Smart drugs for British students?
Many of us have seen the headlines regarding British students taking illegally-sold, illegally-bought or off-label use pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'** in attempt to improve exam results. But what is the truth about 'pharmaceutical smart drugs' or 'natural nootropics' in British colleges and universities? Do pharmaceutical pills such as Modafinil, Ritalin or Noopept, when used as study drugs, work as 'smart drugs'? What do actual students have to say on the matter? Here we introduce the legal options i.e 'natural nootropics' such as BrainZyme.
The pressure on students is increasing yearly, with student fees upwards of £27,000 for a 3 year degree, higher living costs and an increasingly competitive job market. When getting a good job or a job at all is reliant on the degree obtained, can you really blame students for trying smart drugs? As a result, demand for cognitive enhancers among students is rising notably.
Pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'/'smart pills' are now an every-day reality of student life today in the UK. It is estimated that in 2016, some 10-15% of students worldwide are now using pharmaceutical ‘smart drugs' such as Ritalin or Modafinil, with the use of 'natural nootropics' seen as a new trend for 2017.
However, the number of students taking pharmaceutical 'smart drugs’ in the UK seems to be higher. The Strathclyde Telegraph article entitled, "Smart drug warning for students" quotes a former dealer who stated the market is in a period of high growth, with a large number of customers being students.
- Up to 37% of students take (pharmaceutical) smart drugs. The student newspaper group The Tab found pharmaceutical 'smart drugs' were most popular at the University of Hull where 37% of students there admitted taking them. Both Newcastle University and the University of Sussex has had usage statistics of 31%. In the same survey, it was found that Economics students had the highest consumption of 'study drugs' at 31% with Engineering students following at 26%.
- Students not worried about the risks. Research of more than 1000 young people aged between 18 and 30 found that 90% were not worried about fake medicines and 20% thought buying smart drugs online was the same thing as buying from a pharmacy.
20% of academics take pharmaceutical smart drugs.
In 2008, an online poll among readers of the scientific journal Nature of 1400 people in 60 countries found that an astonishing 20% reported having taken a pharmaceutical 'cognitive enhancing drug' to stimulate focus, concentration or memory. The drugs reported as used were Ritalin (62% of total), Modafinil (44%) and beta blockers (15%).
Student reviews of pharmaceutical smart drugs
In the Guardian article "In their own words: students share their views on smart drugs" by Helen Whitehouse, students describe various experiences with pharmaceutical smart drugs.
- The first, Gemma, 20, said she started with pharmaceutical ‘smart drugs’ when coffee just wasn't enough and took them in her final year.
- Matt, 22 stated the first time experience with pharmaceutical Modafinil was positive for him, with him writing 6,000 words for his dissertation in one night, ending up getting a first.
- Becky, 19 started with pharmaceutical Modafinil when she was in sixth form and it helped revision, making her more focused. However, the week after she was very drained, and ended up getting less revision and study done. "It also gave me a splitting headache ... I was exhausted and ill in the weeks after I used it".
- Pharmaceutical Modafinil seems to build up a tolerance quickly and so dosages need to be increased; Anna describes the drug being helpful at first but then the reliance she built up over a couple of weeks left her exhausted. She said, "When I took it, I felt amazing for the first couple of days, really buzzing and ready to work. I felt I could study for 10 hours and then to go the gym. I was superhuman ... I ended up taking more and I crashed and got crazy and moody ... couldn't sleep but couldn't concentrate without it".
In the Independent article, "Study drugs: Are Modafinil, Noopept and Nootropics essential to helping students on the road to exam success?" by Lucas Fothergill, several students share their thoughts.
- Sarah stated she didn't notice any true boost in cognitive ability but that there were drawbacks, "have a go if you are curious", she states, "but don't expect it to save your grades". She refers to a friend who was a "straight A grader", and that they both took pharmaceutical Modafinil the night before an exam having done an all-nighter in the library. She ended up with a good first, but her friend only scraped a pass, which was a lot lower than he expected. "Take from that what you will" she says.
- David, speaking on the health risks, also put the use of pharmaceutical smart drugs into context, stating "look at how many students take recreational drugs". However, his main point was the side effects of taking drugs in high doses for essays or exams - what would be the side-effects years later?
- Candice added, "if people want to take them, then they can. But it's at their own risk".
In the Oxford Times article, "Is taking 'smart drugs' for exams a dumb idea?' students seem to be very supportive of pharmaceutical smart drugs such as Ritalin.
- Lucy stated, "I hope they are improving my grades, I feel like they are ... I buy them for £2 a pill." She claims not to have any side-effects and said, "Your thoughts are concentrated on what you want to do".
- Another student, Harry, stated, "I don't get any bad side effects, but I do get little bit anxious and jittery. If someone says a pointless comment I get annoyed. They last for about four hours, and after that you get a down period where you feel tired. I would 100% recommend them, I swear by them."
Professor Barbara Sahakian of the University of Cambridge warns that using pharmaceutical study drugs to cram for exams can make it hard to remember things as our brains need sleep to process new knowledge. The professor added, "We consolidate our memories during sleep, so it is counterproductive if study drug users are not able to have a good quality of sleep".
Pharmaceutical Modafinil was designed for the treatment of the brain disorder narcolepsy, and so works to prevent users from sleeping - this means that over time, it is actually counterproductive for the purpose of study or exam revision.
Is it cheating?
Some emergent trends have been noted both in the US and UK.
- In America, Duke University amended its honour code in 2011 to state "the unauthorised use of prescription medication to enhance academic performance" was a form of cheating.
- In the UK, Leeds University began random 'study drug testing', in 2014 saying the use of such pharmaceutical enhancement drugs raised "serious ethical questions". Some students were upset by this, stating the possession of pharmaceutical Modafinil was completely legal. It is not clear at this point how many students have been tested this way.
It is true that many students in the UK currently consume illegally acquired pharmaceutical 'smart drugs' to help them with study performance, including 'bootleg' pharmaceuticals (such as Modafinil sold online illegally) and experimental pharmaceuticals (such as Noopept). Or they may have procured legal pharmaceutical Modafinil by purchasing it from someone with a prescription, but who sold it to them illegally as a 'study drug'.
The point is that more and more students believe these pharmaceutical drugs help them to focus and do better with study.
With a growing number of students now buying these pharmaceutical ‘smart drugs' online and then selling them to friends, it's only a matter of time before the government enforces the set prison sentence or fines for such 'dealing' and/or possession, although many still believe it's worth taking the legal or health risks for the perceived benefits.
On the other hand, there is a new trend of students getting good results from 'natural nootropics' (natural cognitive enhancers) and finding that they get positive mental performance and concentration effects without the side effects or hassle of the illegal pharmaceutical drugs. These neuro enhancers can even help reduce procrastination.
The arrival in the UK of such natural cognitive enhancers can only be a blessing to those who want to find a reliable, legal and safe option. Whilst the effects of the illegally sold pharmaceutical 'smart drugs' vs. legally sold 'natural nootropics' has been described by some as "a face-slap vs. a symphony", it would be up to each individual to decide which route they would like to explore.
If you feel your studies need a boost, take a look at our article on the best strategies to do well at university. If you need more support, we’d strongly recommend exploring our student support page, especially if having issues with smart drugs.
BrainZyme - is the UK's first natural cognitive enhancer with matcha, guarana, choline and vitamins/minerals. It is a 'natural nootropic' that can help concentration and motivation*. It's made in the UK, safe, legal and affordable. #brainzyme #naturalnootropic
Please note, this is a blog post is for educational and informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice. You should always speak to your Doctor first if you have any medical concerns.
Smart drug warning for students. http://www.strathclydetelegraph.com/2016/10/smart-drug-warning-students/
In their own words: students share their views on smart drugs. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/01/in-their-own-words-students-share-their-views-on-smart-drugs
Study drugs: Are Modafinil, Noopept and Nootropics essential to helping students on the road to exam success? http://www.independent.co.uk/student/istudents/study-drugs-are-modafinil-noopept-and-nootropics-essential-in-helping-students-on-the-road-to-exam-a6763781.html
Is taking 'smart drugs' for exams a dumb idea? http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/11197677.Is_taking____smart_drugs____for_exams_a_dumb_idea_/?commentSort=score
* = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from BrainZyme enables increased motivation.