Over time, students and scientists alike have discovered that some drugs stimulate the brain in ways that improve its efficiency at certain tasks. This could be, for example, in increasing alertness, making better decisions, longer concentration spans and consequently, better results at school. As a result, some students have begun taking drugs associated with these improvements in brain activity and have, therefore, gone on to get ahead of their classmates and get fantastic grades! However, your search for the best study drugs in the market could prove daunting, Dangers of unknown or unmentioned side effects, overdose, and other health risks should be a matter of concern to you. Further, the frequency and terms of using these drugs should also be a matter of concern to any student who wants to achieve better grades and also put in more work. The work could be in a project you are working on over the long term or even on a test required the next day. These drugs, if correctly used, are sure to result in a better grade for you. But how do these drugs stack against each other and which ones are best for you? Let’s find out below.

Commonly used study drugs include:

  • Modalert
  • Caffeine
  • Concerta
  • Focalin
  • Ritalin
  • Adrafinil
  • Vyvanse
  • Phenylpiracetam

History and Brief Description of these drugs

  • Modalert is made from the compound modafinil. Modafinil is a drug that goes by the brand name Provigil in the United States. It was first developed in France from its predecessor adrafinil. Consequently, it has become more popular than adrafinil. The drug was granted FDA Approval in 1998 to treat narcolepsy. It treats work shift sleep disorder as well as excessive daytime sleepiness associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Modafinil also enhances cognitive functions, and it is for this reason that it is used to increase overall mental productivity and focus. Additionally, the drug also treats Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  • Caffeine has been used for a long time as a stimulant. It can be found in beverages such as tea, coffee or cola. However, larger and purer amounts can be found in caffeine pills that are sold in pharmacies. The drug is the world’s most actively used psychoactive drug. However, its effects on studying are not as phenomenal as other drugs on this list. In other words, it doesn’t pack that much of a punch.
  • Ritalin and Concerta are different brand names of the drug methylphenidate. This medication has also been used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It was first licensed in 1955 and has been utilized by the population since 1960. The drug has been shown to have an effect on working memory, episodic memory, and inhibitory control. Results for this drug, however, are somewhat modest. This means it is only likely to incur slight improvements in cases where studying in class is involved.
  • Focalin is a brand name for the drug dexmethylphenidate which is used to stimulate the Central Nervous System. The drug is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. Further, it has been shown to increase concentration, avoid distractions and in the control of overall behavior. This results to longer working periods and fewer distractions, thereby enhancing your study experience.
  • Vyvanse, also sold as Tyvense, Elvanse or Vanvanse is scientifically called Lisdexamfetamine. The drug is a member of the amphetamine class and is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Furthermore, it has been used to treat binge eating disorder as well. Low, consistent doses of Vyvanse have resulted in improvements in the working memory, long-term episodic memory and inhibitory control of healthy adults. Additionally, the drug has led to increased attention. This means that the drug gives you better results by helping you recall larger amounts of information as well as concentrate better in class. However, results for clinical trials found only modest effects to this extent which means the drug causes only a slight change in these aspects.


Uses and Various Applications

Modafinil conventionally treats narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness associated with obstructive apnea. Additionally, multiple sclerosis patients have reported decreased neurological fatigue from the use of this drug.

Cephalon, producers of modafinil which is used to produce Modalert, performed a test on 72 people who had various degrees of multiple sclerosis. The patients took the drug for nine weeks and self-reported fatigue levels over that period on standardized scales. The patients described significantly lower fatigue levels as compared to those taking the placebo. This means that Modalert makes you feel less tired since it works to combat fatigue. The lesser tired you feel, the more you study, and as such the higher likely you are to perform better on tests.

Modafinil has also been used to treat depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, opioid-induced sleepiness, spastic cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease. In primary biliary cirrhosis, modafinil has been able to improve the body’s reactions to fatigue and daytime somnolence symptoms.

Students are not the only ones using modafinil. The drug has been used in military circles as well. Since the drug prevents fatigue and improves concentration to an incredible extent, the military has applied it in combat situations where troops encounter sleep deprivation, in long missions, for example. These missions could take days to weeks of no sleep. And guess what? Modafinil has been able to play its part. Further, Modafinil has been used by the French government. The Foreign Legion used the drug for covert operations. In India, the Air Force has confirmed that modafinil is one of their contingencies. Modafinil use has also been approved by the United States military in some of its Air Force missions. The drug has also been used by astronauts on long-term missions at the International Space Station. Since astronauts experience poor quality of sleep, modafinil helps to improve sleep time as well as with circadian rhythms.

Focalin has only been used in the treatment of ADHD. As a result of its stimulating effects, individuals who have ADHD can concentrate easier, avoid distractions and have better results in controlling their behavior. These results can then be applied by students who want longer concentration time in class. The drug, however, has not been used as broadly as Modafinil.

Caffeine pills, when ingested, stimulate the Central Nervous System to reduce physical fatigue and prevent or reduce drowsiness. Caffeine significantly delays the onset of sleep while giving increased focus. The drug also causes a faster reaction time and has positive effects on learning and memory. However, the amount required to produce these effects varies from person to person. Further, some individuals show caffeine tolerance with time meaning it is not possible to achieve the same results one could with the same amount of caffeine over an extended period.

Phenylpiracetam is described as an overall stimulant. It reverses the depressant effects of the benzodiazepine diazepam. This means it reduces this chemical’s ability to induce sleep, thereby making you more active for longer periods of time. Further, the drug results in better learning capability through an increase in the operant behavior, a reward-based system of learning.

Ritalin and Concerta activate dopamine receptor D1 which results in various improvements in cognitive function. Further, the drug indirectly activates adrenoceptor α2. The combined effect of these activations is an increase in both working and episodic memory. It also increases stamina and endurance. Vyvanse, also an amphetamine like Ritalin and Concerta, is used in similar conditions to achieve similar results. However, large amounts of these drugs cause a decline in both athletic performance and cognitive functions. Additionally, the effects to the brain are not as vast, and thus performance gains are little.


Side Effects

i) Modafinil

Teva Pharmaceuticals released a report showing one-third of participants in clinical trials experienced headaches. 11 percent of these participants reported nausea and less than 10 percent of the participants reported other adverse side effects. The effects included nervousness, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness and gastrointestinal problems.

More serious effects have included severe skin rashes and other allergy-related side effects. Only six cases of severe reactions from modafinil have been reported since the beginning of its marketing in the United States up to 2007. Severe cases have been few and far in between. Despite the long-term safety of this drug remaining unquantified, experts across the board and patients alike claim the drug has very minimal side effects.

ii) Caffeine

Physical effects of caffeine have included high blood pressure, vasoconstriction, and arterial stiffness. Further, caffeine can interfere with movements of food within the digestive system and affect the production of gastric juice. This could lead to indigestion. The use of caffeine has also been associated with the acceleration of bone loss. In asthmatics, the use of caffeine can cause weak bronchodilation for up to four hours. This drug also increases urinary output which could lead to dehydration.

Psychologically, the drug has induced jitteriness, anxiety, insomnia and a slight reduction in co-ordination. At high doses, this drug can both cause and worsen anxiety.

iii) Vyvanse

This drug could cause both hypertension and hypotension, erectile dysfunction, abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, weight loss, blurred vision, excessive grinding of the teeth, nose bleeds, profuse sweating, tics and drug-induced nasal congestion.

Further Vyvanse could cause mood swings, insomnia, and self-confidence. Delusions and paranoia could occur in heavy users of this drug.

iv) Focalin

The use of Focalin causes a wide range of side effects. These include appetite loss, dry mouth, anxiety, nausea, nervousness, insomnia, abdominal pain and weight loss. Additionally, the drug could also cause irritability, dizziness, lethargy, tics, blurred vision, dry eyes and changes in blood pressure.

Adverse psychological side effects of this drug include depression, confusion, and bruxism. It can also worsen psychosis in psychotic patients and could adversely affect patients with bipolar disorder.

v) Ritalin and Concerta

These two drugs cause a loss of appetite, dry mouth, anxiety, nausea, abdominal pain, weight loss, blurred vision, chest pain and hyperhidrosis. The drugs can also cause palpitations and changes in blood pressure. Hypersensitivity has also been recorded as a side effect of both Ritalin and Concerta.

Psychological effects include emotional instability, confusion, and depression.


Cases of Overdose

The FDA is not informed of any deaths as a result of the overdose of modafinil exclusively. Additionally, clinical trials have been conducted. The tests included taking up to 1200mg per day for 21 days. The known occurrences of one-time 4500mg did not appear to cause life-threatening effects. Only adverse effects were observed inclusive of palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, confusion, nervousness and nausea.

An overdose of Focalin has been observed to have the following effects: confusion, hallucinations, delirium, hyperthermia, sweating, vomiting, agitation, tremors, hyperreflexia, muscle twitching, euphoria, flushing, headache, tachycardia, heart palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, mydriasis, and dryness of mucous membranes. Severe overdoses have even led to the circulatory system’s collapse.

Vyvanse has led to death as a result of severe overdoses. Further, the drug has caused kidney failure, circulatory collapse, cardiogenic shock, cerebral hemorrhage, rapid muscle breakdown, painful urination, tremors, inability to urinate, dilated pupils and the production of excessively acidic bodily fluids.

Concerta and Ritalin, when overdosed cause hyperthermia, sweating, flushing, headache, tachycardia, heart palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, and hypertension. The drugs also cause vomiting, agitation, tremors, hyperreflexia, muscle twitching, euphoria, confusion, and hallucinations. They can also lead to circulatory collapse.


Modafinil is a Schedule IV controlled drug. This means it has a low potential for abuse, as a result of its low dopaminergic effects. Since the drug has low levels of euphoria, it is not abused. The drug has very low addiction and dependence liabilities.

Concerta, Ritalin, Vyvanse and Focalin are all addictive study drugs. Caffeine has also been shown to have addictive tendencies, resulting in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches when not ingested.


The following table summarizes the analysis of the above study drugs.

Area of Difference Modalert Other Study Drugs
Mental Benefits Modalert provides significantly high increments in memory, cognitive functions and concentration. Most of these drugs produce generally low levels of performance increments. Only slight changes occur.
Addiction This drug is not likely to be abused. It has very low dependency and addictive levels. The risks for addiction are very high. Due to the high euphoria levels from these drugs, they are likely to be abused.
Side Effects Modalert has minimal side effects. The side effects for other study drugs are extreme. They can easily cause hospitalization.
Withdrawal Withdrawal symptoms are at a minimum. Also, any withdrawal symptoms experienced would end in one month. Withdrawal symptoms are excessive and lead to both physical and psychological effects that greatly limit an individual’s capability
Cases of overdose No documented case of a fatal overdose due to purely modafinil’s overuse Fatal incidents from the overdose of other study drugs have been recorded.

From the above information, it is quite clear that modafinil is the best option to use as your study drug. This conclusion is both in the consideration of its mental benefits as well as its health risks and likelihood of addiction.


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