Should students take 'smart' drugs?

Issue date: 03 January 2013


UWE Bristol experts are joining in a debate to investigate and discuss the ethics associated with the recent increase in taking of smart drugs by students.

The event will take place at the Watershed in Bristol on 9 January 2013 from 18.30 until 20:00. Dr Chris Alford and Dr Darian Meacham from UWE Bristol will be joined by researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Oxford, and the Graphic Science education consultancy at a Question Time styled discussion where active participation from attending public is welcomed.

Darian Meacham explains, “The use of various 'smart drugs' amongst secondary school and university students is on the rise with nearly 25% of students at some American universities reported as having used 'smart drugs' to help them study and improve grades. “Most often this means the off-label use of prescription pharmaceuticals like Ritalin, Adderall, Strattera or Modafinil, normally prescribed for conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy. “These drugs have been shown to increase concentration, attention span, and working memory capacity. We will be discussing the ethics associated with this kind of drug taking.”

Areas that will be discussed include questioning if it is fair that some students have access to expensive medications while others don't; discussions around whether short-term gains outweigh possible long-term risks from the use of these pharmaceuticals and if there is a the risk of 'cognitive homogenisation' from the use of such drugs. Further, should Universities apply penalties to students who do use them in exams and assessments?

The researchers concur that these, and other, ethical issues must be carefully considered as the use of cognitive enhancing smart drugs becomes more widespread and even sanctioned or encouraged. A panel of bioethicists, psychologists, and educators will include Darian Meacham (UWE) Ruud Ter Meulen (Bristol), Chris Alford (UWE), Sylvie Allouche (Bristol), Heather Bradshaw (Oxford), Alex McKeown (Bristol).

This event is part of the Anthropotech Project (www.anthropotech.org.uk), a collaboration between UWE, Bristol Philosophy, The Health, Ethics, and Society Research Stream, and the Centre for Ethics in Medicine at the University of Bristol. Register for for free tickets from the UWE Online Store.

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