Alternatives to using study drugs

The term “study drug” refers to the misuse of prescription drugs to increase mental processing. Adderall, Ritalin, and other stimulants often fall into the category of study drugs.

3.3% of UBC students without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reported using stimulants, such as Adderall, that were not prescribed to them in the last 12 months.
Figure above based on National College Health Assessment [1]
Students who use study drugs typically say they do so to focus or do better on a paper or assignments [2].

Using a study drug can increase focus but can also raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, interfere with sleep and appetite, cause irritability, and lead to feelings of sadness and lack of motivation as the drug wears off.

In extreme cases your heart can beat dangerously out of control (arrhythmia) and sudden death can occur.

Alternatives to using study drugs

Simple techniques can keep you focused and help you get things done, allowing you to avoid the risks associated with using study drugs.

Manage your time more efficiently

The UBC Learning Commons offers suggestions on how to stay organized and manage your time:

Plan out your semester

Get a four-month calendar (available at the UBC Bookstore). Write down the dates of all your term papers, midterms, presentations and any other important academic deadlines.

Organize your week

Use a weekly planner to map out how you will accomplish your weekly tasks. Try the UBC Learning Commons Assignment Calculator.

Maximize your energy

Plan out when you work based on your energy cycle (.doc file). Take advantage of the times you are at your best.

Learn more about time management from the UBC Learning Commons.

Take care of yourself

It’s easier to focus and achieve your goals when you’re healthy and you feel good.

Eat well

Eat a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner to keep your mind focused on your tasks.

Get enough sleep

Get about seven-to-nine hours of sleep each night. Spending more time sleeping and less time studying late at night may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll work more efficiently and perform better when you feel well-rested.

Build confidence in your ability to succeed

Use positive self-talk and question your negative self-criticism. Practice saying things to yourself that are both positive and accurate.

Learn more about healthy living.

Some drugs can affect your wellbeing in positive ways if used appropriately. Yet all drug use carries a certain amount of risk, and these risks make it important to consider the short-term and long-term effects of drugs on your health and success. Learn more about drug use.


National College Health Assessment (2013), Unpublished.

2 Dussault, C., Weyandt, L.; An Examination of Prescription Stimulant Misuse and Psychological Variables Among Sorority and Fraternity College Populations, online 5 December 2011.