A survey of readers of a scientific journal has revealed that one in five use drugs to enhance their thinking.
The survey of readers of the journal Nature has found brain-enhancing drugs were used without a prescription to improve their concentration, memory or problem-solving skills.
Although the survey revealed concern about the drugs being used by children, a third of the respondents said they would feel under pressure to give them to their children if other students were gaining an advantage from them.
An article in December by two researchers at the University of Cambridge's psychiatry department which highlighted anecdotal reports of widespread use of brain-enhancing drugs among academics prompted the survey.
One of the authors Sharon Morein-Zamir, suggests the use of off-label brain-enhancing drugs was not confined to the academic world and a recent government report has forecast that the use of such drugs will become commonplace.
The online survey questioned readers about Ritalin, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but considered by college students as a "study aid"; modafinil (Provigil), which is prescribed for sleep disorders, but is used by some to fight general fatigue or jet lag; beta-blockers, cardiovascular drugs prescribed for heart failure and high blood pressure, which are also known for their anti-anxiety effect.
Other drugs used included Adderall, a drug prescribed for ADHD containing a mixture of amphetamines, centrophenoxine, piracetam, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and alternative medicines, such as ginkgo and omega-3 fatty acids.
Editor Brendan Maher analyzed the results and found of the 1,427 respondents from 60 countries around the world, a fifth admitted to using the drugs without a prescription- 62% had used Ritalin, 44% had used Provigil and 15% beta blockers such as propranolol.