AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

How Smart Are “Smart Drugs?”

Perhaps one of the most common social activities among people of all ages, though hopefully not in children, is the consumption or use of drugs like alcohol and cannabis.  Generally, these drugs are used for social purposes and lead simply to altered interactions with others; however, more common than one might think is the use of drugs as neuroenhancers by students.  A study published last year by researchers in the universities of Zurich and Basel aimed at discovering how common the use of drugs, prescribed or illegal, was by Swiss students with an average age of 23.  Among the 6,725 students that were surveyed, roughly 13.8% admitted to having tried alcohol, cannabis, prescribed methylphenidate like Ritalin, some amphetamines, and even cocaine in order to boost brain function during an exam preparation period.  These students had heard of the possible brain-boosting properties of the drugs and then attempted to stimulate their brains through the use of either illegal narcotics, or prescribed medicine from physicians that knew what their intended purpose was.  The researchers from the universities also conducted surveys of many physicians located in several European countries, related to similar studies that had been done in some European institutions, in order to ascertain the frequency in which the physicians received requests for neuroenhancers and what the typical response to such a situation was.  Many of the physicians stated that their acceptance or refusal of requests like these depended on the context.  As a whole, only a small minority of the students surveyed claimed to have received the desired effects of the neuroenhancers, begging the question: how effective or safe is the use of these “smart” drugs?  Possibly, as hinted by the survey results, the only real reason the students are experimenting with these drugs is due to their high stress situations (meaning that the drugs are most likely being used for stress-relief with the self-justification of brain enhancement).  Do any of you think there might be some legitimacy in the use of brain-stimulating drugs to attempt enhancement?  Or should the possible safety risks be enough to stray from the attempt?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


No More Ticks?


Big Cats of the Past


  1. segolene

    Interesting article! I agree with you in that many students tend to take drugs to attempt enhancement not only for studying purposes but for athletic purposes as well. I do think that there is some legitimacy in the use of brain- stimulating drugs to attempt enhancement. There are many drugs, such as Nootropics (increase memory and improve focus). However, I do not think that students should result to this type of “studying” because it allows a bad habit to develop that can be detrimental to a student’s health. This site gives some more detail on the increase of students who have subsided to drug enhancers for various reasons.

  2. biolabski

    This is certainly a controversial topic, for many studies show that the brain is damaged by abuse of marijuana. When one consumes marijuana, the brain releases dopamine which makes one feel happy; however, this usage impairs a person’s ability to form new memories and shift focus. To read more about this, click on the following link:

  3. celine2

    This is interesting to read! We often always hear about the negative aspects about drugs and drug abuse. It’s a good and interesting question to wonder how effective the positive effects of drugs are to improve our ability and productiveness.
    I did a little research, and it’s interesting to hear from a first person perspective on his experimentation with Modafinil, a drug that boosts your ability and focus that many college students at Harvard takes. In his point of view, this drug is really effective, although it comes with many negative aspects, he understands completely why his colleagues choose to take this for a few days of intense studying.

    I still think it is best if we stay away from the attempt of using brain-stimulating drugs to increase productivity. Our brains should be allowed to function naturally, which out the help of drugs.

  4. biolivcious

    This was a very surprising topic to read about. I never before heard that cannabis and alcohol could enhance brain function. In doing some research about this topic I came across another interesting article on how alcohol and marijuana can effect the brain:

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar