As the trend of so-called smart drugs grows among UK students, leading academics have urged universities to do more to stem the issue. Institutions across Great Britain are being encouraged to consider measures to tackle the rise of cognitive enhancement drugs being used by young people to improve their academic performance.
Smart drugs, or nootropics, are a group of prescription drugs used to improve concentration, mental stamina and memory during intense periods of study. Commonly used nootropics include Adderall, Modafinil and Ritalin, substances normally prescribed to treat disorders such as narcolepsy and ADHD.
The growth of smart drugs in recent years has drawn much concern, especially in top institutions such as the University of Oxford. In May 2016, a survey conducted by Oxford’s student newspaper, the Cherwell, showed that 15.6% of students knowingly took a nootropic drug without prescription. Current estimates indicate around 10-15% of UK students have tried to enhance their cognitive abilities with prescription drugs or illegal substances. With a student population of 2.3 million, this equates to around 230,000 people
Thomas Lancaster, an associate dean at Staffordshire University, told the Guardian: “Universities need to seriously consider how to react to the influx of smart drugs on campus… If the trend continues, universities may need to think about drug testing to ensure the integrity of the examination process.” The health risks posed by these drugs remains unclear, but their use is illegal and can also lead to unwanted side-effects, such as increased anxiety and heart rate.
Speaking to Pulp, Michela Martini, a 20-year-old university student in Toronto, said “I used Adderall once in my freshman year, the effects were really bad on me because I already have anxiety. I wouldn’t use them again, but I understand why a lot of people do.”