How productive are study drugs really? Is it smart to rely on them?

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How productive are study drugs really

College is a time when most of us are ready to try out new experiences. College is the time we feel adventurous and are open to risks. College is also the time when we are at our most active, trying to bite more than we can chew. It is no wonder that many students crumble under the pressure of achieving that elusive success in their academic and professional lives, as they try to fulfil the expectations of their friends, families and selves. This pressure, though, is a part of life. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This is what builds us, defines us, and we make our priorities and build our defences as we move along this path, learning to deal with the weight of responsibility and disappointments.

It is human nature, however, to want to avoid this struggle. It is in our nature to find ways to make the journey easier. Students nowadays have found just the solution for their pain. It has been noted that more than 5% of students have begun relying on ADHD drugs to improve their performance in day to day activities, including writing assignments and studying for exams. Some of these study drugs including Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse, Modafinil, Adrafinil, Phenylpiracetam and caffeine pills are becoming more commonplace in elite colleges, locally and globally as students clamber to outshine their competitors and improve their performance.

ADHD drugs are meant to increase focus and retention in people struggling from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, people known to have very low levels of dopamine in their systems. What these drugs essentially do is, they increase the level of dopamine in the system, making it easier to focus on the task at hand and avoid the feeling of lethargy. In people suffering from ADHD, the medication is effective and greatly helps them in dealing with their deficiency. But the story is different as far as normal people are concerned.

As they already have sufficient dopamine in their brain, taking ADHD drugs pushes normal people over the edge, creating a feeling of restlessness and euphoria that is not easy to overcome. Once the effects wear off, it becomes very difficult for them to adjust to normal dopamine levels, as it is not easy to forget that unnatural high once it has been experienced. Life becomes more depressing and routine, and most are not able to resist the temptation to use the drugs again. So, while most students convince themselves that using the drugs is justified for the sake of their studies and success in their careers, the truth is that the use of study drugs is just as addictive and harmful as the use of any other street hallucinogens.

Possible side effects from study drugs include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, insomnia, hallucinations, impulsive behaviour, paranoia and irritability. The most worrisome aspect of these drugs is of course, their potential for addiction. Adderall and Ritalin, specifically, are Schedule II substances, with high risk of abuse and dependency. These drugs are expressly dangerous when used in combination with antidepressants. In extreme cases, their use can be life threatening.

Fortunately, there are other, less life threatening remedies for dealing with college pressures. Some of these may be slow and subjective to individual capabilities. Nevertheless, their harmless nature makes them exponentially more preferable to the ‘study drugs’ that students have become so fond of these days. These alternative remedies include:

  • Nutrition

Ensure that your body has proper nutrition which is necessary for long hours of studying. Focus your meals on complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) to ensure that you are energetic and your brain has access to enough glucose. Also, instead of relying on coffee for late night work, try drinking low fat lattes. The protein drink will give you more energy and will make it last longer.

  • Cold showers

When you are exhausted and need to work more, take a break and a cold shower. Studies have suggested that cold showers for even as much as three minutes are very effective in fighting fatigue and stress.

  • Hydrate

Dehydration is not taken seriously enough, especially during a stressful weekend. According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, mild dehydration can be cause for drowsiness. When you feel your eyes getting heavier, try drinking a couple of glasses of water before considering other options.

  • Exercise

Contrary to popular opinion, mild exercise raises rather than draining energy in the body. Experts have suggested that a walk for just ten minutes can fuel your body for as much as two hours. Definitely worth a shot, wouldn’t you say?

  • Sleep

Other than nutrition, sleep is one of the most neglected basic need of college students. Where is the time to sleep, what with all the late night parties and morning lectures, not to mention the submissions and internship applications? Even so, cramming small power naps in between hectic work schedules are helpful, particularly when you want to remember important points but are overloaded with excess information.

  • Take a break

Never try to leave everything for the last minute, no matter how confident you are of finishing the work. It is never a good idea to work without a break for long hours. Sooner or later, the hours will take their toll on your body and you will wish that you had managed your time better.

  • Self Control and Discipline

Like I said, procrastination is not a good option. This is probably the biggest and best known secret to a stress-free work life. With a small measure of self control and discipline, it is possible to develop focus and stability that even ADHD drug users will be jealous of. It is all a matter of will power and determination.

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