Sunday Times column: There’s nothing clever about taking drugs to get smart

downloadIf people used to take drugs to get off their heads, kids are now taking them to get in the zone. You don’t take modafinil to get high.

Because we’re in a post-Ab Fab epoch, where everyone has seen their parents necking Bolly like Eddy, getting high, falling in from nights out partying, or rocking out to the Rolling Stones (again), the yoof are getting straighter by the day.

Fortysomethings splash out 40% more on booze than they did a decade ago, while among the under-thirties, spending on alcohol has dropped. In the past 20 years the number of school kids sparking up behind the bike sheds has fallen from three in five to one in five. STDs are soaring in the 45+ age bracket, and only 9% of pupils think it’s OK to smoke weed (though 32% of the general population think it’s acceptable). Hedonism has lost its high. When it comes to drugs, where once kids consumed them to get smashed, now a generation who are forking out 30K on degrees have found a new fix: smart drugs.

In America, ADHD medication such as Adderall has been rattling around campuses fuelling all-night library sessions for years, giving new meaning to the term A-students. In 2012 the internet lapped up a photograph of a classroom of Chinese students studying while hooked to IV drips. Meanwhile, in Britain, it’s claimed that up to a quarter of students at leading institutions have popped modafinil — a prescription drug developed to treat narcolepsy. It works to keep you awake while enhancing your cognitive abilities, working memory and attention. No wonder the student website The Tab had found that one in five students had used it. Modafinil was one of the popular purchases among British users of the Silk Road (a kind of illegal eBay for drugs).

If people used to take drugs to get off their heads, kids are now taking them to get in the zone. You don’t take modafinil to get high. It’s been compared to the substance Bradley Cooper necks in the film Limitless that turns him into a super-genius. Except it’s more annoying than that: I know.

Read more: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/Regulars/article1412707.ece

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