In their recent article in The Varsity, Liza Agrba and Salvatore Basilone raised the curtain on the increasing use of study drugs among students at the University of Toronto. The pressures of balancing academic success with a social life, combined with the possibility of a part-time or full-time job, have apparently driven some U of T students to resort to the use of study drugs.



Students are using drugs such as Adderall — which is typically prescribed to treat the symptoms of ADHD — and recreational drugs such as marijuana to help focus before exams, manage their time, or to calm their nerves and combat anxiety. As more stories circulate around the use of these alleged performance enhancers, one cannot help but wonder what all the fuss is about.

While students may find the drugs helpful in the short-term — studying for an exam, or perhaps pulling an all-nighter to finish an assignment, their effects on work habits in the long-term are decidedly negative. The problem with the drugs’ short-term effectiveness is that university is meant to prepare students for the real world and for the job market. Our paychecks and future promotions depend on how well we perform in these jobs. However, we will not be prepared to take on those tasks at that point in our lives, when the demands on our time are even greater, if we do not develop good habits now.

If we take study drugs to help us get through our time management issues on an exam today, how will we be able to manage our time for bigger projects later on in life when we can be fired for using drugs? You cannot simply expect to keep a pill bottle in your briefcase or in a drawer at work to keep you going. I think it is understood that unhealthy study habits in young adulthood present a significant risk to students looking to make the transition to professional employment.

Perhaps the use of these drugs says something about the immense pressure put on students at U of T, and in the educational system in general. It is not surprising that some have become dependent on the drugs for academic success when the culture of the institution demands high achievement.

Maybe it is the fact that unlike our parents’ generation, there is even more of a sense of competition in university today. Hopefully, U of T and other post-secondary institutions in Canada will see the results of this pressure, and ultimately take steps to decrease the pressure on students — especially given that students are willing to experiment with drugs to give themselves a leg up.

One possible solution that might help to alleviate stress on students is for the university administration to reconsider the way assignments are weighted, as well as an awareness of the competing pulls on students from all of their classes. By doing more to ensure that students’ schedules are more balanced, U of T can help develop a healthier study culture overall.

Whatever is causing students to resort to the use of study drugs, it is crucial that we not only consider the potential health risks of taking unprescribed medications or drugs, but also the effects that dependency has on our future work habits.


Nabeela Latif is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying political science and ethics, society, and law.