Can a Pill Improve Your Grades?

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A graded test with an "A" on it

Some people think taking prescription stimulants can mean more As on their report cards.

Prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin are prescribed to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many people believe that taking stimulants if they don’t have ADHD will help them focus more, stay alert longer, and improve memory—all helpful to learning. But do these medications really make you a better student?

Definitely not.

Researchers have found that ADHD drugs like Adderall and Ritalin do not improve academic performance in teens who don’t have ADHD. In fact, there is no evidence [page removed] that ADHD drugs improve grades even in those who do have ADHD. They help people manage their symptoms effectively, but that’s it.

The people at the top of the class aren’t abusing prescription stimulants to get there. In fact, the average person who abuses prescription stimulants:

  • Typically has lower grades than those who don’t abuse these drugs
  • Is more likely than other students to drink alcohol heavily and use other illicit drugs
  • May use prescription stimulants to party longer, and mix them with other substances to get high

There’s no “quick fix” to getting good grades. So, how can you improve in school? You could:

  • Study with a group
  • Make flash cards
  • Get enough sleep
  • Go to class and take notes

Do you have other study tips that help you get good grades? Share them in comments.

Check out NIDA’s Choose Your Path video “The Big Test” to make decisions about abusing Adderall to cram for a test and watch how the story plays out.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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