09/05/2014 07:10 BST | Updated 09/05/2014 07:59 BST

Just What Are Study Drugs?

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Study drugs hit the headlines recently after it was revealed a quarter of final year students took them, with 20% saying they used the drugs every day.

A study earlier this year by one student paper showed more than one in five students at the university have taken prescription drugs to aid their concentration while studying, with 79% saying they would consider taking the drugs.

Much has been made of students turning study drugs, also known as smart drugs, after being unable to cope with the pressure of exams and expectations.

As student Ally Biring wrote in her HuffPost UK blog: "There are countless factors fueling the trend.. Tuitions have continued to rise unchecked.. and are putting more pressure on students every year. The 19.9% unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds has made job scarcity a serious concern for UK's youth.

"The true problem lies in the values our society instills in young people today. We now have a pill that can modify our brain chemistry to make us work harder and longer.

"According to many of the brightest and most motivated young people in our culture today, the benefits of enhanced productivity outweigh the bodily costs."

But what exactly are study drugs? And what are their effects? We decided to delve behind the term "study drug" to find out what they really are. And most importantly, what they do to the human body.

"At present there are no long-term safety studies of these drugs in healthy people," Professor Sahakian.

, a leading neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian. "We know that the brain is in development into late adolescence. Therefore we do not know the long-term consequences of the effects of these drugs on a healthy developing brain.

"Ordering online is a very dangerous way to obtain prescription-only drugs. You do not know what you're actually purchasing."


Modafinil is typically used to treat narcolepsy. According to the NHS, it is a central nervous system stimulant and works by preventing excessive sleepiness during waking hours.

The drug can cause side effects, ranging from chest pain, increased blood pressure and dizziness or fainting to mental depression, memory problems, shortness of breath and uncontrolled movements of the face, mouth or tongue.


Normally used for treating ADHD and narcolepsy, adderall can cause depression, fatigue, and sleep problems if the user abruptly stops taking the drug. Side effects include chest pain, slow or difficult speech, seizures, swelling of the eyes, face, tongue, or throat, motor or verbal tics, feeling unusually suspicious of others, hallucinating, mania, blistering or peeling skin and aggressive or hostile behaviour.

Adderall is a controlled substance, meaning there is a high risk for addiction or abuse, according to The most severe symptom of abuse is psychosis.


Ephedrine is a stimulant which speeds up the heart and nervous system. Crystal meth can be made from ephedrine.

Too much of the drug can make you feel anxious, give you a racing heart, dry mouth and muscle spasms. Nervous system side effects associated with large doses of ephedrine have included nervousness, insomnia, vertigo, and headache. Seizure, anxiety, and tremors have also been reported.

Psychiatric side effects associated with prolonged abuse of ephedrine have included symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, reported.

According to the BBC, long-term use can lead to heart attacks and strokes in healthy people, and is very risky for anyone with heart problems.


The long-term effects on mental health disorders in later life after chronic use of Ritalin is unknown, reports. Side effects may include paranoia, schizophrenia, hearing voices, visual hallucinations, urges to harm oneself, paranoid delusions and increased aggression and irritability.

Ritalin can also cause a slowing of growth in children, eyesight changes and seizures.

The US government classifies Ritalin with cocaine and morphine because it is highly addictive.


The side effects of Dexedrine range from mild to severe. As dosage increase, so do the side effects associated with the drug. They include hallucinations, liver irritation/toxicity, tics, Tourette's syndrome, sexual difficulties, personality changes, schizophrenia-like thoughts and behaviour, severe insomnia and severe skin disease.


Nootropil is a medicine used to control twitching and jerking muscles, although it is not known how the drug actually works, according to

Common side effects include nervousness, weight gain, increased body movements (hyperkinesia). Uncommon side effects and those which the frequency is unknown include depression, bleeding disorders, confusion, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, problems with balance, hives or skin rashes and allergic reactions.

If you're worried about drugs, you can contact Frank on 0300 123 6600