs” is the only way to perform well enough to compete in today’s ultra-competitive landscape. But what are these drugs actually doing to student’s brains, and are they safe?


What Are “Smart Drugs?”

“Smart drugs” is a term that refers to a group of medications that are typically given to patients with ADHD, depression or other neurological conditions where a chemical imbalance causes the inability to concentrate, focus or stay awake and alert properly. For these patients, medicines like Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil stimulate the brain to make up for the deficiency caused by the neurological condition, and they are quite effective in allowing these patients to gain the focus they need.


However, students without these chemical imbalances have started taking these same drugs, thinking that they will receive the same benefits of increased concentration, improved focus and greater alertness. Many take these drugs before a big exam or project is due, using them to pull extensive all-night cram sessions. In fact, many students are so dependent on these drugs, they can’t or won’t sit down to study without them.


But what effects are these prescription drugs having on the brains of students without the chemical imbalances they are designed to resolve? Are they actually helping these students get a leg up on their studying?


Are “Smart Drugs” Safe?

For patients with ADHD, depression and other conditions, these drugs are safe. They are FDA-approved and have been used for years under clinical supervision with amazing results. That is what lulls “normal” students into a false sense of security when taking these drugs. Even though they obtain these drugs illegally, as no doctor would prescribe these drugs just to study or get through a hard course load, they reason that since they are prescription drugs that are safe for one portion of the population, they must be safe overall. But that’s just not true.


When a student without ADHD or a chemical imbalance takes one of these “smart drugs,” it acts as a stimulant, giving the student a temporary boost of energy. That might sound great, but much like methamphetamine, one of the most dangerous illegal drugs on the planet, this is only a temporary high that is followed by a resulting crash. After the drug wears off, the student will feel depressed, exhausted and unable to focus. Meaning they will likely need to take the “smart drug” again if they have more studying to do, leading to a continued cycle of addiction. And more than that, the more a person uses these drugs, the more they need of the drug to feel the high and the more physically dependent they become. So what may once have started as a mild, harmless dose of Adderall or Ritalin could quickly escalate into dangerous territory.


These drugs might seem like a quick-fix to a desperate, stressed-out, overloaded student, but if they are used regularly, that quick-fix can quickly turn into a full-blown addiction that leads to endless cycles of highs, lows, physical dependency and chemical imbalances.  Many bright, responsible students have found themselves in over their heads— purchasing drugs illegally, facing dangerous mood swings, and even entering rehab from what they thought was just the equivalent of having a cup of coffee. But these “smart drugs” are drugs, and they do alter brain chemistry. They can be dangerous, and they are not meant to be taken by students just looking for a boost at exam time. “Smart drugs” are not smart, and we need to let more students know the true dangers of taking these seemingly safe drugs before more well-meaning kids get themselves into serious trouble. If you know a college student who needs help getting off of “smart drugs,” call us at Right Path Drug Rehab today. Our intake coordinators are ready and waiting to help.

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