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Uni students risking health using drugs to get higher marks

One in seven students said they would buy prescription meds to boost performance

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A large number of university students are prepared to risk their health by buying prescription drugs from illegal sources with the intention of boosting their academic performance, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has discovered. But it warned students that thousands of websites have been shut down for selling fake or unlicensed drugs – and even genuine medicines can be highly dangerous to people for whom they were not prescribed.

Modafinil (Provogil), which is licensed to treat narcolepsy, and methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin), for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are often bought from illegal sources as ‘cognitive enhancers’. But the MHRA warned that possible adverse effects of taking them include the risk of dependence, cardiovascular problems and psychosis.

The MHRA research revealed that about one in seven (14%) freshers and university students whom it sampled said they were likely to buy so-called ‘smart drugs’ in the next year. Despite the supply of prescription-only medicines without a prescription being a criminal offence, and despite warnings about the dangers of self-medication, said the MHRA, misuse of prescription medicines remains common.

Its FakeMeds campaign, aimed particularly at young adults, highlights the dangers of buying drugs or medical devices online. The MHRA pointed out that almost 5,000 websites selling fake or unlicensed medicines have already been shut down. And during Operation Pangea, an international week of action against the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines and devices, it seized more than 31,000 doses of narcolepsy medication.

MHRA senior policy manager Lynda Scammell warned freshers and other students: “You may be offered ‘smart drugs’ or ‘cognitive enhancers’ at university – some of them may be potent medicines which should only be prescribed by a doctor.

“Modafinil is licensed for specific medical conditions – not for use as a ‘boost’ during exams. Don’t put your health at risk by self-medication – it could have serious side effects.”

She added: “It’s a criminal offence to supply prescription only medicines without a valid prescription – websites offering them are acting illegally. Be smart – don’t put your health at risk by buying medicines online and don’t give your student loan to a criminal.”

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