Prevalence of cognitive enhancer use among New Zealand tertiary students

Sanyogita (Sanya) Ram, Safeera Hussainy, Marcus Henning, Maree Jensen, Bruce Russell

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction and Aims: Cognitive enhancers (CE) such as methylphenidate, amphetamines and modafinil are becoming more commonly used in non-medical situations. This study explored the prevalence and motivations for CE use in a New Zealand university.
Design and Methods: Students from the Schools of Pharmacy, Nursing, Medicine, Law and Accounting at a university in New Zealand were invited to complete a paper-based questionnaire that elicited their views on the prevalence, reasons for use and attitudes towards use of CEs. Questionnaires were distributed at the end of a third-year lecture (August-October 2012). Reasons for use and attitudes towards use was measured using a 7-point Likert scale from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (7). Descriptive and prevalence statistics were calculated. Inferential statistics were generated to explore the overall associations between CE use and how the respondents had first learnt about CEs, and to investigate reasons for CE use.
Results: The response fraction was 88.6 % (442/499) and the prevalence of CE use was 6.6% (95% confidence interval 4.5-9.0). Commonly cited reasons for use were to get high [M=4.43, standard deviation (SD) 2.36], experimentation (M=4.17, SD 2.36), increase alertness (M=3.55, SD 2.48), to help concentrate (M=3.48, SD 2.42), to help stay awake (M=3.20, SD 2.33), to help study (M=3.10, SD 2.47) and to concentrate better while studying (M=3.00, SD 2.43).
Discussion and Conclusions: Use of CEs was uncommon in contrast to the prevalence reported in the USA. The reasons for use also varied depending on which CE was used. Students who use CEs have differing attitudes towards their acceptability, which warrants further research about how these attitudes influence their use and attitudes towards academic performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-351
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Academic setting
  • Amphetamine
  • Cognitive enhancer
  • Methylphenidate
  • Modafinil
  • Non-prescription stimulant medicine
  • Prevalence and motivation

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