Over one in five students asked at the university have taken prescription drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall or Modafinil to aid their concentration while studying.
The effects of the drugs include increasing wakefulness and improving long term concentration.
A huge 79 per cent admitted that they would consider taking the drug to aid their study prompting fears that there may not be enough conventional support for students suffering from stress.
The sample of 240 students brought to light a worrying trend among first years taking the drug, with just under 14 per cent of those asked admitting to taking it.
However, third years and above were more likely to take it weekly, with many citing the constant pressure from dissertations and increased workloads as a contributory factor
The results reveal that over twice as many York students take the prescription medication as students at the University of Cambridge, after a Varsity poll put the figure at 10 per cent and at almost three times as many as the University of Oxford, whose student newspaper Cherwell put the figure at 7 per cent.
The “smart drugs” have come under increasing scrutiny over the last five years with some reports saying that as many as one in four students across the country have taken the pills.
One third year student explained his experience on Modafinil: “In the past I have used it to get through all night study-sessions. It’s legal, very low cost (a couple of pounds per pill) and, based on my Googling research, safe to use.
“When I’m studying, I often find myself absent-mindedly checking Facebook or finding other distractions. When I take Modafinil, I find that I’m more focused on my work, and the very idea of procrastination is annoying. It gives you a buzz (similar to coffee): you aren’t tired, and you can concentrate easily on one task for hours without a break.”
However, respondents to the survey warned of negative side effects such as “really jittery heart and legs”, “couldn’t get to sleep for hours” and “constantly needing the bathroom”. Other students noted significant weight loss after study binges on the pills, which list diminished appetite as a side effect.
Several students admitted to selling the drug as a way to make some quick money with little risk. One student explained his decision to supply Modafinil to his friends,
“It retails very cheaply online, but a lot of people are sketchy about buying something they’re uncertain of the legality of.
“It’s very easy just to bulk buy them and sell them on for a small profit around essay deadlines or exams. I don’t even have to leave the library to do it.”
The drug is currently listed as a Prescription Only Medication in the UK, which means that a limited number of the pills can be ordered from overseas legally.
However, not every student will be rushing to make the most of the quick access to more efficient studying, one third year PPE student said: “Stress management and organisation are key life skills that students must learn.
“Taking drugs to take the edge off and concentrate more is blatant cheating. I’m ashamed that so many students take these drugs.”
George Offer, YUSU Welfare Officer commented: “The risks of Modafinil are well documented, and I don’t think I need to repeat them, but I strongly recommend any student currently taking or considering taking any sort of drugs to improve their study carefully look through the information available.
“There’s little to no good empirical work suggesting that these drugs can improve students’ performance in assessments, but they’re fraught with health risks.
“My advice: don’t take prescription drugs without the advice of your doctor, definitely don’t import prescription drugs and, don’t even think about selling them.”