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Students: Stop using smart drugs (Adderall) to get by in college

Mark Myers LCSW, CADC Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor Myers Counseling Group

Smart drugs, by their title alone, seem enticing. Who wouldn’t want to simply take a drug to make them smarter? With all our medical advances, it is not unusual for some to believe there is a quick fix to something. However, taking ‘smart drugs’, like Adderall, Ritalin, or Modanifil, creates many potential problems including addiction and overdose. Users of smart drugs are not always taking into consideration the ramifications of using these drugs to aid in their studying. The decision to use them could have serious consequences. Once they find themselves depending on drugs, getting off them could present a difficult journey.


Do understand there are no shortcuts to learning

There are usually prices to be paid for the shortcuts we take. Using smart drugs may help you with focus, but at great risk. It is also important to remember that if it works one time, you are tempted to return to using these drugs. That is how addiction develops. The effects and risks of use include: anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, possible psychosis, overdose, and addiction. Also keep in mind that if you are buying the drug through another source beside a pharmacy or doctor, you cannot be sure of what you are getting.

Do be aware that you may have withdrawal symptoms

Stimulants or other smart drugs can be addictive. A person may need medical assistance in getting off of them. Signs of withdrawal could include: sleep disturbance, irritability, concentration problems, weight loss, depression, paranoia, hallucinations and thought disturbances. If you experience any of these symptoms you should consult with a doctor immediately.

Do recognize you will have urges to work through

Urges are quite common in substance abuse. Although there are problems associated with use, there are also benefits that were derived. As a person distances himself from the consequences of the use, the urges may become stronger. Individuals develop a euphoric recall of the benefits they received from using, and distance themselves from the consequences. It is important to recognize urges and develop strategies to address them.

Do develop a good support system

This is an important component of recovery. Recognizing that you are not alone and people are there to help is tremendously crucial to getting your through not using. This also makes you more accountable toward your recovery and keeps you honest. For people struggling with addiction, their self-talk, or internal dialogue, is something that if gone unchecked, could open up the door for a relapse.

Do talk with a professional

There was a reason you took the drug in the first place. It is not unusual for there to be another issue to be considered. There could be some attention issues, anxiety, or other factors that could have influenced your decision to use these types of drugs in the first place. Rule out other contributing factors that could have influenced your decision. A professional will also help you in the recovery process.


Do not make exceptions

If you allow yourself one more time or an exception to complete abstinence, this will open up the door toward more exceptions. At some point, the exception will become the rule. Complete abstinence is the safest and most effective route to take. There are always going to be reasons to use, like a big test, a late night studying, or even partying, but there is only one reason to quit: because it is harmful to you.

Do not look for quick answers and shortcuts

Recovery is going to be a process. It will take time and be challenging. Understand that you need to be patient in this process, and at times it could be difficult. Prepare for these challenges. The initial stages of recovery could be particularly tough as you are redeveloping skills that were taken over by the drugs. Don’t look for shortcuts just because the road ahead looks too hard. You can do it.

Do not back off your commitment

In early recovery, it is common place for people to feel discouraged or frustrated. Initially, it may seem that things get worse before they get better. Be patient and remember the events and situations that led up to your decision to quit the drugs. When you remember that initial decision to quit, it will keep you motivated to deal with life without drugs.

Do not put yourself in risky situations

Understand the high risk situations that you may be faced with. The temptations will be there. Don’t allow yourself to be around people or situations that could affect your recovery. Prepare and plan for situations that may be questionable.

Do not return to previous habits that contributed to the problem

For individuals that are abusing or addicted to drugs, they develop lifestyle patterns and behaviors that support their use. Recovery means not only to stop using, but to change the way you go about life. Better study habits, consistent sleep, better organization, and exercise are a few areas that should be looked into after quitting. Academic life is not always conducive for this type of lifestyle, but efforts should still be made toward this goal.

Jumping cartoon

The life of a student is stressful and labor intensive. It is tempting to look for an aid that would make life simpler and give you an advantage for studying or a taking a test. Smart drugs are marketed to convince users they can think and remember more effectively. They are the academic answer to steroids. Smart drugs could have devastating consequences. Once someone finds themselves relying on them, getting off of them will not be easy. It will take a tremendous commitment and significant lifestyle changes to recover from this addiction. Efforts need to be focused on not only abstaining from use, but also changing behaviors that contribute to using them.

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Photo Credits: Adderall by Flickr: hipsxxhearts; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Mark Myers LCSW, CADCLicensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor

Mark Myers received his Master of Social Work Degree from Loyola University. He has been practicing in the helping profession for over 20 years. He is an Illinois Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor. ...

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