Is it clever to take smart drugs?
What drives medical students to take smart drugs and what are the risks?
- By: Paul Welford
“I tried smart drugs because I was struggling with medicine,” says Laura (NB: all student names in this article are pseudonyms). “I didn’t feel academic enough to keep up on the course.” She is not alone. A small online survey of 1122 Student BMJ readers in 2015 found that 8.3% of medical students in the United Kingdom claimed to have used cognitive enhancing drugs to help them study.
Although the number of self selecting respondents represents only around 2% of the medical student population in the UK, this snapshot suggests that some medical students resort to cognitive enhancing drugs to keep up with the demands of their medical degrees. These are often prescription drugs such as modafinil and methylphenidate (marketed as Ritalin), which are used “off licence,” and obtained through unregulated and illegal channels. So, what drives students to use cognitive enhancing drugs? Do they offer an unfair advantage and