On Monday (27 December) The Times reported that university students have been getting their hands on ‘study pills’ which help them perform better during assessments.
An investigation by the national newspaper found that students from leading institutes, including Oxford, Edinburgh, and London School of Economics, are taking pills like modafinil, dextroamphetamine, and ritalin. These drugs are usually prescribed for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
While these drugs are currently only available with prescription in the UK, students have admitted that they are easily available in online pharmacies that are based abroad. Moreover, they are being sold at prices as low as £2.
Barbara Sahakian, a professor at the University of Cambridge, told Times, that she herself has been approached by students who were worried that they were at a disadvantage for not taking the drugs. She said:
Someone comes up and says 'I don't want to take these drugs but other people are taking them and I feel I will be disadvantaged.'
They see people passing them round the library. Sometimes they get them on the internet, which is a very unsafe way to get a prescription-only medicine. It's like Russian roulette.
Dealing with academic pressure
Unfortunately, this investigation is not the first to reveal the dangerous technique students are adopting to cope with academic pressure. According to Mail Online, a 2020 online survey revealed that 19% of students, from 54 different universities, had used ‘smart pills.’ There are also reports of students as young as 13 illegally obtaining prescription drugs to improve concentration.
To combat the concerning issue, Universities UK, an organisation that represents 140 universities, has said that it is conducting a study about the use of drugs on campus, including the consumption of cognitive enhancers. They then hope to issue a new guidance to all universities by the end of 2022.