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14 Percent of Students Have Dabbled into ‘Smart’ Drugs

Update Date: Nov 15, 2013 08:41 AM EST
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Students use prescription medication and drugs to enhance their reasoning performance, research finds.

Researchers from universities in Zurich and Basel studied the life patterns of Swiss students. They asked students if they have ever experimented with neuroenhancement, and if yes which substances they took.

A total of 6,725 students participated in that survey with an average age of 23.

In the survey it was clear that 94 per cent of the total student sample in the study had already heard of neuroenhancement. Among these 13.8 percent had already tried to enhance their cognitive performance by legal or illegal drugs at least once in college. Alcohol (5.6%) turned out to be the most used substance. The second most popular substance was Ritalin (4.1%) followed by sedatives and soporifics (2.7%). There were also a few who used cocaine (0.2%).

“The purported frequency of neuroenhancement at Swiss universities needs to be put into perspective as we asked about psychoactive and calmative substances,” said Michael Schaub, Ph.D., the study leader who also heads the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction.

Students mainly took these substances while preparing for the exams. Majority of them consumed “soft enhancers”. This included caffeinated products and herbal sedatives.

Students with job reported higher stress levels. Subsequently they turned to these substances more often.

“The development of neuroenhancement at Swiss universities should be monitored as students constitute a high-risk group that is exposed to increased stress and performance pressure during their degrees,” added Schaub. “However, there is no need to intervene as yet.”

The findings of the research is published in the journal PLOS One.

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