Drug tests before exams could curb students’ Ritalin use, academics says

Universities should start conducting drug tests before exams because a growing number of students are taking brain enhancing medication such as Ritalin to help boost their performance, according to a leading academic. This is from the Telegraph…

Professor Barbara Sahakian, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, said students should expect to be screened for the “smart drugs”, as is done in competitive sports.

Ritalin and other drugs that can improve concentration are prescribed to treat ADHD, an attention deficit disorder, but Professor Sahakian has warned that thousands of desperate students are now buying the drug through the blackmarket and online.

Academics say the number of students using the drugs has steadily risen over the last few years as they say the pressure to do well increased during the recession, with some students even faking symptoms of ADHD in order to get prescriptions of Ritalin.

The British Psychological Society (BPS) has also launched an investigation into the growing prescription levels of the drug. There are fears that funding cuts for treatments such as counselling have led to an over reliance on medication.

Ritalin has been found to improve short-term memory in healthy people as well as those with ADHD and can also help with planning and attention.

A report by the Academy of Medical Sciences suggested that just a 10 per cent improvement in memory could raise students one grade band at A-levels or into a different degree class.

Prof Sahakian, from the university’s department of clinical neuropsychology, said more and more students are complaining to her that their peers are using the drug and gaining an unfair advantage.

While a proportion are getting the drugs legally through their doctors, many more are buying them from unregulated online pharmacies for as little as 50p a pill.

More at:  Drug tests before exams could curb students’ Ritalin use, academics says

No mention of this happening in schools, but if it’s happening in universities it is surely only a matter of time before it comes to schools too (if it hasn’t already). How should schools handle the issue? Please share in the comments below, on Twitter or by using this form 

Revealed: The real shortage of school places
Graduate vacancies at five-year high, suggests research
Categories: Higher Education.


  1. gofruityourself

    It appears fairly clear to me that research into all aspects of this drug’s nature needs to happen a.s.a.p. But more importantly, there should be research conducted on all other possible chemical substances that could be used to enhance exam performance. If substances are found to provide possible, or even ‘probable’ enhancements to performance, then I believe a drug testing procedure needs to be introduced. This issue will not police itself, and so an agency/affiliation or similar needs to take responsibility. As a student myself, I have only heard rumours about these medications being used for this purpose, and believe that any student in my position would welcome drug testing if the drugs are found to aid performance. There needs to be more investigation into this subject, as there are very few facts at the moment, and just large amounts of speculation.

Let us know what you think...