Traditionally students are known for relying on certain substances to stay awake during lectures, but up until now this has mainly been limited to a strong cup of coffee or perhaps the odd Pro Plus. This was before the ‘smart drug’ class of 2013 came along however.
Recent figures show a staggering number of students are abusing prescription drugs that have been designed to boost concentration for hours on end. These numbers come from a report from the Care Quality Commission, which monitors the use of controlled substances.
The report states that prescriptions for methylphenidate drugs such as Ritalin (used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have increased by 56% over the last five years. Worryingly these figures don’t even include the rising number of students ordering ‘smart drugs’ in bulk from the Internet.
The intense pressure to get top grades and secure a job after graduation in a competitive workplace is thought to be to blame. Last year a survey estimated that 10% of students attending Cambridge University used this type of enhancement to help them study. Prof Barbara Sahakian works as a neuroscientist at the university and has written a book on the subject, suggesting students be subjected to pre-exam drug tests.
Aside from the obvious health risks associated with taking unregulated drugs, the other concern lies with the psychological dependency and increasing peer pressure.
One graduate who admitted to taking Modafinil (used to treat narcolepsy) said it was like having tunnel vision for 14 hours, complete with a suppressed appetite and an aversion to socialising. Another student says because they are prescription drugs, they are seen differently and many students who wouldn’t dare take other drugs such as cocaine or marijuana are trying these prescription meds.
The concern today is that when these students do find employment, will the stresses of work and remaining employed lead to a generation of workers addicted to prescription medication?
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