Are 'Smart Drugs' Taking Over Our Colleges?

College pressure is reeeeaal

You've probably heard of the recent college admissions scandal that saw 33 parents from across the US being charged with paying off colleges to the sum of $1.2 – $6.5 million to illegitimately get their children into elite schools. With that much pressure put on getting their kid into the right school, it’s not hard to imagine what lengths the students are taking to perform. 

Turning to pills (not that kind)

Students have found a new way to cope with the pressure by using 'smart drugs', aka ADHD medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, that allow students to study all night for exams. A recent Netflix documentary, ‘Take your pills’, explores the epidemic and the seriousness of 'smart drug' abuse. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported 6.5 million US citizens have misused these medications and a further study cited half the students who misused 'smart drugs' reported academic performance as the reason for using. But, what most of these students don't realize is that studies show 'smart drugs' negatively impact their GPA due to an increased level of anxiety and a reduced ability to retain the crammed information.

A healthy path to good grades

There are a number of healthy ways to get a competitive edge at college and none require you to take drugs.

  • Meditation: Imagine that you're in a late-night lecture and you feel your attention slipping – what do you do? Well, long-term Meditation can improve your attention by creating physical neuroplasticity in the brain that radically improves visual responses. And, there’s no excuse when apps, like Headspace and Calm, allow you to take guided meditation with you everywhere. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eva Mendes attribute Meditation to their successes by unlocking a multitude of benefits such as;
    • Stress reduction
    • Increased focus
    • Improved memory
    • Increased creativity

  • Exercise: Yes, yes, we all know exercise is good but how much do I need? 
    • A Neuropsychological Rehabilitation journal discovered that just 3 x 30min jogs over a 6 week period are enough to improve visuospatial memory in young healthy adults. That said, more regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, improve concentration, and achieve a better night sleep, which are all key factors in achieving a better GPA.

  • Sleep: The book ‘Why we Sleep’ explains that there are two main types of sleep that play an important role in studying;
    • NREM (non-rapid eye movement), the first stage is important for transferring short-term memory to long-term memory. So when you stay up all night to cram study before an exam, struggle through it and then walk out having forgotten it all, you could’ve slept longer to retain all that knowledge.
    • REM (rapid eye movement) regulates emotions to restore rational decision making. It also allows free flow for creativity, so we can get that edge up on our peers to discover that breakthrough idea.


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