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Students could face drug tests in UK crackdown on study pills

By River Reporter Dec 6, 2012

Manon Ibrahim

Students across the UK may be forced to take drug tests before exams after an expert neuroscientist said that the use of study-aid drugs could give them an unfair advantage.

Barbara Sahakian, professor of neuroscience at Cambridge University, claims that some drugs could boost grades by as much as 10 per cent. This comes as the use of performance-enhancing drugs has increased dramatically.

KU does not have a firm position on performance-enhancing drugs. A spokeswoman said: “We do not currently have any plans to introduce a pre-examination drug testing policy. If the use of performance-enhancing drugs was deemed to be an issue in the future, however, the University would then re-evaluate the situation.”

A survey by The River indicated that 20.5 per cent of students have used or are using performance-enhancing drugs, which is double the UK average.

According to the survey 80 per cent of KU students said they drink Red Bull or coffee to stay awake during exam periods, but a surprising 54 per cent said that they would use stronger substances if they were available to them.

KU lecturer Hannah Moir, a doctor of health and exercise prescription, said: “The implementation of the test will make students less likely to use it because at the moment there are no consequences.

“When somebody says there’s a risk you can be drug tested and if you’re found positive you get chucked out of university, you hope that would have an impact on people initially wanting to go down that route.”

One 21-year-old student, who studies social sciences at Kingston, admitted to using modafinil as a study aid. The drug is intended to help narcoleptics stay awake. Describing his experiences on modafinil, he said: “It really boosted my performance but you have to have the right mentality when you take it for it to work. It completely saved my life with essays in first year to be honest. Without it I probably would’ve failed.”

According to Dr Moir even caffeine has potential risks as a drug as it’s highly addictive and certain dosages can cause consequences.

Andrea Petroczi, a professor of public health at Kingston University, said that using drugs in sport is a different matter to using them in a classroom environment.

“If you have a deadline for coursework and you leave it to the last minute it can help to produce higher quality of work.” Her department are currently researching the issue of how many students use the drugs.

The River surveyed 150 students at Penrhyn Road and online.

KU offers support for students with drug problems. Students can also contact Kingston Community Drug and Alcohol Team on 020 8336 8911 for further help and support.

To read the full story pick up a copy of this Friday’s River.

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