Drug testing for exam students could be on the cards

Experts are warning that schools and universities may soon need to test students sitting exams for drugs, in much the same way that athletes are currently tested.

They say brain improving drugs for diseases such as Alzheimer's are being used by healthy people to boost alertness and memory and if these drugs become more of an issue, urine drug tests may be needed just as they are in sports.

At the government's request a working group was set up in 2006 to examine the use of psychoactive drugs which impact on the workings of the brain.

The group led by Cambridge University neuroscience expert Sir Gabriel Horn say the use of psychoactive drugs by patients and healthy individuals will become an increasing feature.

The study says the government will have to deal with the possible increase of "brain-boosting" drugs that may improve short-term memory or speed of thought and act to reduce the harms associated with drug misuse and addiction.

The drugs are designed to help people with neurodegenerative diseases, mental illness and addiction, but are apparently also appealing for non-medical purposes, such as studying or staying alert at work.

The experts say brain enhancers, such as caffeine, had been used for a long-time and there is anecdotal evidence drugs such as aricept, a treatment for Alzheimer's, ritalin, used for attention deficit disorder, and modafinil, which targets day-time sleepiness, were also being used by otherwise healthy people to boost alertness and memory.

They say in future, regulations may have to be introduced to stop these treatments from giving people an unfair advantage in examinations and tests.

The British Pharmaceutical Industry said the prospect of brain enhancers being used on a large-scale was unlikely because they are prescription drugs and a person would need to go to the doctor to get them.

The study from the Academy of Medical Sciences however says action is needed now to reduce the harm associated with such drug misuse and addiction.

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