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Prevalence and pattern of performance-enhancing drugs use in a sample of British medical students

posted on 2023-06-08, 23:05 authored by Alex Ridgway, Inam Haq, Anjum MemonAnjum Memon
Background: Non-medical use of prescription drugs and stimulants for academic performance (i.e. neuroenhancement) is widespread among university students. Little is known about the use among medical students, who relatively have greater knowledge of, and access to, these substances. Methods: We conducted an anonymous online cross-sectional survey to ascertain the prevalence, pattern and demographic correlates of neuroenhancing drugs use in a sample (n = 289) of British medical students. Results: The lifetime prevalence of neuroenhancing drug use in this sample of medical students was about 14% (40/289); the last-12month and 30day prevalence was 9% and 3%, respectively. Of the 40 students who had used either one or more of these drugs, 16 (40%) had used beta blockers, 12 (30%) Modafinil, 9 (23%) benzodiazepines/sedatives and 7 (18%) had used Ritalin to enhance their academic performance. All these substances were used for exam preparation and/or during written/practical exams. Ritalin and Modafinil were commonly acquired over the Internet or from colleagues. Students typically only used one neuroenhancing substance, and use of a particular substance appeared to cluster within friendship groups. Students also used ‘soft-enhancers,’ including coffee, caffeine tablets, energy drinks and herbal sedatives. Lifetime use of neuroenhancing drugs was significantly associated with lifetime use of other (recreational) substances (i.e. alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, magic mushroom, amphetamine and LSD). Conclusions: This study, which is probably the first to ascertain the use of neuroenhancing drugs among British medical students, suggests a relatively lower prevalence and frequency of use compared to that reported among students in North America. Use of these substances could affect the health and wellbeing of students and impact their future prescribing patterns and attitudes. Key messages: Compared with other Western countries, British medical students probably have a lower prevalence of neuroenhancing drugs use. Medical students need to be educated about effects and impact of substance use on their health and wellbeing, clinical practice and fitness to practice.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • lecture

Event name

8th European Public Health Conference

Event location

MiCo - Milano Congressi, Piazzale Carlo Magno, Milan, Italy

Event type


Event date

14 - 17 October 2015

Department affiliated with

  • BSMS Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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