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The truth about study drugs

I sometimes get asked about biohacks for studying and what drugs can make a difference to students looking for that extra lift. I did some research and here is what I found:

"smart drugs" are a form of nootropics (substances used to improve cognitive function, memory, creativity, or motivation) These drugs have become increasingly popular among students and professionals seeking an edge.

They come in the following categories:

1. Stimulants: These include medications like Adderall and Ritalin, typically prescribed for ADHD. They enhance concentration and focus by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Ritalin doping is pretty common among students.

2. Modafinil: Originally developed to treat narcolepsy, Modafinil is known for its wakefulness-promoting properties. It is used off-label to boost alertness and cognitive performance.

3. Racetams: This class of drugs, including Piracetam and Aniracetam, is believed to enhance memory and learning by modulating neurotransmitter activity.


  • Improve focus and concentration.

  • Enhance memory retention and recall.

  • Increase motivation and endurance during long study sessions.

  • Promote wakefulness, reducing the need for sleep.


  • Health Risks: Side effects can include insomnia, anxiety, increased heart rate, and dependency.

  • Long-term effects are unknown.

  • Ethical Issues: Using PEDs raises questions about fairness, especially in academic settings.

  • Legal : Many of the substances listed are prescription medications. Using them without a prescription is illegal-.

Alternatives to drugs:

  • Build Effective Study Habits: We like the Pomodoro Technique, active recall, and spaced repetition. These are embedded into our Prep GMAT app.

  • Healthy habits: Don't underestimate quick wins like sleep, exercise, and diet. In particular, exercise is known to increase brain power and cognitive function.

  • Mindfulness and Stress Management: even if meditation and yoga ( proven to improve focus and reduce anxiety) are not for you, just meeting a friend and social contant are performance enhancers.

The bottom line:

Performance-enhancing drugs for studying is tempting. We know of plenty of cases, but the risks are formidable. We find that our students who are tempted by them havent given enough thought to the alternatives. Our expereince with substances is that it's a slippery slope and the risks should be propery considered.


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