User login

Join The Debate

Cast your vote and join the conversation.

Membership is free.

Get Started

Warning message

The subscription service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.

College Students Should Be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs

The BriefGet Up To Speed

If you could take a pill that would help you study and get better grades, would you? Off-label use of '€œsmart drugs'€ '€“ pharmaceuticals meant to treat disorders like ADHD, narcolepsy, and Alzheimer'€™s '€“ are becoming increasingly popular among college students hoping to get ahead, by helping them to stay focused and alert for longer periods of time. But is this cheating? Should their use as cognitive enhancers be approved by the FDA, the medical community, and society at large? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?


Society must respond to the growing demand for cognitive enhancement. That response must start by rejecting the idea that “enhancement” is a dirty word.

Sunday, December 7, 2008
Henry Greely and Colleagues

Colleges should encourage students to engage in the practice of education rather than seeking shortcuts. Instead of punishing students for smart drug use, universities should focus on restoring a culture of deep engagement in education, rather than just competition for credentials.

Sunday, February 27, 2011
Matt Lamkin

A leading bioethicist squares off with a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics on the controversy about pursuing better brains with a little help from biotechnology.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004
Arthur L. Caplan and Paul R. McHugh

Like fad diets, get-rich-quick schemes and other quick fixes, cognitive enhancement may never be able to deliver the kind of results achieved by good old-fashioned self-care.

Monday, June 3, 2013
David Sack

As medical advances endow us with superhuman abilities, we are in danger of losing our humanity.

Thursday, August 20, 2015
Jemima Lewis

What's wrong with designer children, bionic athletes, and genetic engineering.

Thursday, April 1, 2004
Michael Sandel

Various prescription drugs and unscheduled substances are being taken as study drugs to help students concentrate for extended periods of time in hopes of boosting their grades. What drugs are being used for studying?

Sunday, September 6, 2015
Dieter Holger

College campuses have become laboratories for experimentation with neuroenhancement through widespread smart drug use.

Monday, April 27, 2009
Margaret Talbot

The use of so-called ‘smart drugs’ to boost mental performance is rife in British universities. So can we all benefit from ‘having an edge’, or is it just a form of cheating that should be banned?

Saturday, February 14, 2015
Carole Cadwalladr

Taking stimulants has clearly become routine for a sizeable minority.

Sunday, January 4, 2015
Andrew Purcell

Who is using smart drugs for cognitive enhancement, and how prevalent is this practice? Do prescription stimulants in fact enhance cognition for normal healthy people?

Friday, March 8, 2013
M. Elizabeth Smith and Martha J. Farah

If there were a drug that would make you smarter, would you take it? Today an increasing number of healthy people are using drugs without a prescription as a way to improve their mental functioning.

Thursday, April 22, 2010
CBS News

In a survey of 4,580 college students, 8.3% reported illicit use of prescription stimulants in their lifetimes and 5.9% reported use within the last year. This study breaks down illicit stimulant use by various factors including stimulant type, motivations for use and type of use.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Christian Teter

Of the 1,235 first-year college students attending a public university interviewed, 19.6% reported nonmedical use of smart drugs in their lifetimes and 15.5% reported use in the past year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Amelia M. Arria

One in seven healthy Swiss college students have been found to enhance their cognitive performance with the use of prescription medication, legal drugs, or illegal drugs during their academic careers, according to a recent study.

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Lizette Borreli

An informal survey of Nature readers found that one in five had taken the anti-hyperactivity drug Ritalin, narcolepsy treatment modafinil, or beta blockers for non-medical reasons to stimulate focus, concentration or memory.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Brendan Maher

How common is it for adults to take ADHD drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, etc., and do we know anything about who those adults are?

Friday, September 19, 2014
Mona Chalabi
User Experience

Students weigh on in the advantages and ethical concerns surrounding smart drug use on campus.

Saturday, June 9, 2012
The New York Times

A writer documents his experience using smart drugs without a prescription for one week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Joshua Foer

Do smart drugs actually exist? Some studies suggest that smart drugs don’t do much, if anything.

Monday, May 4, 2015
Tom Bartlett

Students are already taking modafinil “off the label,” thinking it will help them focus during exams. But now they have scientific evidence that the "wonder drug" also enhances a healthy person's ability to solve problems and think creatively.

Friday, August 21, 2015
Guneet Bhatia

So-called "smart drugs" offer the promise of immediate and tangible cognitive benefits, but how effective are they really?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Camilla d'Angelo

Smart drugs used to boost performance in the short term may have long-term consequences.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Alexandra Sifferlin