Brain doping widespread among students

Many students use medication to improve their performance

Students in Germany are increasingly using pills to improve their performance. The research team led by sports scientist Pavel Dietz from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz examined the spread of so-called brain doping among students. Accordingly, every fifth student swallows stimulants to improve his cognitive performance.

According to the results of the researchers, the use of stimulant pills is much more widespread at German universities than previously thought. While the study published by the HIS Institute for University Research on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health around a year ago showed that only around five percent of students practice brain doping, Dietz and colleagues now conclude that this applies to around 20 percent of the students . Using an anonymous, specialized questionnaire, the researchers determined how many students took medication just to improve their cognitive performance and not to treat underlying mental illnesses such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, or sleep disorders.

Every fifth student practices brain doping In total, the scientists at the universities of Mainz and Tübingen surveyed 2,569 students as part of the study. They found that the “12-month prevalence for brain doping was an estimated 20 percent”. Men used pills far more often to improve their cognitive performance than women, write Dietz and colleagues in the journal "Pharmacotherapy". 23.7 percent of men used stimulant pills at least once within a year, while only 17 percent of women practiced brain doping. There was also a clear difference between the individual departments. Sports students most often used stimulants to increase their cognitive performance, the researchers report. According to the scientists, 25.4 percent of the sports students practiced brain doping, while for example only 21 percent of the students in cultural studies, 20 percent in economics and 17 percent of the students in medicine, psychology and natural sciences. Brain doping was the lowest among language students and pedagogy students, where only twelve percent of students sought to improve their performance with pharmaceuticals.

Brain doping most widespread among freshmen Students The researchers also found that popular brain doping drugs such as caffeine tablets or prescription Alzheimer's drugs, amphetamines and the ADHD drug Ritalin (active ingredient methylphenidate), were increasingly being misused by younger students for brain doping , while in the higher semester the attempts to improve cognitive performance with medicines decrease significantly. On average, 24.3 percent of first-year students use brain doping; in later semesters, the proportion was only 16.7 percent, Dietz and colleagues report. Overall, however, brain doping is alarmingly widespread among both younger and older students. (fp)

Also read:
“Brain doping” pills hardly help students
More and more people are doing brain doping
Food for the brain: high performance through nutrition
Exercise can improve brain performance
More and more students are turning to Ritalin

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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