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Taking drugs for the high (grades)

By Emma Jacobs

Thursday 26 February 2015 Student Journalists

While students once snorted lines to get high in club toilets, the new trend is to sharpen up before a cram session or exam. Having sat 3 hour exams with only coffee and adrenaline to keep me focused, I can understand where these students are coming from.

The ethical line is blurry. Students don’t simply want to have a fun night of hedonism; they want to get their head down for a night of textbooks. Surely this is simply an extension of taking pro-plus while revising for GCSEs, an act no one would pass judgment on. But dwindling in harder drugs can be an indication of greater pressure, socially or academically.

The advantages are clear- a few hours more concentration at the mere cost of a pill. People go to much greater and more risky expenses so as to do well. Having spoken to a friend who took Ritalin, commonly prescribed in the UK on the NHS to those with ADHD, she said the effects were surprising. While it had helped her concentrate on her books, the second her phone was in front of her she felt her attention shift dramatically. Unfortunately, the phone grasped her attention as much as her textbook had. This is not ideal if you have a major test the next day and limited study time.

But, as with any non-prescription drug, there are the risks. Be it mere side effects, such as headaches and nausea or even in some cases as severe as death.

Last year a study reported that 1/5 Ivy League students have taken study pills to smart up and according to a recent independent article, this is also the case at the UK’s Ivy League alternative- Oxbridge.

It’s clear that the pressure’s so real for students at all universities that either the drugs are not in such easy supply or people are actively choosing to go about revision the old fashioned way.

In light of whistle blowing regarding doping scandals, a negative light has been cast on many drugs (including prescription) being used to gain a personal advantage. Universities and higher education adopt a similar approach meaning the use of recreational drugs during exams is not accepted.

It’s clear the answers are out there, whether they’re on sale in the library loos or over the web from Singapore. If people really want them- they will source them. The real question is, is it really worth popping a pill to go up a grade?




Hi, I’m Emma. I’m Deputy Editor of Kettle Magazine, a vlogger for Sky’s Stand Up Be Counted and a blogger. I’m currently in sixth form and hope to go on to study at university. I’m very interested in politics and have a tendency to get a bit too into debates in class. I’m also an English geek and love reading, writing and going to poetry recitals at the poetry café in London’s Covent Garden.

I look forward to exploring the theme of community within the student world. It’s where we live and what occupies our thoughts during boring classes and lectures. I know the struggles of balancing sixth form/college, friends and sleep whist living at home. The government isn’t doing enough to help us and so many social issues arise in our lives. NUS offers students a fantastic platform, now it’s time for those in power to listen to us. Let’s hope May 2015 brings change.