Saturday, July 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

1 in 5 students admits to taking performance-enhancing drugs

1 in 5 Students take ‘smart drugs’ every day, it has been revealed. A further quarter of all final year students have taken them to assist with study. Oxford University has the biggest problem with the taking of ‘smart drugs’ with 26% of all students admitting to having taken the ‘smart drug’ Modafinil.

However, Oxford has said that it has seen no evidence of a problem, despite reports that there is a thriving black market there, with students selling the drugs in libraries for £2 a pill. Newcastle and Leeds are close behind with 25% of their student population admitting to taking the drug. In a survey done at York University a further 79% of students said that they would consider taking the drugs for exams.

The UK is not alone in this, the US has reported a huge problem in their Ivy League colleges where 70% of students admitted to using ‘smart drugs’ for essays, and didn’t consider it cheating. Concerns have been raised, considering that it is believed that brain development continues into late adolescence, therefore there is no way of knowing the potential long term effects of using these drugs.

In addition, students main access to these ‘smart drugs’ is through the internet and therefore there is no way to know exactly what is in the drug bought. It is made even more accessible considering it is illegal to sell these drugs, but not to buy them. Some have argued that this law doesn’t represent the severe side effects which accompany every ‘smart drug’ available.

What drugs are available?

Modafinil: Is the most popular amongst students. Normally prescribed for narcolepsy, this drug prevents sleepiness in the working day. It has side effects varying form chest pain and dizziness to memory problems and uncontrollable movement of face.

Adderall: Prescribed for ADHD, the side effects can be physical, including the peeling of skin, or mental, including hallucinations amongst many others.

Over half of users report experiencing side effects from the drugs. The NUS has advised against the use of study drugs, saying that “taking drugs like these can present a risk to your health, just like anything that isn’t prescribed by a doctor.”

Many have questioned why there has been such a sudden increase in the use of ‘smart drugs’ at universities. Some argue that it is due to the pressure on current undergraduates, considering the 19.9% unemployment in 16-24 year olds and the difficulty in finding a graduate job in an incredibly competitive market. Additionally, people claim that the increase of fees in 2012 put more pressure on students to perform, hence students believe the benefits gained from using drugs outweigh the potential side effects.

The Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is currently carrying out a review of the use of these drugs in light of this recent surge in use.