‘New’ Smart Drug Abuse By UK University Students

Students at top British universities are using Modafinil – a drug designed to combat sleeping disorders – so that they can study for longer.

Nearly a quarter of University of Oxford students are taking Modafinil, according to a Sky News report. The report outlines that an increasing number of undergraduates take the drug in the run up to exams, as it allows them to study more.

The taking of prescription drugs is not illegal, but resale amongst students is against the law. In regards to Modafinil, its availability as a prescription drug has generated a black market for the drug within UK universities. The drug can be found easily online and consequently students have been selling it around campus for about £2 a pill.

The long-term effects of taking the drug are unknown. Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, raised his concerns, “To all those young people, we completely understand the pressures of taking exams but you are playing with fire if you take drugs that haven’t been prescribed. It’s a very dangerous thing to do and I would strongly encourage students to think again before doing this.”

Some students are therefore hoping that the drug will soon become available over the counter without prescriptions, which would ensure the regulation of the use of Modafinil by students, protecting their health.

On the other hand, there are students who believe that the drug should remain illegal, seeing the drug as a substance that encourages cheating, due to the ‘competitive advantage’ it gives to the students concerned.

Spokespeople from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge maintain that they have not yet seen proof that use of Modafinil is a problem within their universities, but advise students to avoid taking the drug without a prescription.

Universities UK, the group that represents all UK universities, claims that there is no ‘firm evidence’ that proves that the use of Modafinil is widespread. Nevertheless, the organisation is concerned about ‘smart drugs’ becoming a normal part of university life and has made a plea for further research to be conducted in this area.

Impact spoke to the University of Nottingham (UON) about possible smart drug abuse by its own students.

The UON made clear that it “strongly advises students to be acutely conscious of the dangers of using illegal drugs, including possible action under the University’s Code of Discipline.  Even in regard to substances that are not illegal, we would strongly advise, on health grounds, that students contact their GP or a chemist before consuming any pharmaceutical products.”

Hannah Kirby



2 Comments on this post.
  • Michelle Davies
    27 October 2013 at 14:47
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    I think it’s a bit difficult to label Modafinil as “cheating” due to its cognitive enhancing ability… using that logic you could argue that drinking green smoothies and eating healthily are also “cheating” – any substance you choose to put into your body has an effect on your mind. Still, I definitely agree it’s important to get more independent studies on Modafinil done – if only for people’s peace of mind.

  • Jennifer Frost
    12 May 2014 at 10:54
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    I would agree with Michelle. Modafinil doesn’t make you smarter, it just makes you sharper. Your intelligence is something that has to be developed, just like others not using modafinil. Modafinil just allows you additional focus to utilise your intellect.

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