Comment & Analysis
Apr 19, 2017

Assessing the Use of Prescriptive Medication as a Study Aid

Prescriptive medication can be enticing as a study aid, and there are a multitude of opinions as to whether or not they are acceptable.

Molly FlynnContributing Writer
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

As campus settles down in the run up to the exam period, the quiet buzz of study hysteria can be heard amongst students across campus. While the social life may be winding down, students may find themselves being wound up in panic at the thought of the miracles that must be achieved in under a month. The seas of unrecognisable lecture slides, abandoned readings and unlearned notes must be parted with. The water of unanswerable questions must be turned into a wine of pass-marks and repeat-free summers. Yet we are simple students, not superhumans. How does one manage to cover such vast quantities of information in such a short period of time? Medication for those who suffer with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and supplements that claim to improve cognitive performance can be seen as a way of improving one’s studying capacity and ability to focus and retain information. However, there is much controversy surrounding the use of medication as a study aid.

Drugs such as adderall and ritalin are seductive in their ability to strengthen one’s focus and attention, and stories of students being capable of 14 hours of study a day for two weeks are captivating. Purchasing such medications may feel as though one is buying time – highly productive time in which students must study in order to make the grade. We live in a world where the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight in the past 15 years. Putting that into perspective, the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. Any means of counteracting such distractibility is certainly welcome, and prescription ADHD medication is often used to make students focus for prolonged periods.

Nootropics, more commonly known as smart drugs, are a relatively new area of pharmaceutical development that seek to build drugs to enhance your cognition or general mental ability. One such drug is Noopept. Noopept is a drug that improves the efficiency of neurotransmitters in the brain. It is widely distributed in Russia and can be bought online in powder form. Very little is known about the long-term implications and side effects of using such medication, particularly for those who do not have an underlying form of cognitive impairment.


There remain many ethical and health considerations in the topic regarding whether such medications should be legal to be prescribed, or even whether they should be as simple to purchase a jumbo Red Bull

The Irish stance on Nootropics is also somewhat uncertain: customs seizures of Modafinil imports are common, while in the US, Modafinil is often prescribed to individuals who work in high pressure environments in order to maintain their attention. Different experts have varying opinions as to whether or not it should be prescribed, or even freely available. However, most agree that the status quo is not acceptable. Greater access paired with more rigorous regulation may be considered as the best way forward. Similarly to recreational drugs, an outright, effective ban may be impossible, but ensuring safer products and providing adequate education for potential users reduces the harms and risks associated with these medications.

The topic of ADHD medication consumption by individuals who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD is hotly contested and of particular interest amongst students. There is no doubt that using the likes of ritalin or adderall improves your ability to concentrate, regardless of any underlying cognitive impairments. Adderall, as an amphetamine, is highly addictive, and many studies assert that dependency is also of high risk when consuming ritalin. While there may not be any conclusive evidence regarding how biologically addictive nootropics as a whole can be, the achievement of such positive outcomes as positive grades and more productive study are addictive in themselves. On the other hand, if utilised safely, such medications could allow students and the general population alike to increase their productivity and performance. However, there remain many ethical and health considerations in the topic regarding whether such medications should be legal to be prescribed, or even whether they should be as simple to purchase as the classic double espresso and a jumbo Red Bull.

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