11 College Women Get Real About Study Drugs

For many of us, our first introduction to the world of “study drugs” was Jessie Spano’s outburst on Saved By The Bell where she took too many caffeine pills so that she can study for midterms and get into Stanford. In an overly dramatic scene, Zack Morris tries to save the day and keep Jessie from taking more caffeine pills. In a moment that goes down in TV history she says “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so….scared.”

Well that was 25 years ago and now “study drugs” are thought of in a very different way. To get some insight into the world of college study drugs, we asked 11 college students about the prevalence of study drugs on their campuses and what they think about them.

“I refuse to use any drugs other than coffee/caffeine to stay awake or focus in order to perform better in school. I feel like if someone is not prescribed those drugs and they use them to get ahead academically, it's like an indirect form of cheating. I think using them without a prescription shows a lack of integrity, poor time management (since most of the time people are using them to do a project they procrastinated on), and a lack of serious motivation to do well.”

-Sierra, Colby College Class of 2018

RELATED: Using Study Drugs To Get Better Grades: Why You Should Think Twice

“I've never considered using them because my boyfriend has ADHD and used to take Adderall and I know the dangerous effects it can have. I have heard of some of my peers who use study drugs and I don't think it helps because I strongly believe most of the people that use them are unstable and unorganized. If they were disciplined and organized, at least at my university, they wouldn't need them.”

-Jenisse, SUNY New Paltz Class of 2016

“Since my sophomore year of high school, I have taken these ‘study drugs.’; so for about 5 years now. From Adderall to Ritalin to Vyvanse, I have tried them all. Why? Because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. My demanding major makes me take almost 18 credits each semester that are filled with hard science classes. The only reason I have a 3.5 GPA in this demanding major is because of these drugs. I usually get the study drugs from friends (with a prescription) who are willing to sell them to me because they know how much I care about my academics. I would say I take at least 50 mg per week, depending on my workload. Are there negative effects? Yes, like not being able to eat, sleep, or act like a human basically, but it’s all worth it to me after I get that high grade.”

-Jessie, Appalachian State University Class of 2017

"I have a terrible sleep schedule, as most college students do—but caffeine causes me to crash and makes me even less productive than I would otherwise be, so I've turned to study drugs to help me stay awake, focused and efficient throughout the day. I don't think there's anything wrong with giving myself that extra boost; it's not like they make me miraculously smarter... they just allow me to fit as much as I do into my schedule. I've never experienced any negative effects, but I am careful with how I take them. I don't want to become dependent, nor do I want to have the effects wear off with overuse, so I limit myself to once every two weeks at most. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them!"

-Lynn, University of Georgia Class of 2017


“I took Adderall in high school. I got it from my friend so I didn’t pay for them. They helped me concentrate. I've never had a negative reaction and I don't use them regularly. I do find that a good amount of my peers use them. I think that this helps even the playing ground for kids who have too much work spread throughout their courses for them to possibly perform well on their exams.”

-Becky, University of Connecticut Class of 2019

RELATED: Why You Should Quit Caffeine (& How to Do It)

“I know a lot of people who have taken them. It works well for some of them, but others take so much, so often, that they can't even do simple click-thru homework assignments without taking some. My study habits aren't the greatest, but I still do pretty well in classes, so I don't think I'd ever consider trying study drugs. I honestly think it gives the people who take them a disadvantage: they can become so dependent on them that their grades actually end up suffering if they have to do an assignment on their own, and that's really sad.”

-Olivia, University of North Carolina Wilmington Class of 2018

“I've only ever taken legal caffeine pills. It was a pretty desperate attempt to stay up. My immunity to coffee has gotten pretty high, so it takes more and more to keep me up. I know a few kids who use Adderall during finals week, and it seems like it’s not that hard to convince a care provider you have ADD/ADHD or find someone who did that (or who actually has one of those conditions) to sell some pills to you.”

-Abby, University of Notre Dame Class of 2018

“I've never taken study drugs, because I have ADHD and actually need the medication to level the playing field. I just think it's a bad idea to alter my body any more than I already do with medication I need to take for my own health. I have had peers at other schools try to buy medication (not from me) because they just can't keep up with the workload. I guess I can understand why people take them, but I don't really support it. The habit may work at first and enable you to tackle more, but eventually you will have negative side effects.”

-Rhys, Barnard College Class of 2019

“I have taken study drugs – Adderall — and I am currently on them as I write this; they were prescribed to me by a doctor when I was 15. They help me control my ADHD in so many ways. I can focus on studying and schoolwork so much better and I have less conflicts with other people. There are negative side effects to these types of drugs and I have experienced weight loss, anxiety, depression and insomnia since I started taking the drugs. These side effects are annoying but the drug is so helpful that it is worth it. I take it about every other day. No one at Notre Dame has ever tried to buy or steal my medications from me. If I went to another school I know that I would have to guard them a lot more than I do. I do not feel like it gives me an unfair advantage because everybody else already has an unfair advantage over me because they do not have ADHD.”

-Sierra, University of Notre Dame Class of 2019

RELATED: How Girls Study for Finals

“I've taken Adderall once. I had a roommate that was prescribed it and she let me take one when I had a lot of work to get done and needed to stay awake and alert. I got through everything that I needed to do but later on I was very jittery and nervous. I never took anything that wasn't prescribed to me again.”

-Aspen, SCAD Atlanta Class of 2016

“I have only used energy drinks and caffeine pills. I use them maybe once a month. I can drink one Monster and stay up all night. I don't drink much caffeine so it works well on me. I usually have energy the next day as well and don't sleep until the following night.”

-Noelle, University of Alabama Class of 2020