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Medication safety

Drug safety regulator warns students of the dangers of ‘smart drugs’

Some 13% of young adults have bought ‘smart drugs’, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Provigil (modafinil), without a prescription in the past year, according to the results of a survey by the UK medicines safety watchdog.

The results of the survey, which include data from 1,009 young adults aged between 18 and 30 years, also revealed that 11% of respondents purchased the drugs “frequently” (defined as every 12 months or more), while 14% said they were likely to buy the drugs in the next 12 months.

Slightly more respondents admitted to buying the so-called cognitive enhancers on the internet (6%), compared with 5% reporting that they purchased the drugs offline, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found.

The MHRA published its findings as it alerted university students to the dangers of taking ‘smart drugs’ – so called because of claims that they can boost brainpower during exams.

Lynda Scammell, senior policy manager at the MHRA, warns students: “You may be offered smart drugs or cognitive enhancers at university — some of them may be potent medicines which should only be prescribed by a doctor.

“Modafinil is licensed for specific medical conditions — not for use as a ‘boost’ during exams.

“It is a criminal offence to supply prescription-only medicines without a valid prescription. Websites offering them are acting illegally,” Scammell adds.

The warning to students forms part of the MHRA’s FakeMeds campaign, launched in August 2016 and which warns young people about the risks of buying medicines online.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201772

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