One in seven students use ‘smart’ drugs: study

One in seven Swiss university students has resorted to prescription medication or drugs in a bid to enhance their academic performance, according to the results of a study released on Thursday.

One in seven students use 'smart' drugs: study
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A survey of 6,725 students at the universities of Zurich and Basel and at ETH Zurich found that 13.8 percent admitted to trying to improve their “cognitive performance” through drugs such as Ritalin, sedatives, amphetamines, alcohol or cannabis.

The respondents primarily took these substances during exam time, according to a news release from the University of Zurich.

Researchers from the university worked with colleagues from the University of Basel to examine the use of “psychostimulants” by Swiss students.

They found that 94 percent of respondents were aware of so-called “smart drugs” or “neuroenhancement” but far fewer actually used the drugs.

The proportion of students using such drugs on a daily basis was small (1.8 percent).

But a majority said they consumed “soft enhancers” such as caffeinated products, non-prescription vitamins or herbal sedatives before their last big exam.

A third of respondents said they used such products every day.

The findings are in line with studies conducted on students in European universities.

“As a rule, advanced students who also had a job alongside their degrees and reported higher stress levels consumed performance-enhancing substances more frequently,” the news release said.

Researchers found differences depending on what students were studying with the highest drug use found in architecture (19.6 percent), journalism (18.2 percent), chemistry (17.6 percent), economics (17.1 percent), medicine (16.2 percent) and pharmaceutics (16.1 percent).

Use was much lower in such fields of study as mathematics (8.6 percent) or sports (seven percent).

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Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial

Switzerland’s National Council has approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use. If it is to be legalised however, the government says it must be organic and grown locally.

Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial

The study, which was approved by the National Council on Tuesday, hopes to find out more about the effects that a controlled legalisation of the drug would have in Switzerland. 

The decision to embark upon the trial was to be made in March but was delated due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study wants to understand how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation are also set to be studied. 

“The models must be tested before starting the debate on whether or not to liberalise cannabis,” said Pierre-Yves Maillard (Social Democrats), a spokesperson for the responsible committee. 

Only people who currently use cannabis – and can prove it – will be allowed to participate. Proof will be determined through a hair sample. 

‘Organic and Swiss’

Although legalisation is not a foregone conclusion, the National Council added that if cannabis was to be legalised it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and must be organic. 

Minister of Health Alain Berset said that a legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”, Berset said. 

200,000 cannabis users in Switzerland

An estimated 200,000 people smoke cannabis products in Switzerland. Those in favour of the new trial argue that this shows the war on drugs has failed – and that legalisation will 

Since 2011, the sale of cannabis products containing up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient that makes users high – has been legal in Switzerland.

Regular strength cannabis and other associated products such as hashish are also illegal, although small amounts (less than ten grams) are decriminalised and will only attract a 100 franc on-the-spot fine. 

A poll by the World Health Organisation showed that more teenagers smoked in Switzerland than in any other European country, with 27 percent of 15 year olds having smoked at least once. 

The use of cannabis for medical purposes is also heavily restricted in Switzerland, with only one product – CBD oil – legally available for sale.