Study Drugs: The 9 Most Common Types and Why Some University Students Love to Use Them.

Are they worth it?

By Pierre Morris

Featured 7 Oct 2021

University students are always looking for a way to get an advantage in their studies. Study drugs, also known as “nootropics,” are one of the most popular ways that university students will try in order to improve their grades and make studying more efficient. However, before you decide whether it might be right for you, it is important to understand what study drugs are, why people use them and how they work. This article will give you everything you need to know about study drugs so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this option is right for your own needs!

Study Drugs

Why do Study Drugs exist?

Study drugs were originally created as a short-term solution for sufferers of ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), and narcolepsy. However, in recent years it has been exploited by students for ‘educational’ and ‘brain-enhancing purposes’.

What is a Study Drug?

Study drugs refer to substances that contain natural and synthetic compounds which aim at improving brain function such as memory and cognition through altering neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

There are two types of study drugs that can be used by university students, prescription medications and over the counter supplements.

Why do Students use Study Drugs? Prescription vs Over-The-Counter (OTC)

Study drug use is most common among younger adults between 18 to 25 years old with college being a popular environment for students to try out these experimental “smart drugs.”

Prescription Study Drugs

The main type of study drug is pharmaceutical medication which has been studied in clinical trials as well as approved by governing bodies such as the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) – these tend to be medications prescribed by doctors and GP’s. Pharmaceutical smart drugs have side effects but they work within certain parameters where the user will not see a drastic change in their brain chemistry or have an increased risk of addiction. Study drugs are typically used for short periods of time and the pros to using prescribed study drugs is that they can enhance cognitive function, increase memory retention and/or speed up reaction times depending on what they are prescribed for.

However, the cons to taking pharmaceutical smart drugs range from side effects such as nausea, headache and stomach upset all the way to more serious concerns like heart problems if it interacts with other medications you may be taking. Like any other medication, these are only meant to be used with a prescription from your doctor. However, study drugs have really taken off in university student populations due to the amount of time students spend studying as well as an increased interest in cognitive enhancement. As a result, it has become increasingly common for university students to get their hands on them via other students.

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Study Drugs

Another type of study drug that university students might choose to use would be over-the-counter (OTC) supplements which don’t require a prescription but instead aim at promoting overall wellness improving mental clarity, focus and concentration. Unfortunately, study drug supplements are not regulated by the FDA so there is a lack of evidence to support their claims, however, a significant proportion of students are still willing to take the risk.

The main reason why students tend to use these study drug supplements is because they are usually more affordable than pharmaceutical options and don’t require any medical appointments with your doctor, which can save time overall. Unfortunately, include having less research available on the possible side effects as well as not knowing if you’re actually getting what’s advertised in each pill.

OTC drugs aren’t approved for treating medical conditions like depression or anxiety; instead, these types of drugs should only be taken under supervision from one’s healthcare provider who has diagnosed them with certain cognitive impairments or deficiencies. Overall, while taking over-the-counter brain boosters might seem like an easy way to give your brain a boost, it’s important that you discuss with your doctor first before having them prescribed or consumed.

Specific Types of Study Drugs:


Probably the most popular and most used study drug, Adderall is a combination of amphetamines and dextroamphetamine. It was originally a short-term solution for those with ADHD, ADD and narcolepsy, but is now widely used for brain enhancement and recreational purposes.

Since Adderall is a stimulant (like most other Study Drugs) it is important to understand that prolonged use can lead to addiction as well as more side effects linked to other dangerous stimulants such as; depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, weight loss, psychosis, heart attack, and more.


As a member of the ‘racetam’ class it is used to curb anxiety and boost creativity, however, studies have shown that it can improve cognitive function and help with focus, forgetfulness, and low energy levels.

Bacopa Monnieri

A supplement meant to improve thought processes, memory retention, and reading comprehension. However, there haven’t been many studies on this drug, nor is it widely used.


This drug is typically used to try and prevent and reduce the effects of cognitive decline—particularly with sufferers of Huntington’s Disease and Parkinson’s. However, if taken without those conditions, it can provide improved cognitive functionality as well as higher energy levels.


Also known as Aricept, this drug is an FDA approved medication used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest that this pill enhances one’s memory functions.


Introduced in the early 1990s, Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate is an FDA approved drug that was created exclusively for sufferers of ADHD. As the most researched ‘brain-enhancing’ drug, certain studies show that it improves cognitive function and memory when taken in low dosages. However, long-term use of this drug can actually reduce the brain’s functionality and memory performance. Potential side-effects include sweating, higher blood pressure and heart rate, weight loss, and a reduced appetite, nausea, and blurred vision. Ritalin has been considered by many as the “trend-setter” when it comes to study drugs, seeing as it was the first widely used one.


An FDA approved amphetamine created in 2008 designed to treat ADD and ADHD – developed as an alternative to Ritalin and Adderall once the negative effects of those drugs were exposed and widely documented within the healthcare industry. It was purposely engineered to be a less intense, powerful, and euphoria-inducing stimulant, as a result, it became quite popular in the US. As is the case with most other stimulants, long-term use can lead to addiction, impaired brain functionality, reduced memory performance, abnormal sleep patterns, mood alterations, and depleted energy. Unlike Adderall and Ritalin, this drug can only be activated via digestion thus limiting its ability to be abused like a narcotic – e.g. snorting, inhalation etc…


Also known as Provigil, this drug is an FDA approved medication created to treat narcolepsy. However, some use it for a heightened sense of awareness, enhanced cognitive ability, improved memory, quicker reaction times, and to lose weight. It is very popular outside the U.S. However, studies have suggested that it can reduce brain plasticity and hinder memory development in growing brains, though is still considered to be less harmful than most other study drugs.


A stimulant also known as methylphenidate hydrochloride – created to treat ADHD. Studies have shown that this drug can improve cognitive function and sharpen the working memory, as well as heighten focus and reduce fatigue. Also considered as a ‘lesser’ form of the previously discussed study drugs, it is yet to be as popular. The same risks of addiction and subsequent withdrawal symptoms such as abnormal sleep patterns, depression, anxiety, cold and hot sweats are always present.


Whilst FDA approved study drugs do seem like they’ll be beneficial it still isn’t worth the trouble, due to the risk of addiction as well as other potential side effects. These drugs were made for the purpose of curing specific conditions such as ADHD, ADD and narcolepsy and so should only be taken by those who in fact suffer from them. Furthermore, untested and unregulated supplement study drugs are just as bad if not worse as they are likely to be untested or unproven. If you do decide to take these types of drugs, now you’ll at least know the different potential side effects as well as strengths of the different types available.

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