Published on November 12, 2013 | by Khadija Pandor


‘Study buddy’ drugs – could they land you in jail?

Misuse of the drug can lead to increased fatigue, anxiety and depression

Misuse of the drug can lead to increased fatigue, anxiety and depression [Seren Jenkins]

Students feeling the pressure to meet their assignments are now finding new ways ‘to pull an all nighter’ in the form of Adderall, Khadija Pandor investigates the new ‘study buddy’ drug.

Most students are likely to have found themselves in a situation of panic at one time or another, having left an important piece of work until the very last minute, resorting to an all-night cram session just to get a pass.

The assignment due in the next day so far consists of a title followed by a list of profanities. You’ve stocked up on energy drinks, caffeine tablets, coffee and junk food to battle your body’s natural urge to sleep and started the motivational soundtrack in the background to keep you on task as you power through. Some students have decided, however, that they need a little extra help.

The sheer amount of work that they are facing has led to them turning to the illegal ‘study buddy’ drug, Adderall.

Popularised in the United States for its use as a study aid, Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine which produces a psychostimulant effect – a stimulant which induces temporary improvement in mental functions. It is commonly used for the treatment of those suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder which causes a person to suddenly fall asleep without warning.

Adderall works by increasing the dopamine levels within the nerve impulses transmitted and received by the brain, with the effect of increasing the focus, concentration, attentiveness and motivation of the patient, suppressing the natural but negative impact of their ADHD or Narcolepsy.


ADHD is the most common behavioural disorder in the UK, with around five per cent of school children and young people diagnosed with it. Although it can often fade during adolescence, two out of three of those diagnosed in childhood will continue to show symptoms of the disorder progressing in to adulthood, and possibly for the rest of their lives.

Common symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness, which can manifest as the inability to sit still, constant fidgeting, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, disruptive behaviour and a lack of patience.

There are many factors which have been credited with causing ADHD such as a person’s genetics, being male and exposure to toxins in the womb. Due to the increase of dopamine levels in the brain caused by Adderall, it can also cause the patient’s mood to become highly elevated, which, with regular use, can increase the risk ofaddiction fairly quickly.

“Students come with different problems, for example, sleep deprivation, but behind it will often be drug use. It is likely to exacerbate any past mental health issues.” – Linda Ahearne

Despite this, Adderall has become increasingly popular among university students to aid with assignments, essays and exams in the hope of decreasing the pressure and stress they may be facing as well providing a boost in order to get a better grade.

The most common side effects of Adderall are cardiovascular irregularities such as an irregular or increased heart rate, insomnia and abdominal discomfort to name a few.

UAL student health advisor Linda Ahearne explains: “Adderall is an amphetamine based drug which can over- stimulate the body and cause any underlying heart issues to become a danger.” Not forgetting the highly dangerous and sometimes fatal combination of amphetamine and alcohol, which can result in alcohol poisoning.

Common withdrawal symptoms of Adderall can also include increased fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Currently in the UK without a valid prescription, Adderall is a Class B drug – the same as cannabis – which means possession of the drug without a prescription can result in a prison sentence of up to five years as well as a fine.

Supplying the drug to others unlawfully can also result in a 14-year prison sentence as well as a fine.

Despite the legal consequences, many students and young professionals still opt to use Aderrall. They usually acquire it from friends diagnosed with ADHD or Narcolepsy who have been prescribed Adderall or from drug dealers. Ahearne adds: “Students are also buying this drug online, often without knowing what the drug contains.”

The number of university students taking Adderall in the UK is not known but previous research suggests one in ten university students have used Adderall or similar illegal drugs as a study aid.

On the popular online forum Reddit, the sub-section titled ‘Adderall: getting stuff done’ offers users of the drug a chance to share their anecdotal experiences, as well as those wishing to learn more about the drug to further their knowledge via anonymous testimonials.

Here’s how Reddit describes the drug: “Have an essay due in 10 minutes that you haven’t started? Want to get work done in class? Want to stay up super late, without cavity inducing drinks? (DAYS if your heart desires) Then, enjoy a nice dosage of Adderall, and whisk any idea of sleep, procrastination, or sloth away.”

Focusing primarily on the student misuse of Adderall to aid study, in a joking yet encouraging fashion, Reddit ’s most popular discussions about Adderall are how to take it correctly and effectively as a study aid. However, as well as positive testimonials encouraging the misuse of the drug among students, the sub-section also gives voice to those suffering from ADHD or a similar disorder, and reveals the difficulties they face due to the misuse of the drug.


“Adderall is an amphetamine based drug which can overstimulate the body and cause any underlying heart issues.”  – Linda Ahearne

Many users of the forum who have shown regular symptoms of ADHD or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but are yet to be diagnosed, bring to light the harm that the misuse of Adderall is contributing to hindering their treatment. Many are unsure whether to seek medical help for their symptoms over fears of being overlooked and accused o f attempting to abuse the healthcare system.

Also, many patients who have been prescribed the drug are now facing shortages in their medication because of misuse by others reducing supplies available. Reuters reported in early 2012 that there was a shortage of Adderall to treat patients with ADHD or Narcolepsy in the US due to the misuse by university students, which brought in government intervention to prevent stockpiling of the drug.

Despite the existing controversy surrounding Adderall, in early 2013 it was given the go ahead to launch a new cut-price version of the drug in the UK. Adderall is not the first drug to be used as a study aid drug of choice among students.

Its predecessor Ritalin, also a class B substance without prescription, which was also used to treat ADHD, sparked similar controversy after becoming known among students as a ‘smart drug’.

Despite Ritalin being the less addictive of the two, it seems US popularity has made Adderall the more desired choice. Modafinil is its possible successor, yet to be categorised under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act, and primarily intended for the treatment of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.


Modafinil, also known by the brand name Provigil in the UK, was reported earlier this year by the American Medical Association to be penetrating the drugs market. With prescriptions in the US increasing ten times over the past decade. Modafinil is increasingly moving into the UK market and is readily and easily available. Unlike Adderall or Ritalin, which are both amphetamine based, Modafinil is a eugeroic working drug which stimulates the central nervous system instead of increasing dopamine levels in the brain synapses and is used in the treatment of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.

Despite showing effectiveness in combating inattentiveness and other symptoms associated with ADHD during clinical trials, Modafinil is not used for the treatment of ADHD in the UK. Headaches are the most common side affect of Modafinil, experienced by one in ten people taking the drug. Although other common reported side affects include depression, insomnia and abdominal discomfort as well as many others.

The addictive properties of Modafinil are not fully known, but like all medication there is a possibility of misuse and dependant use can cause addiction. Despite the controversies, legal implications and damaging affects on those treated withModafinil or Adderall it looks like ‘smart drugs’ are here to stay.

But is it all worth it in the end? Ahearne says: “Students come with different problems, for example, sleep deprivation, but behind it will often be drug use. It is likely to exacerbate any past mental health issues.”

With the risk of imprisonment just for a boost or a slightly higher grade, wouldn’t it just be better to study a little harder, prepare a little more and start that project a little earlier. Or perhaps just stick to caffeine, which although very unhealthy if consumed in large amounts won’t put you at risk of a criminal record.


DISCLAIMER: Arts London News does not encourage drug abuse or prescription drugs of any kind. If yourself or someone you know are concerned about drug abuse or misuse of drugs, please use the contacts below. There are also advisors and counsellors across the UAL colleges that you can go to for help or information.

Talk to Frank: 0800 77 66 00

Club Drug Clinic 


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