We call on Nature readers to help us to achieve the highest possible response from students in the United Kingdom or Ireland to a survey on the use of pharmacological drugs for cognitive enhancement (see www.thesmartdrugstudy.com).
In 2007, Nature urged academic institutions to address the ethical and regulatory challenges associated with the use of psychotropic drugs that improve cognitive performance in the healthy — notably medications for attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (Nature 450, 320; 2007). The following year, an informal global survey by Nature suggested that as many as one in five academics used cognition-enhancing drugs for non-medical reasons (Nature 452, 674–675; 2008).
Outside the United States and Germany, empirical evidence on the use of cognitive enhancers is sparse (for a review, see C.I. Ragan, I. Bard & I. Singh Neuropharmacology; in the press). UK policy discussions have relied mainly on ambiguous US data.
Our survey, in collaboration with the UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, will provide a comprehensive analysis of the use of pharmacological cognitive enhancers by students in the broader context of their substance use. We shall use the results to assess prevalence, concerns, frequency and motivation, and sources and pricing. We will also analyse the perceived effects and side effects, perceptions of social coercion and regulatory measures, and correlation with self-reported ADHD symptoms.