An increasing number of students are misusing legally prescribed drugs for psychiatric disorders in order to boost their academic performance, according to a major study into human enhancement.
The widespread use of "cognitive enhancers" within academia has led to growing concerns among colleges and universities that it may soon be necessary to start random drug testing, says one contributor to a report by four leading UK academies.
As many as 16pc of American students and about 10pc of UK students admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to improve their academic results, said Professor Barbara Sahakian, a psychiatrist at Cambridge University.
"People are starting to think about drug testing. Some of the students who don't use cognitive enhancers may demand it because they are concerned about cheating," she said.
Prescription drugs used to treat recognised psychiatric disorders, such as Ritalin given for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, were ending up in the hands of students who misused them to keep awake and alert in the revision period leading up to exams, she said.
Professor Sahakian was one of the experts who gave evidence to a workshop earlier this year on human enhancement in the workplace. The report, 'Human Enhancement and the Future of Work', by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, says that cognitive enhancement is already happening, especially within academia.
It says there is convincing evidence that some cognitive enhancers are being misused on a regular basis in universities and schools. (© Independent News Service)