Student Abuse of Prescription Drugs as Study Aids on the Rise

By Brenda on December 19th, 2011


The 2011 blockbuster movie Limitless starring Bradley Cooper highlights the use of a fictitious super drug known as NZT that allows users to unlock full use of their brain and have nearly super natural focus. The movie showed how Cooper turned from an uninspired, lazy, and broke writer to a super genius managing multi-billion dollar corporate deals.

While there is no actual NZT, students are using prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin that cause the same type of effects. These drugs are obtained only through a doctor’s prescription, and are made to mitigate the effects of ADHD and ADD. Students are obtaining them from friends, relatives and by faking symptoms of ADD and ADHD.


People who do not suffer from these ailments can achieve “NZT like” results because the pills release hormones into the brain such as dopamine and norepinephrine causing the brain to user to be focused, alert, and able to stay awake for up to 36 hours.

These benefits, combined with the ease at which these pills can be obtained, are a recipe for disaster. Experts point out that these pills are for prescription use only and using them without a prescription can result in criminal charges.

Also, the side effects of these drugs may be devastating and even lethal. The most common side effects include:

  • Mood alteration
  • Hypertension
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Addiction

Adderall is the most popular. It is classified as a C-2 level amphetamine. In states such as Arizona, having possession of Adderall without a prescription is a misdemeanor. Selling Adderall is a class 6 felony.

Despite the potential lethal side effects, students continue to flock to the drug in droves. Students laud on message boards and Facebook posts that they can focus on a term paper for nearly 18 hours straight without blinking. Some students do say that it is easy to misplace that focus and end up cleaning the house from top to bottom, or spend 12 hours looking up random things on Wikipedia.

Some studies show that up to 10% of all college students have tried the dangerous drug at least once as a study aid. Even top students at schools like Harvard are getting in on the act. Some students see Adderall as a way to get ahead of their peers when competing for limited spots in top graduate schools.

Doctors warn students to stay with safer study methods such as caffeine.



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