Use of cognitive enhancers among medical students in Lithuania

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AIMS – The purpose of this study is to analyse the use of cognitive enhancers among medical students in Lithuania, determine the reasons for usage and evaluate the contributing factors such as socio-demographic characteristics, stress levels, sleep quality and knowing somebody who has used a neuro-enhancing drug.

DESIGN – A cross-sectional survey study was performed by analysing a convenience sample of n=579 in the two universities offering medical education in Lithuania, Vilnius University and the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. In 2014, students were asked to fill in anonymous paper questionnaires consisting of 13 items on prevalence of substance use to enhance cognitive performance, and on reasons and correlates (response rate 95%) during lecture time.

RESULTS – Of the respondents, 8.1% indicated that they had used cognitive enhancers. Among those who had used these drugs, nootropics were the most frequently mentioned (59.6%), while psychostimulants, such as modafinil, methylphenidate and amphetamine-derived drugs were mentioned less frequently (38.3%). Other substances were indicated by 23.4% of the respondents. Improvement of concentration and increased studying time were predominant purposes (55.3% and 48.9% of users, respectively). Male students reported three times higher prevalence rates than females (14.6% vs. 5.1%, p<0.05). Prevalence was also higher in students who knew someone using these substances than among those who did not know such persons (17.3% vs. 5.1%, p< 0.05). This was the most associated factor with cognitive-enhancing drug-taking behaviour. No correlation between cognitive enhancement usage and sleep quality or stress levels was found, nor between usage and belonging to a student organisation or having a job.

CONCLUSIONS – In Lithuania, 1 of 12 medical students admits to having used neuro-enhancing drugs. Our study results provide an overview of the actual situation on correlates and reasons for taking performance-enhancing substances.

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