The government’s watchdog has issued a warning to students about the dangers of taking “smart drugs”.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says young people are gambling with their health by using prescription medicines in a bid to get higher marks in exams.
Many websites illegally sell drugs like Ritalin and Modafinil without a valid prescription.
The drugs can cause dependency, heart problems and psychosis.
So far this year, the MHRA has closed nearly 5,000 websites selling fake or unlicensed medicines.
Modafinil is designed to be used for a health condition called narcolepsy – a rare but serious brain disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times. But some students take it to stay alert.
Others take Ritalin, a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for a cognitive boost.
MHRA Senior Policy Manager Lynda Scammell said: “You may be offered ‘smart drugs’ or ‘cognitive enhancers’ at university – some of them may be potent medicines which should only be prescribed by a doctor.
“Modafinil is licensed for specific medical conditions – not for use as a ‘boost’ during exams. Don’t put your health at risk by self-medication – it could have serious side-effects.
“It’s a criminal offence to supply prescription-only medicines without a valid prescription – websites offering them are acting illegally.
“Be smart – don’t put your health at risk by buying medicines online and don’t give your student loan to a criminal.”