Smarter, faster, harder
How will medical students and doctors be affected by “cognitive enhancing” drugs?
- By: Meher Lad, Neil Harrison
- Published: 17 August 2012
- DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e5105
- Cite this as: Student BMJ 2012;20:e5105
Medical school is hard work. There are long hours for weeks on end, and we have to keep proving ourselves even after we qualify as doctors. There is a constant pressure to pass exams, engage in extracurricular activities, conduct research projects, and publish, to be competitive for future jobs. This is a strain on any student’s motivation, concentration, and focus. It is perhaps no surprise that many students turn to aids such as coffee, revision courses, tutors, or even special diets. In recent years, some students have been using a number of “cognitive enhancing” drugs off licence. There are claims that these can increase concentration and memory and allow prolonged periods of attention while you are working.123
These are the terms for a group of drugs intended for use in medical and psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fatigue, shift-work sleep disorder, and narcolepsy (see table). Methylphenidate (Ritalin),