Study Drugs: Trick or Treat? | St. George’s University Spotlight on Science

Last Thursday, I attended a lecture at St. George’s University, about ‘study drugs’.

Study drugs are defined as  prescription stimulant medications that are used improperly by a person with a prescription, or more often, illegally by a person without a prescription, increasing concentration and stamina.

That’s the proper, fancy definition so to put it into simpler terms, they’re basically drugs that people use to help them work better or study better, kind of like the pill in Limitless, except these drugs are made for medication not solely for doing better in school, etc.

Minor examples of this include caffeine and cocaine but today I’m going to be focusing on other examples. Examples that include Strattera, which increases noradrenaline (a hormone with is involved in the fight or flight response), Ritalin and Adderall, which increase noradrenaline and dopamine. Modafinil is also an example but there’s not a lot of information known about it.

 

Raymond Hill, a professor in pharmacology, stated there has been a 56% increase for Ritalin prescription in the past five years, in England. He also claimed that they are being “regularly approached by students who feel under pressure to take drugs as they feel like they are falling behind their peers.” And that being said, I feel like it’s important to specify that Ritalin in a class B drug and can result in prison for five years just for possession of it.

 

Students are feeling pressured to take these study drugs to do well and survive the education system by consuming and even overdosing on these drugs, risking the fact they could end up in prison. I even know of someone, who takes study drugs to do well in school. Dr Jennings, a science communicator, showed the effects of increasing the dose of dopamine and noradrenaline, which some of these study drugs do. These are the stages of increasing the doses:

  1. Wakeful (cognitive enhancement)
  2. Vigilance
  3. Hyper-locomotion
  4. Mania
  5. Euphoria
  6. Psychosis
  7. Coma
  8. Circulatory Collapse

You might be thinking Hmm, why can’t you just stop using it when you feel like it’s going too far. Well, Ritalin and Adderall are addictive so it can be hard to stop once you start.

So far, we know study drugs are often taken by students to get an advantage in school but these drugs have severe side effects. You might be thinking these students are cheating and are too stupid to think about the consequences. And don’t feel too guilty if you do think that because I’m @ing you right now. I kind of thought the same too.

But then, Neil Gibride, a lecturer in education, opened my mind.

 

Me and My Best Friend in Chemistry

Gibride explained that GCSEs and A Levels, which are academic qualifications taken in secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges, in most of the UK, are designed so that 30% of students will fail! 30%!

The education system is a competition amongst young people, which parents and students try their hardest to get through. 1/3 of parents knew of other parents that used ethically dubious strategies to secure a good school place for their child, like using their grandparent’s addresses or moving house temporarily so they are considered in the catchment area of the school, which gives them more of a priority into getting in. Some parents send their kids to private tuition for the 11+ exam, which, by the way, has a substantial bias against some ethnic groups.

And once you’re in the school, if your grades are suffering, the school can do this thing called ‘off-rolling’. It’s the ‘removal by one means or another, of students from a school’s roll.’ They informally exclude students so they cannot impact the exam results and make the school look bad.  Off-rolling is basically a way to boost results and climb up the league table. It’s like one big unethical game.

Ofsted should really change the focus from competition to curicuulum. That way students would probably enjoy school and learning more and suffer less in terms of anxiety and mental health AND consuming dangerous ‘study drugs’.

Therefore, it’s ignorant and inconsiderate of us to neglect the understanding of human behaviour since it’s a dynamic between the individual and context, as Neil Gibride said. You can call it cheating but it’s almost as if society is designed to force people to end of seeking these drugs.

 

In conclusion, are study drugs a trick or a treat?

They are dangerous and can be lethal but they can work in enhancing cognitive functions. And students are regularly using them to pull through the competition pinned on them through the education system and Ofsted and because of their own mental health. Personally, I think it’s not worth taking. I understand the education system is corrupt and puts pressure on getting the best grades but they can take your life or ruin them. However, I don’t think it’s cheating, even though it may be considered that. Yes, these study drugs put students at an advantage but so does private tutition and the ‘ethically dubious’ methods I mentioned earlier, which are tactics that aren’t considered cheating.

 

What do you think?

 

-Shay

P.S. Don’t do drugs, kids, unless it’s paracetamol or calpol.

Survival Guide For Year 12 Students!

It’s the end of summer and back to school!

Whoop whoop! 🎉

 

And I’m in my last year of secondary school/sixth form, which a lot of people would be happy about, but I am sad about because I really do love my school and friends and my subjects. I enjoyed year 12, which is equivalent to 11th grade/junior year in America (and not sure about other countries). Therefore, having gone through the experience of year 12, I want to share little tips on what you should do to minimise stress and regret later in the academic year!

 

Consolidate Your Notes

After every single topic you’ve finished in your subject, go over your notes and textbook for that topic and write up revision notes/flashcards/whatever method you prefer to revise from. Do that after every topic!

I know it sounds like a lot and a faff but honestly, if you write up your notes after the topics, you will understand it more, which will be helpful because those topics will also be applicable to other topics, most likely. It also means that you would have finished writing your revision notes so come the summer term, you won’t have to make those revision notes. You can just start learning off them. Writing up and understanding notes in your own way and method will also make it easier for you to remember.

Trust me! You won’t regret doing this.

 

Organise Yourself, Child

This is something I really wish I did. It’s filing away your notes after each topic.

For example, after your subject teacher has officially finished going over a topic and has moved onto the next, write up your consolidation notes and then file away the notes you made in class into your subject folder. The mistake I made was leaving all my notes in my refill pad and slipping in loose sheets in the front until the whole notebook was full and hard to look at and I couldn’t use it. It’s horrible. It actually stresses me out, right now, thinking about it. It takes hours to sort through and organising it and filing it away.

Just start from day one and organise your damn self! Also, it might be a good idea to get a different notebook for each subject so you don’t get confused or things don’t get messy. And it will get messy. I’ve learnt the hard way.

 

Make A Revision Schedule

At GCSEs, I didn’t have a revision schedule. I just went with the flow and did whatever I wanted or thought I needed to revise that day. And truth is, it worked out because I got decent grades, which I’m happy with. That isn’t going to work for year 12. Nope. I tried to make it work but it didn’t.

You need to make sure you focus on each topic and make sure you learn every detail you need. I know this may not be helpful for all people but I made a calendar of each month and wrote in each day a chapter or topic I would read over and do questions on, taking into account days I couldn’t revise due to other commitments. You can even throw in a chill day but so long as you stick to the schedule and it has every chapter and topic you need to learn fit in, you’ll be absolutely fine.

I was getting really bad grades in the big psychology tests we did, like Es and Ds. I ended up getting the highest grades, like As and Bs, by the end because I stuck to a schedule and learnt and revised all the topics and evaluations. And that was only in about a month, which I can’t guarantee will happen for you but it shows that your grade can really go up!

 

Past Papers Are A Student’s Best Friend

Everyone had their own revision style and method and you should experiment at the beginning of the year to find which one works best for you. If you want me to make a post on all the quirky and classic methods I found, comment so!

However, every student should do past papers, no matter what revision method you do. Always do past papers on top of your chosen personalised method! Do as many as you can and look at the mark schemes and just keep doing them over and over again. Do the same ones a month later and see if you do better. Past paper will help you! I wish I did more!

 

Don’t Be Cocky

I found a lot of people thought that just because they got As at GCSEs, they were going to be fine at A Levels. That’s very wrong! A Levels are way harder and some people say that it’s the hardest stage of your education, even more than University. So sorry to scare you but it’s going to get hard. You can’t just sit back and relax and hope that your A*s and As at GCSEs will help you.

And don’t boast or be arrogant. No one will like you and it’s annoying. 😂

 

Talk To And Make Friends

Year 12 is one of your last years in secondary school/sixth form/college/high school. I’m not sure how it is in other countries but for all I know, in year 13, it’s mainly work and spending your free periods revising. That means year 12 is the year to have a bit of fun, while still maintaining or reaching for good grades. Make a balance of fun and work. I made a lot of friends in year 12 and it was also one of my best years at school and I made a lot of good memories, which you should do too! It’s one of your last years so try and pluck up the courage and confidence to do things your wouldn’t normally do, that are legal and not stupid, of course!

And try to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way! Don’t be scared.

 

Reward Yourself

If you do work hard, you need to reward yourself every week or so. Go out with your friends, go see a film, go to a party on the weekend, do something fun! We’re like dogs. We need to be rewarded for a behaviour to be done frequently so if you want to feel motivated more, you need to reward yourself every now and again.

 

Mental Health Is More Important

Despite what I said, at the end of the day, your mental health is the most important thing. I understand that year 12 is pressurising, especially with students who are aiming really high e.g. applying for medicine, etc. If you find that your mental health and even physical health is suffering, stop for a sec and try to get help or find ways to calm yourself down, etc.

I got really stressed at one point because I was overthinking and the school was putting a lot of pressure on us. I ended up feeling really depressed and experiencing symptoms, which I hadn’t experienced in ages. My eye kept twitching at certain points and I even started struggling to breath – it was really weird, don’t ask. I ended up spending a day writing a list of all the things I was worried about and making me stressed and wrote solutions next to them. I also talked to people about it to get it off my chest.

I know you might not agree with this but your mental health should come first, for several reasons like stress can actually affect your memory badly, and doing badly in year 12 really isn’t the end of the world. Don’t try and put yourself in the position to end up doing badly but if you do, there are always ways to fix that in year 13.

Basically, make sure you’re a happy bean! 🙂


 

Hopefully you actually take my tips into account. They will be really helpful if you take action on them. A lot of students told me the same advice at the beginning of year 12, which I ignored, because I’m stupid and stubborn. You’ll probably end up telling the next year 12’s the same advice.

Apart from that, enjoy year 12 and good luck for all your exams!

 

I’d love to know what subjects you’re doing or any advice that has helped you before, no matter what year you’re in.

 

-Shay

 

P.S One last tip that you should really use even if you decide to ignore the rest, above. Don’t give your pens or pencils to anyone. They may say “I’ll give it back” but that just mean “I’m gonna keep this and hope you forget about it or are too nice to ask for it back.” TRUST NO ONE! (Apart from me and my advice, of course. 😀 )