The Study Drug Survey results are out, showing a large percentage of respondents have taken these drugs at some point in their university career. Many of these students blame deadline stress and a hefty workload for their drug use, an ethical question arises among students who have not used study drugs before.
Study drugs, while they have been around for quite some time, seem to have risen in popularity in recent years, with popular culture mentioning their presence on famous campuses around the world and movies such as Limitless bigging-them-up.
Let’s state a clear disclaimer here, for anyone who may not fully understand study drugs: no amount of Ritalin, Adderall and company will turn you into some Bradley Cooper-like superstar of productivity. Don’t believe everything you see on TV kids.
So back to our survey: of the 150 respondents only a small 15% had no idea what a study drug was. It’s also interesting to note that most of respondents were Humanities and Science students; it seems Management and Arts students are just too busy with deadlines and Engineers’ workloads won’t allow them a five minute break to answer a survey.
The most well-known drugs among respondents were Ritalin, Adderall and Modafinil, with more than half of respondents recognising each of these names.
The first two are actual ‘focus enhancing’ drugs that are prescribed to people with attention deficit disorders (ADD & ADHD). Modafinil is more of a power-boost drug, usually given to narcoleptics. Therefore, whilst it can also help you focus – that is more of the unofficial placebo effect – it mainly helps you stay awake during those dreadful pre-deadline all-nighters.
Also, I am not a doctor so for an exact, scientific explanation of these, please refer to an actual scientist or the wonderful world wide web.
At first the survey wants to set the record straight – drug takers and non-drug takers are asked to evaluate their current university workload experience. Most of our respondents recorded an average level of exam stress and pretty much the same amount of people estimated they feel “overwhelmed with work 2-4 times a week”.
Now I know we are all different and some people (quite a few I hope) tend to organise themselves a bit better than I do, but as a final year student those results seem pretty normal.
We all have that one moment when our friends and course mates seem to be gliding along while we are drowning into the swirling waters of deadlines and coursework.
Respondents were also asked if they felt they struggled more than others, because we just love comparing ourselves to our peers – whether it makes us feel like crap or boosts our ego.
It was very close to a 50-50 split between those who did feel they were struggling more than others and those who noticed we’re all in the same boat.
At the end of the day, everyone goes through a moment or two when they believe they are the only ones besieged by deadlines – so if you think about it, you are the one bossing it in someone else’s eyes at some point too!
What is quite worrying from these initial results is that, whilst many students feel overwhelmed to some lesser extent and struggle at some point in the semester, three quarters of respondents don’t believe the SU can help them in any way.
Now clearly this is an urgent matter for the SU to address, through Academic Reps, Student Liaison committees and other academic help set up to get us through our degree. No one at University, especially the Student’s Union that represents you, wants to see you fail.
Their whole raison-d’être is for you to get the best out of University and leave with the biggest smile on your face, and maybe a sticker that says “[my uni]is the best!” So really, if you are struggling, the SU should be one of the first places to look to for help.
Back to the survey results; out of all these overwhelmed and ‘over-worked’ students, twenty-five percent have resorted to study drugs at some point during their higher-education studies.
While Ritalin and Adderall are present among the drugs listed by these respondents, the overwhelming majority name Modafinil as the ‘drug of choice’ to get through exams stress and deadline overload.
Very few were one-time users, with around half of the respondents admitting they used study drugs during their exam periods – it is not clear whether for revision or the exams themselves.
Most people rated the experience as quite useful or extremely helpful, so it is no surprise eighty percent would take them again in future exam periods. It’s the perceived success of these experiences that highlights the recent rise of popularity of such drugs, with half of user-respondents stating they would recommend these to friends. In fact, looking at results from respondents who have NOT taken study drugs we see their perception of the experience to be less useful.
On top of that, their main reasons for not taking study drugs is never feeling the need for them.
Finally it is the ethics discussion that comes into play. Some compare study drugs to performance enhancement drugs in sport – in fact, many of the non-user respondents raised this argument.
On the other hand, user-respondents don’t feel guilty about taking them and a tiny portion of them believe it gave them an unfair advantage over peers. That’s quite obvious though, no one consciously likes to cheat, so people who take study drugs will not consider them selves to be cheating…
Despite the understanding that many of these drugs are obtained without prescription and are illegal, the majority of respondents believe the university should not punish students for taking study drugs.
However, it should be noted that possession of a drug such as Ritalin without prescription is illegal, is a class B drug and carries a five year sentence.
When asked for a comment ,“The University is aware of media reports of use of so-called study drugs by students seeking to enhance their performance in assessments. All students are encouraged to contact the Student Services Centre for advice and support should they be concerned about any aspect of their time at University.”