One in seven people under 30 plan to use ‘smart drugs’ over the next year, according to new research.
The drugs - such as Ritalin - are popular with students as they are believed to help them stay awake and boost their concentration when revising.
Six per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds had used smart drugs in the last 12 months
But more than double that number (14 per cent) are planning to buy smart drugs from dealers or online within the next year,according to a survey of 1,009 young adults.
Modafinil is the most popular ‘smart drug’ and is a prescription-only drug used to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep apnoea.
Ritalin, also used by students to stay awake for long periods of time, is a central nervous system stimulant used to treat ADHD and ADD.
It is categorised as a class B drug if not prescribed and possession can lead to a five-year prison sentence.
But using the powerful prescription medicines carries the risk of addiction, cardiovascular problems and psychosis.
And the misuse of ‘cognitive enhancers’ remains prevalent despite repeated warnings against self-medication.
A new campaign FakeMeds has been launched as freshers start university to highlight the danger of buying medicines online.
So far this year nearly 5,000 websites selling fake or unlicensed medicines have been shut down.
During Operation Pangea, an international week of action tackling the online sale of counterfeit drugs, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seized more than 31,000 doses of narcolepsy medication.
Senior policy manager Lynda Scammell said: “You may be offered ‘smart drugs’ or ‘cognitive enhancers’ at university - some of them may be potent medicines which should only be prescribed by a doctor.
“Modafinil is licensed for specific medical conditions - not for use as a ‘boost’ during exams.
“Don’t put your health at risk by self-medication - it could have serious side effects.
“It’s a criminal offence to supply prescription only medicines without a valid prescription - websites offering them are acting illegally.
“Be smart - don’t put your health at risk by buying medicines online and don’t give your student loan to a criminal.”