One in five academics are taking smart drugs to help them write difficult grant applications, a leading academic has claimed.
Cambridge neuroscientist Dr Hannah Critchlow said that professors were increasingly using medication which was meant for Alzheimer’s patients, narcoleptics or children with ADHD.
Speaking at The Hay Festival, she said: “Can you expand your mind and open your mind and increase your attention and focus?
“Well one in ten students at Cambridge University now admit to buying smart drugs off the internet in the hope of being able to do just this.
“They are typically prescribed for people with attention hyperactivity disorder or Alzhiemer’s to improve their memory and their focus and these students are buying these drugs off the internet so it’s not particularly legal and it’s a dangerous thing to do.
“They are taking them in the hope it will help with the revision for their exams. They do seem to increase working memory. One in five academic professors also admit to taking them, so in order to help with their grant writing and committee meeting concentrating.
“So I’m not advocating that people go out and take this Modafanil in order to help with focus and attention, what the drugs will be doing to the young brain, the long term effects are not known yet.”
But Dr Crtichlow said early studies showing brain scans of people doing maths puzzles after taking Modafanil, showed the drug closed down the electrical activity circuits, and increased focus.
“It will dampen down certain areas of the brain and highlight other areas, so in that way they can pay attention a little bit more,” she added.
A recent survey by Sky News found that as many as a quarter of students at leading institutions may have experimented with Modafinil.
It is claimed that undergraduates are increasingly using the medicine to stay awake for long periods and boost their performance in the run-up to exams.
Experts have warned that the long-term effects were unknown and users may be putting their health at risk.
It is not illegal for non-sufferers to buy prescription-only drugs but supplying them to other people is against the law.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said Modafinil should only be taken following a “full consultation with a doctor”.