Why “smart pills” are more dangerous than you thought

I’ve been there. You’ve been there. Its the day before a huge test and you feel like you know nothing. All the studying you meant to do earlier was categorized as “less important” and put off.

But now, here you are, 24 hours before and you’re sure you’re going to fail. Stress, anxiety and hopelessness set in and you’re left alone in the library wondering HOW you’re going to pull this off. Suddenly, you remember one of your friends telling you about how they used adderall to study for their final last quarter and how it saved their grade. You text them hurriedly, and are relieved that they too are in the lib and have some extra they can lend you.

This scenario is one I know and recognize all too well. Although I have never used adderall – commonly referred to as “smart pills” – as a study aid, the majority of my close friends and acquaintances have. Adderall is seen as a helpful tool, maximizing what you retain and how long you can focus while studying. Although this thought in and of itself is not bad, this harmful way students are going about success has countless negative repercussions.


With rising numbers of students being prescribed adderall for ADHD, there is also a rising number of students using the drug for studying. According to a study done by the Journal of American College Health in 2012, almost two-thirds of college students have been offered prescription stimulants (like adderall) at some point in their undergraduate career and one third will use stimulants as a study aid.


Adderall, and other drugs similar have been found to have increasingly negative side effects and addictive qualities. Depending on your size and weight, it is highly likely you can overdose on this stimulant if it is too high a dose for your body.  Along with the chance of death, you also subject yourself to many other health conditions.

“The risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and arrhythmias are increased as is the risk of having a panic attack.”

– Dr. Charles White
Head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at UConn

In one instance a college ambassador, star student and football quarterback, became addicted to adderall and found himself lost in thoughts of suicide. Here is his heartbreaking story as told by his mother:

 I never realized you were addicted to anything but life… So many college kids take it, why not you? When you came home from college last year, your mood changed. The boy with the beautiful smile was gone.

– Devin’s Mother


With all these negative side effects and health problems, why are our peers still finding themselves abusing this addictive drug?

Accessibility. I cannot count the number of times I have seen my peers on Snapchat advertising their supply of Adderall on their stories during finals week. Many students rely on Snapchat because of its reliability in deletion. Any message sent and received is deleted once viewed; providing the buyer and dealer a peace of mind that their transaction will not be found out.

Many times, I have been in the library with friends when another student will approach us and the exchange will happen right then and there. There is no shortage of accessibility when it comes to getting your hands on one of these pills.

Benefits. Because I am not someone who has ever used adderall, I was curious as to why users thought the pros outweighed the cons.  The students I asked listed a variety of reasons why, but the overall consensus was the same: it helps you cram.

Hannah* explained that “although some of it may be the placebo affect, it would help me study and cram. I would take it if I knew I wouldn’t do well because I couldn’t absorb information fast enough.”

Despite the knowledge of adderall’s harmful effects, it continues to sweep the nation. But the effects it can have on your health in the long run have me asking, is that grade worth it?

If you or someone you know struggles with adderall addiction, find help here.

*Name changed to protect identity.
Featured image by Erika E. (flickr, Creative Commons)

7 thoughts on “Why “smart pills” are more dangerous than you thought”

  1. I’ve been offered ADHD ones and refused to take them. To be honest, taking a drug to pass a test sounds kind of crazy. It’s like, how bad do you have to want to succeed to do this to yourself?


      1. Well…. I am choosing to study a type A field (Finance, Investment Banking track) so in a way it’s my choice as well. But what I find surprising is how many of those type A students abuse this drug. From the students that I’ve met, it’s mostly abused by 3.0-4.0 students (students who are already doing really well.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wanted to write a blog post about this as well but I felt like because I didn’t take it, I couldn’t really write about it and so I ended up not doing it.


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