Around 25 percent of college students will abuse ADD and ADHD drugs such as Adderall as a study aid, according to research from the University of Louisville.
Common stimuli drugs such as Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin affect the mind by blocking distractions out and promoting focus, Dr. Daralynn Deardorff, a Counseling Center psychiatrist said.
"They're methamphetamines, essentially," Deardorff said. "Not like the kinds you'd buy on the street, but these are FDA-approved with specific amounts and dosages. They can be abused on the college-level, high school level and other folks like business people and even some faculty members. They think there is some kind of edge they can get using these medications, even if they don't have the symptoms of ADD or ADHD."
The drugs can come with an array of side effects, including trembling, nervousness, agitation, irritability and moodiness, Deardorff said. Serious side effects also include insomnia, appetite suppression and cardiac problems.
Beyond side effects, Deardorff said, there is scientific research to show the drug does not have a positive effect on academics.
"There's a 21 percent of skipping classes," Deardorff said. "The actual GPA of people using these medicines for non-medicinal purposes, compared to those who don't, do no better. In fact, if anything, they do worse."
A 2005 study from Harvard University showed grade point averages of those who do abuse stimuli drugs are lower than students who do not use the drug. The study also said students who abuse these drugs were also more likely to abuse other substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other illicit drugs, while being more willing to participate in risky behavior.
The same study showed the most common demographic makeup of abusers is white males who belong to a fratnerity and go to a more selective university.
For more research on the topic of stimuli drug abuse, you can read some of the following studies: Regulating the Academic Steroid, Non-medical use of prescription stimulants among US college students.