October 1, 2009
Testing For Academic Doping
Although the increasing use of smart drugs known as "nootropics" will be hard to ban, it could lead to the use of routine doping tests for exam students, according to a report issued Wednesday.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Vince Cakic of the Department of Psychology at the University of Sydney pointed to the abuse of smart drugs among students wanting to achieve higher academic standing.
Cakic compares the situation to the controversial use of performance drugs in professional sports.
"It is apparent that the failures and inconsistencies inherent in anti doping policy in sport will be mirrored in academia unless a reasonable and realistic approach to the issue of nootropics is adopted," he said.
Cakic noted that the increased off-label use of drugs, such as Dexedrine and Ritalin, could lead to the use of urine tests for exam students.
"As laughable as it may seem, it is possible that scenarios such as this could very well come to fruition in the future. However, given that the benefits of nootropics could also be derived from periods of study at any time leading up to examinations, this would also require drug testing during non-exam periods," Cakic wrote.
"If the current situation in competitive sport is anything to go by, any attempt to prohibit the use of nootropics will probably be difficult or inordinately expensive to police effectively."
Students are turning to a handful of different drug varieties, including Provigil, which contains modafinil, Ritalin, which contains methylphenidate, and Dexedrine, which contains amphetamine.
He estimates that the off-label use of such drugs may be as high as 25 percent among college campuses, and it may be higher in universities with more competitive admission criteria.
Other drugs used to boost memory skills include brahmi, piracetam (Nootropil), donepezil (Aricept) and galantamine (Reminyl).
"The possibility of purchasing 'smartness in a bottle' is likely to have broad appeal to students," said Cakic.
"Scandal would erupt and rumors abound when the magna cum laude is stripped of his title for testing positive for modafinil -- a drug that gave him near-superhuman levels of mental endurance," he added.
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