Alan DeSantis, a professor at the University of Kentucky, tracked the use of study drugs and found that 30 percent of students at the college have illegally used them, including half of all upperclassmen and 80 percent of students in fraternities and sororities.
The federal government lists amphetamine drugs like Adderall as schedule II, which according to U.S. law have the “highest abuse potential and dependence profile of all drugs that have medical utility.” Students buying or using these drugs without a prescription could face prosecution.
Besides legal ramifications, many scientists believe the physical and mental effects of the drugs are more significant. “They might produce euphoria, they might temporarily make [studying] easier... but in the long run there are significant problems both in terms of thinking, mood problems, maybe even functionality,” said Dr. Raymond Kotwicki, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University's School of Medicine.
Although the practice is laced with controversy, some scientists believe cognitive enhancement drugs should be legalized and made available. “We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function,” said researchers in the journal Nature in 2008. “Safe and effective cognitive enhancers will benefit both the individual and society.”
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