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).