Rise of the ‘not so smart’ drug

With a generation of teenagers who seem to be steering away from alcohol, cigarettes and unsafe sexual practices, there is one worrying trend on the rise; the use of so-called ‘smart drugs’ to help them revise and maximise study time.

Students’ health service director at Bristol University, Dr Dominique Thompson, said that she has seen an increase in the number of students who are willing to admit to taking modafinil, a prescription drug used to treat sleep disorders but can also be used to stay awake.

But just as there is a pressure to leave university with the most competitive degree, this worrying practice is not limited to university students feeling the pressure of finals. 6th form students as young as 17 have also admitted to using the drug to stay awake to increase study time for A-levels.

Studying while holding down part-time jobs and other extra-curricular pressures makes it harder for students to concentrate at school. Add to this tough competition for university places leads some young adults to make silly choices. ADHD drug Ritalin is also being used to help students stay focused and maximise their learning potential.

However, taking a prescription drug for use outside of its specific perimeters does not come without side effects. Professor in the University of Cambridge’s department of psychiatry, Barbara Sahakian, has warned that our brains need sleep to make sense of excessive information so in fact using a drug to stay awake could be counterproductive. But not only this, misuse of these drugs can lead to splitting headaches, rashes and extreme fatigue.

An added danger to this issue is that these drugs are often ordered through unregulated pharmacy sites with no guarantee of authenticity or contents.

Students need to be educated about the danger of these so called ‘smart drugs’ and that they are not a substitute for proper time planning and an organised study approach.

Learn more about the danger of these kinds of drugs through one young adult’s smart drug ‘nightmare’.

Emma Williams