Student use of attention drugs a problem

Nov. 7, 2012 at 8:07 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, England, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Amid growing concerns students are using medications such as Ritalin to boost performance, some British schools say they might consider drug tests before exams.

Discussions have been held on how to detect students using drugs that allegedly give them an advantage by helping them remain alert and focused, Cambridge University Professor Barbara Sahakian said.

Drugs meant to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder are becoming increasingly popular with healthy people looking for an extra edge, she said.

Ritalin can improve short-term memory in healthy people as well as those with ADHD, while another medication, Modafinil, has been shown to improve focus in healthy volunteers and reduce impulsive behavior among sleep-deprived people.

A survey of Cambridge students found 10 percent admitting to using cognitive enhancers to help with their work, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"This is one of the issues that students frequently bring up," Sahakian said. "They feel it is cheating or it is unfair on them, they feel coercion to use these drugs because other students are using them."

Although there is no formal plan at Cambridge at present to introduce drug testing, she said, a screening process could become necessary at exam time if use of performance-boosting drugs becomes a problem.

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