Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Students using drugs for study and exams -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

TONY EASTLEY: Many Australian university students are relying on performance enhancing drugs to help them boost their averages.

The first Australian study into academic doping has found the use of 'study drugs' like prescription stimulants appears to be even more widespread in Australian universities than in countries like the US and Germany.

With more here's Elise Worthington.

(Sounds from a party)

ELISE WORTHINGTON: It's party time and these young university students are gearing up for a big night.

(Question to university student) What is it?

UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Ritalin, 10 milligrams. I have it because my little brother has a prescription but I tend to have a couple to study, to gee me up when I go out.

ELISE WORTHINGTON: This law student, who doesn't want to be named, says he and his friends regularly use prescription stimulants while studying.

Their drug of choice is Ritalin, a psycho-stimulant normally used by people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to increase alertness and attention.

(Question to university student) How much do you have to pay for one tablet?

UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Not too much, like it's pretty cheap, a few dollars a tablet.

ELISE WORTHINGTON: A study published in the journal Performance Enhancement and Health found drug use among university students to help with study is much more common than previously thought.

Dr Jason Mazanov from the University of New South Wales is the study's lead author.

JASON MAZANOV: Now what we've seen from the Australian data is a suggestion that Australians might actually be using these sorts of performance enhancing substances at a slightly higher rate than we have observe in the United States, which is indeed very worrying.

ELISE WORTHINGTON: More than 1700 students from four universities were surveyed.

Researchers were particularly concerned about students taking a cocktail of drugs, mixing both stimulants and depressants.

JASON MAZANOV: They go on an upper to try and improve their performance, they use a stimulant, but then they have to use a depressant like valium to bring them back down again. And so you end up in this really dangerous upper/downer cycle where people are then relying on drugs to actually bring them up to what they feel is a level of performance and then bring them down from that, when in fact they probably don't need either of the drugs to do anything.

ELISE WORTHINGTON: Students in the high pressure fields of law and medicine were more likely to abuse drugs to improve academic performance.

This medical student, who also doesn't want to be named, says he takes a Ritalin pill on big study days and also before exams.

MEDICAL STUDENT: It just allows you to work harder than you normally would. And it's not performance enhancing in the sense that it makes you smarter on the day and therefore you're getting an advantage on your competitors, but definitely in the sense that you are able to put in more work than you normally would.

ELISE WORTHINGTON: How widespread do you think it is in universities, people using these drugs?

MEDICAL STUDENT: I think it's huge to be honest, especially for the people that do have the connections.

ELISE WORTHINGTON: But Dr Jason Mazanov says more in-depth research is needed.

JASON MAZANOV: So what we found is a very interesting result and what we need to do now is go on and find out whether the result was a function of the sample or whether it is actually what's going on out there.

TONY EASTLEY: Dr Jason Mazanov ending Elise Worthington's report.