School Stress: Are Study Drugs Helpful or Harmful?

This article is part of a series on navigating teens stress and anxiety, a common reason for substance use. Find the full series at Stress & Drug Use: What Every Parent Should Know.

Teens’ lives today are jam-packed and many are stressed out and anxious. Instead of coping in healthy ways, some are abusing “study drugs.” These are prescription stimulants used to treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) such as Adderall, Concerta and Ritalin — but abused to pull all-nighters and cram for exams. Most don’t see this behavior as risky.

But what does happen when high-school and college kids (who don’t have ADHD) take prescription stimulants that aren’t prescribed to them? Is this safe or are there real dangers?

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The Science Behind Stimulant Abuse

Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, explains the science behind stimulant abuse.

Highlights from Dr. Volkow

Key takeaways