‘Smart drugs’ for students?

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By website-news on 5.1.2024

‘Smart drugs’ for students?

John Harris, a professor of bioethics believes that the government should “seriously consider” making cognition-enhancing drugs available over the counter for students.

Professor Harris, also the director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester, believes that drugs such as Ritalin, Provigil and Adderall could significantly improve the concentration and performance of students.

Despite side effects such as nausea, insomnia, depression and even hair loss, he believes that the benefits of the drugs outweigh the risks stated.

Currently, it is a criminal offence to take such drugs without a prescription, but Professor Harris hopes to resolve this.

“I’m calling for universities and the Government to recognise that there is nothing wrong in principle with trying to improve your cognitive functioning. That’s what people might think education was for if they didn’t understand much about it.”

Professor Harris feels it is acceptable for any student to take such enhancers if he or she believes they will benefit from using it.

He compares this to being prescribed sleeping pills himself by his doctor; this was not because he was medically unable to sleep, but because he wanted to feel fresh after a long flight, in order to deliver a presentation to the best of his ability.

However, Professor Gary Lynch, a neuroscientist at the University of California, has been researching the biochemical mechanisms of memory for almost 40 years, and doubts that the drugs will ever be available over the counter.

“There are major regulatory problems for enhancement compounds.

“For one, conditions (such as the loss of memory capacity and cognition) have not to my knowledge been recognised as legitimate therapeutic targets.”

He believes that pharmaceutical houses will be hesitant about making such drugs widely available.

Conversely, the student newspaper of the University of Sussex recently published an article about the drug Ritalin, which included comments from one student, who was prescribed the drug to help her in her final term of study. She believes that there was no difference between taking Ritalin and drinking lots of Red Bull, as her peers did.

Within the same article, a male masters student claimed that some of his friends took the drug “all the time.”

These opinions raise the question as to whether legalising these drugs would put students on a downward spiral, or help give the extra boost they crave during long study sessions.


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