If a single pill could instantly make you a genius would you take it? I know I would, I'd take two. Unfortunately, life isn't a movie and there is no such pill. However, there are a group of drugs and supplements that can apparently: help you focus, increase your ability to learn, boost your memory and even stimulate creativity. Before you open a new tab and head to Google in a desperate bid to order some of these magic pills read on...
'Smart Drugs' is the name given to a wide range of legal and illegal drugs and supplements that enhance cognitive function - they basically make your brain work better. The Internet is full of websites and forums all dedicated to 'Smart Drugs'; each one brimming with amazing claims for a plethora of different drugs. The one that stands out as the king of 'Smart Drugs' is Modafinil. Traditionally a prescription drug, Modafinil is used to treat Narcolepsy but now it's used by 1 in 4 students at Oxford University. If you do a quick Google search for Modafinil you will find an excess of articles, blogs and threads all raving about this 'magic drug'. Some claim that this drug has changed people's lives, helped them write full university dissertations in a matter of days and even made people more confident.
Now, as wonderful as that sounds my mum always told me 'never believe everything you read online', she actually said 'don't believe everything you read in the newspaper', but who reads newspapers these days. So with that in mind I decided to find out for myself. I ordered some Modafinil online from an undisclosed location in India.
While I was waiting for the pills...I headed to Manchester University to speak to some students about their experiences with 'Smart Drugs'. Most of the students didn't want to speak to me, maybe it's because I wasn't giving out 'free shots' vouchers for the nearest bar or maybe it's because I was asking about their use of 'Smart Drugs'- who knows. From the students I spoke to, I heard conflicting arguments - some were totally against the use of smart drugs, whilst some raved about them. I was told by one person, it had resulted in A Grades whilst another explained it has caused Anxiety.
4 days later the Modafinil arrived. Not totally put of by the students stories I popped a pill and waited for it to kick in. 2 hours later I felt a lot more awake. I felt wired. I felt quicker. Everything was clearer. I headed to work and began editing a video...3 hours later I was still editing. I hadn't looked up once. I was totally focused on my job. Perfect, right? Not quite, although I was focused on my editing work I found myself focusing on the tiniest little details, like the size of the text, the font, the graphics - trying to make it all perfect. Now, that might be good if you're working for yourself and you have all the time in the world, but not if you have a deadline to meet. I'd looked up and I'd only done half the work I would have normally have done, albeit of a higher quality. I can see this causing an issue when studying because you have deadlines to meet, exams to take. As the day went I did get a bit of a headache but that didn't stop me from editing. I carried on into the night. Then I headed to bed for a well-earned rest. 4 hours later...I was still awake. I could not sleep for the life of me. In the end I got about 3 hours broken sleep and I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a truck.
You can watch my experience on Modafinil in the video below:
So, do I think it's ok to use 'Smart Drugs' whilst you're studying? I think it's entirely up to the person taking them. I don't think they're magic pills that turn you into a genius, I do however, think they help you focus for longer. You still have to choose what you focus on and put the hours in. The downside is they could lead to anxiety and insomnia and is that really what you want before a big exam?