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Information about cognitive enhancers and study ahead of third-level exams

Drugs.ie publish information about the misuse of prescription medication ahead of third-level exams. 

Dr Jeffrey Timoney from the HSE National Drug Treatment Centre has developed information aimed at third-level students to raise awareness about the risks associated with misusing prescription medication to study.

When used to help with performance, these drugs are often called ‘Study Drugs’, ‘Smart Drugs’, ‘Nootropics’ or ‘Cognitive Enhancers’.

What are they?
The term ‘smart drug’, ‘study drug’, ‘nootropic’ or ‘cognitive enhancer’ normally refers to a particular group of drugs often used for their ability (or in many cases perceived ability) to increase various cognitive abilities such as memory, concentration, planning or the more general ability to complete certain mental tasks.

They are often used by college students, tech workers or even secondary school students who believe they aid their memory and concentration, thus allowing them to achieve greater success in exams, complete more assignments, or just stay awake during periods of sleep deprivation and/or reduced sleep.

Why people take smart drugs
In today’s competitive society, people often find themselves with far more to do than the energy or concentration to do it.

With exams or assignment deadlines looming, people can find themselves feeling that in order to achieve their goals, pharmacological help is needed.

What are the drugs?
The drugs students often used can be generally divided into 3 groups: the ADHD drugs, the Eugaroics and Nootropic Supplements.

ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) Drugs

These would include Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn), Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat) and Atomoxatine (Strattera).

These drugs, while increasing concentration and wakefulness often have very severe side effects such as headache, sleep disturbance, nausea, nervousness and dry mouth. More severe side effects include hypertension (high blood pressure), hallucinations (hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there as well as thoughts of suicide.

Methylphenidate, Dextromethamphetamine and the amphetamines are all central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drugs and can therefore severely disrupt sleep.

Good sleep has been proven to be a far greater aid for exam performance than any stimulant drug so are best avoided for this reason alone.

During sleep, memory consolidation takes place – what this means is that newly acquired information (short term memory) becomes written into the long term memory bank of your brain to be recalled later ie. in an exam.

Many studies have shown time after time that any increase in concentration to be gained using these drugs, is going to be greatly offset by the sleep disturbance they are likely to cause.

Atomoxatine does not improve concentration as much as the stimulants and can take up to 4 weeks to work and so does not tend to be used as a study/smart drug.

Read more here

Author: Dr Jeffrey Timoney BA(Hons) MB BCh LRCP&SI BA (Hons) MA, Psychiaty Registrar.

Date: 05/04/19 

Posted by drugs.ie on 04/05 at 02:14 PM in
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