Smart Drugs no Shortcut to Higher Grades

Smart Drugs no Shortcut to Higher Grades

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Photo: Joel Jeffels

Students take drugs for more effective studying. At the same time, research shows that the academic benefits seem to be an illusion.

by Karin Berg             Translation Carl-William Ersgård 

Students use drugs to maximise the number of hours in a day. But a scientific study from the USA, published 2016 in Addictive Behaviors, indicates that the usage of smart drugs does not help students to higher grades.

Smart drugs are drugs that are used to study more in a smaller amount of time. Often, these are prescription drugs that are taken without an equivalent diagnosis.

Counter-productive
In the study, the researchers come to the conclusion that smart drugs are not a shortcut to higher grades, and that the academic benefits seem to be an illusion. Håkan Widner, professor at the Department of Neurology in Lund, shares the view that smart drugs are counter-productive.

“If you take amphetamine and stay up studying for 24 hours, the information is not stored in the brain the way it should be, making it completely useless”, Håkan Widner says.

Occurs in Lund
In Sweden, the use of smart drugs among students is a relatively unexplored field, but the occurrence of the phenomenon is known.

Anton, studying at Lund University, has been using the ADHD drug Ritalin before exams. He bought the pills from a friend diagnosed with ADHD. They helped him keep focussed.

“I don’t know if it is only placebo, but it has helped me keep my concentration on top, sitting for several hours reading a book. It is a compensation for my, self-experienced, concentration difficulties”, Anton says.

Anton does not directly know anyone else who uses smart drugs, but there are people further out in his field of acquaintances.

“Of course, I have heard of it, but I haven’t spoken with anyone about it. A friend of mine did tell me that this other friend could sell some stuff. I don’t think it is that rare”, he says.

Nice to get more hours out
Peter, who also studies in Lund, took Ephedrine, a performance-enhancing drug, during his last year at high school. Peter also got in contact with the substance through a friend who often had prescription drugs at home. The first time he tried it was in an athletic context.

“The energy boost was sick, it was very hard to sit still at all. But over time, I learnt to control that energy”, Peter says.

The pills meant that Peter could read a couple of hundred credits extra during his last year at high school. He has not been using smart drugs since, mostly because of the fear of getting caught.

“My need is not so great that it is worth the risk. But during my most intensive period at the University, when I felt that I could get some use out of it, I considered it. It would have been nice to get those extra hours out”, he says.

Difficult to assess the scope
Student Health in Lund is aware that smart drugs are used among students, but it is difficult to assess to what degree. Ordinarily, students come for other reasons.

“On the other hand, talks with students approaching us for other reasons reveal that there is a drug use”, writes Teres Saras, counsellor at Student Health, in an e-mail.

Anton and Peter goes by other names.

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