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'Drugs for exams is like cheating'

Many students are now turning to 'neuroenhancing' smart drugs to help boost grades. The drugs, originally designed to counteract the affects of ADHD and Alzheimer's, help improve powers of concentration and the ability to memorise material for exams.

With the stress of exam time reaching its peak the fear is many more Irish students may be tempted.

"I have personally come across one or two people who have taken these drugs," says Gary Redmond, president of the Student Union Of Ireland. "However, students need to be aware that there is a reason these drugs are prescription-only."

One UK expert is so concerned about the possible impact she has called for dope testing in universities.

"They should have some strategy," says Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge University. "The coercion aspect is a strong one. Some feel it puts pressure on them to feel they have to use these drugs when they don't really want to."

However, students are all too aware that a small gain in smartness can translate into a big gain in outcome after a 2008 report, from the Academy of Medical Sciences, suggested a small improvement in memory could lead to a higher exam grade or class of degree.

"One could look at this as a form of cheating as you would look at performance-enhancing drugs in sport," says Dr Andrew Harkin, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology Trinity College Dublin.

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