07 April 2010
Via previous discussions with lecturers I had come across the use of performance enhancing drugs by students, but it was an article in the Guardian that bought to my attention how common it is. And I am not just talking about taking a pack of Pro-plus and washing them down with a can of Red Bull.
There are clearly medical risks, even if much of the risk is uncertainty over what is being taken. However these have to be put in the context that many (if not most) media warnings on the dangers of drugs are seen by many students as discredited, and even in the cases where students know (or even care about) risks it does not account for any rationalisation of the risk.
I have had a 7% performance increase quoted in the past. I can only guess what metric was used to come up with that figure, but if you are on a degree classification borderline it is realistic that this may be sufficient to get over the threshold. In this scenario it is valid to compare the health risks with those associated with stress, and in the current competitive job-market getting a 2:2 rather than a 2:1 is going to lead to a lot of it.
..in an already unhealthy population
Of course this risk also has to be put into context with the generally unhealthy student lifestyle. Cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, sleeping around, etc. People staying awake overnight while sky-high on caffeine is fairly common, and I am aware of cases at Bristol where this has been implicated in accidental deaths.
It is going to get worse
For many, University is a high stakes game. The cost of going to university is ever-increasing, and despite government claims, it is really just a prerequisite that has no certain return-on-investment. In other words home students are starting to feel some of the pressure that is already commonplace among international students. As more people enter a system, more people will opt for these small boosts.