‘Smart drugs’ as they have been coined are claimed to enhance academic performance by increasing focus, concentration and stimulation. Those who are desperate to succeed are now turning to drugs such as Ritalin which is ordinarily used as treatment for hyperactive children as apposed to traditional stimulants such as caffeine.
Other drugs with brain boosting potential include modafinil (Provigil), a stimulant prescribed for the sleep disorder narcolepsy, donepezil (Aricept), prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease to improve memory, and selegiline (Eldepryl), prescribed for Parkinson’s disease to increase motivation.
Those who are rallying against the proposed introduction of drug tests are arguing that the use of smart drugs is no different to sending children to a private tutor. However, comments made in an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggested that if smart drugs are used consistently for long periods of time this could be a health risk. They would also uneven the playing field because it is only likely to be the wealthy that could afford them, making the rich not only richer, but also smarter.
Most of the smart drugs also cause serious side effects. Those of Ritalin include mood swings, increased heart rate, headaches, dizziness and insomnia. Alongside this students also face the risk of becoming addicted and may find it difficult to wean themselves off.
Earlier this year scientists at Bristol University warned that schools could have to provide the drugs to their pupils within a generation because they could become so widespread that poor children would lose out if they could not afford to buy them.