Smart drugs for British students?

Sep 23, 2017 6 comments
Smart drugs for British students?

Smart drugs for British students?



- Growing Smart Drug Use

Student reviews of pharmaceutical smart drugs

Are smart drugs 'memory pills' for students?

- Are study drugs available over the counter in the UK?

Our opinion on nootropics for studying

- Our Favourite


This article will examine and summarise the growing trend of British university students using 'smart drugs' or 'memory pills', delivering facts via news articles and studies into their use in universities and whether they're effective.  The real truth about nootropic smart drugs for students will be revealed, through student reviews and testimonials.  Finally, we will introduce alternatives that students may want to use, such as 'natural nootropics'.

At the end of this Blog Article, we summarise and share our favourite natural nootropic.

Many of us have seen the headlines regarding British students taking illegally-sold, illegally-bought pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'** sold online in an 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.  

smart drugs

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 buying smart drugs online? 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, with students often purchasing smart drugs online from shady 'pharmacies'. 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.

Growing Smart Drug Use

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.
  • A 2012 study carried out at Cambridge found that the idea of some people doing better due to cognitive enhancing drugs was 'highly disconcerting' to many students interviewed.

Are smart drugs 'memory pills' for students?

An indelibly important factor for many students going into exams is their memory in many instances.  Many turn to smart pills believing they work as 'memory pills' for students - but what is the truth behind this?

A 2016 article from The Conversation states that Ritalin (methylphenidate) could be damaging to short-term memory amongst people with a higher-performing brain.

Numerous studies have found Modafinil helpful for memory, in those with other cognitive issues or drug dependencies.  It may work as a memory pill for students, but only those with a pre-existing cognitive issue.

And Adderall, rather than acting as a memory pill for students, may instead cause memory loss when used in a non-therapeutic way over long periods.

Are study drugs available over the counter in the UK?

As mentioned, many 'study drugs' are illegal and thus not available over the counter in the UK.  There are two laws that prohibit study drugs from being sold over the counter:

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  This act regulates the sale of 'psychoactive substances', which includes study drugs in the UK.  As a result, study drugs like Modafinil cannot be bought over the counter in the UK in a regulated pharmacy and must be prescribed by a doctor.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.  The aforementioned Psychoactive Substances Act also excluded drugs already regulated under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.  This act regulates many other study drugs, making drugs like Adderall and Ritalin impossible to acquire over the counter in the UK.  The Drugs (Prevention Of Misuse) Act 1964 also controlled substances like amphetamines under which Adderall would be classified, but this was repealed in favour of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

However, in the UK it is possible to get some nootropics over the counter - but they must be natural nootropics that are compliant with British regulations, such as BrainZyme.

Our opinion on nootropics for studying

It is true that many students in the UK currently consume nootropics for studying.  Pharmaceutical smart drugs such as Modafinil or Noopept are frequently used to help study performance.  Many of these nootropics used for studying are acquired illegally, from grey-market offshore pharmacies or other disreputable sources.  It may also be that nootropics for studying are procured by purchasing them from someone with a prescription, selling their drugs illegally as 'study drugs'.

The point is that more and more students believe these smart drugs help them to focus and do better with study.

With a growing number of students now using nootropics for studying, buying 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.

However, there is now a new sort of nootropic for students in Britain: 'natural nootropics', which provide an effective, affordable and safe option to people who want a quick way to boost their brainpower and improve their grades.  These nootropics use superfoods, amino As, herbals, vitamins and minerals to help students concentrate, and motivate* themselves.

The arrival in the UK of these natural nootropics for studying 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.

Our Favourite

BrainZyme.  In contrast with pharmaceutical smart drugs, there is a new trend of students getting good results from this 'natural nootropic' (natural cognitive enhancer), with many reporting that they get positive mental performance and concentration effects from it without the side effects or hassle of the illegal pharmaceutical drugs. These neuro enhancers can even help reduce procrastination.  Both media reviews and customer reviews agree that BrainZyme is a great way to help your cognitive performance.

Learn more about 'natural nootropics' here.

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.

best nootropics

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.
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?
Is taking 'smart drugs' for exams a dumb idea?


* = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from BrainZyme enables increased motivation.


** = Important note - whilst BrainZyme is scientifically proven to support concentration and mental performance, it is not a replacement for a good diet, moderate exercise or sleep. BrainZyme is also not a drug, medicine or pharmaceutical. It is a natural-sourced, vegan food supplement with ingredients that are scientifically proven to support cognition, concentration, mental performance and reduction of tiredness. You should always consult with your Doctor if you require medical attention.

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  • Is brainzyme a nootropic?

    paulog on

  • When you’ve got exams on and the pressures turned right up, you’ll take anything to make sure you get the grades. The pressure is immense! Me and most of my friends will try anything to get better grades.

    Mark224Edin on

  • I think if a chemical drug has an effect on enhancing the brains capacity to study then surely there must be a downer when the chemical drug has worn off. Students must feel tired and depleted in energy for a while… seems the wrong way to go

    Lucy - on

  • Sure be natural, but only if it works. If it works, then be as natural sourced as you can I say. However does it work? The reviews look good but nothing can be 100% perfect. If you get 75% customer positive responses or more, then that’s pretty good – good enough for me at least. I think natural based nutritional “tweaking” is only going to get better and better. I’m glad to see you guys launching such a “brain nutritional optimisation” brand. Good luck to yous.

    aura3888 on

  • The main reason I love modafinil is the dopamine effect I get … it makes me feel motivated, and gets me a clear head. I love that feeling. But after a few weeks, you need more and more to get to the same place.

    S9078Peters on

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