“Brain doping” pills hardly help students

“Brain doping” pills hardly help students

Brain doping hardly increases the performance of students, and if so only in the short term

Brain doping is becoming increasingly popular among students. Often, learners justify taking medication or illegal drugs to improve performance due to the increasing pressure to perform at universities. However, experts warn of the unknown long-term consequences of prescription psychostimulants and illegally available substances such as amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy.

Brain doping is part of everyday life for many students For Sarah F. from Hanover, Ritalin is just as much a stressful learning phase as strong coffee. "I can concentrate longer and I'm not as tired anymore," explains the student. After all, the drug is approved for children and therefore cannot be too dangerous. "Of course I don't know how the remedy will work in the long term. That's why I only take it in particularly stressful phases. “Studying is a cost issue these days. You cannot afford to pay tuition fees beyond the standard period of study. Therefore, she had to pass every exam on the first try. The methylphenidate, which is sold under the trade name Ritalin, is usually prescribed for ADD or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorders). Known side effects in children include loss of appetite, growth retardation and reduced weight gain.

A short-term increase in the ability to concentrate can be achieved through brain doping, but a permanent academic performance increase has not been proven so far. Experts therefore warn against overestimating the effects of brain doping.

Brain doping can have a performance-enhancing effect in the short term Which student does not wish to achieve excellent results with just a small pill if he no longer knows how to cope with his tight learning schedule and the exam the next day. It is therefore not surprising that some students resort to brain doping every now and then. So far it has not yet been clarified how the remedies work for healthy people and what long-term consequences they have.

Various substances have been shown to increase performance, at least in the short term. However, experts warn against taking mood or cognition enhancers, as it is not yet known whether or to what extent they lead to psychological or physical addiction. Professor Klaus Lieb from the University Hospital Mainz and his team carried out a survey among 1,547 schoolchildren. Four percent of the respondents said they had used legal or illegal substances at least once to increase their concentration, alertness and alertness. They mainly took illegally available substances such as amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy.

The Hochschul Informations System GmbH (HIS) in Hanover surveyed 8,000 students on the subject of "brain doping". The evaluation of the answers showed that more than one in ten respondents took mood or cognition enhancers at least once in order to be able to cope better with the study requirements. Five percent said they had taken for neuro-enhancement, the neutral term for brain doping, drugs or prescription drugs. "Gentler" remedies, which include herbal, homeopathic and vitamin preparations, as well as coffee and black tea, are used by another five percent.

According to the HIS survey, pain medication and sleeping pills, antidepressants, beta-blockers and methylphenidate (Ritalin) are primarily misused by the students. Amphetamines and the drug Modafinil, which is prescribed exclusively for the treatment of sleeping sickness (narcolepsy), are also very popular among the “doping”. "The side effects of such remedies in healthy people are comparable to what patients who usually take these remedies for significantly longer," says psychiatry professor Isabelle Heuser from the Charité University Clinic in Berlin. Together with her team, she evaluated various studies to investigate the effectiveness and possible side effects that such agents have on healthy people. For example, taking Modafinil in healthy people increases their ability to concentrate. This applies particularly to sleep deprivation. While methylphenidate soothes, antidepressants have a mood-lifting effect. The scientist points out that the agents are well tolerated as long as they are taken only once or twice. However, the long-term effects are unknown. "I can neither advise nor advise against taking," says Heuser. "But I myself would simply be afraid to take something from which the long-term consequences are unknown."

Brain doping does not lead to an increase in academic performance Professor Heiner Wolstein from the Scientific Board of Trustees of the German Central Office for Addiction Issues considers it a myth that the drugs led to an increase in academic performance. This is not scientifically proven, but unknown to most students. "They only prolong the performance." Consumers often have the impression that they feel better, be more creative and hold out longer, "but the effect is like a large, strong coffee. And you still have to learn despite the pill. "

The reason for brain doping is often the increasing pressure to perform at universities. Instead of taking pills, psychiatrist Heuser advises sufferers about alternatives: "Would you take a break and maybe sleep well?" Professor Wolstein agrees: "An alternative is to start studying earlier and sleep well." It was very inconvenient to study instead of sleeping enough the night before an exam. "The likelihood of accessing what you have learned is much less without sleep." 90 minutes of deep sleep was enough to improve performance. (ag)

Also read:
Food for the brain: high performance through nutrition
Exercise can improve brain performance
More and more students are turning to Ritalin

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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