Britain’s Home Office has warned against the effects of banned mental stimulant Noopept as a rising number of students turn to the ‘brain boosting’ drug to help them stay alert during exam season.
Thousands of university students across the country are thought to be using the drug, a fine white powder which can be snorted or taken in capsules, which claims to boost memory recall and cognitive function.
Non-prescription sale of the drug was banned in the UK last month as part of a government-led crackdown on legal highs.
But one former dealer told the Independent this hasn’t stopped students from taking the capsules. He says more young people are buying ‘smart drugs’ than ever before.
“I sell this drug and use it myself daily – the market is in [a period of] high growth. More people are buying Noopept as it becomes more well-known and a large number of them are students.”
Mike, a 22-year-old from Leamington Spa, told the Sun he takes the drug before his exams.
“I first tried Ritalin when I was 18 then at university I’ve recently moved on to Noopept.
“It’s definitely helped my exams. I’ve had some really good exam results on these types of drug, but it’s hard to know whether it’s me or the chemicals getting the results, which can be a downer.
“Universities are aware of it. Quite a few have considered drug testing before exams,” he said.
“It’s all over the country – in London at UCL, at Bath, Bristol, Newcastle, Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester.”
One Facebook group, with more than 20,000 members, advocates the use of the drug to its members and provides a list of vendors in Russia, the Netherlands and the UK.
“What to eat and take before (morning) exam? I think eggs and 10mg Noopept two hours before,” one student posted.
“Any ideas for a useful stack for video game players? Perhaps Nootropics that are useful for hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, keeping cognition sharp and fresh during long periods of sitting?” another wrote.
The drug, which can be prescribed to combat medical conditions such as ADHD and Alzheimer’s, can be bought for £20 (US$29) per 10g.
The Home Office and experts have advised against taking the drug, warning of possible side effects including cardiovascular problems, irritability, psychosis and depression.
“The main problem with these drugs is tolerance,” forensic pharmacologist Dr. Edward Bliss told the Independent.
“This will lead to users requiring an ever increasing dosage with the biggest threat coming from depression – especially for this student age group who are particularly susceptible to depression.
“Also you can’t validate what you’re taking chemically from buying online and couple that with some people will simply have bad reactions – it’s unpredictable.
“The recent bill banning sale of these substances will do nothing at all to the trade and it’s doubtful it will even affect the price.”