Students turn to drugs for exams

first_img He added “the come down is so bad so I couldn’t do this more than once, but modafinil really is that effective. But your body aches all over and I needed to sleep for 17 hours straight afterwards.” The finalist says he was “forced to” rely on “study drugs” to do work because he “hated the degree so much.” “I hate the subject, I hate the tutorial system, and I felt my work just was never good enough. When your motivation for work collapses then you end up using these substances.” A report in the Academy of Medical Sciences, which was commissioned by the government in 2006, identified a new group of psychoactive drugs that act on the brain called ‘cognition enhancers’. The report defines ‘cognition enhancers’ as drugs used to treat attention, perception, learning, memory, language, planning and decision-making disorders, which also have the potential to enhance cognitive performance in healthy people as well as those with neurological or cognitive disorders. Sir Gabriel Horn, chair of the report, said, “Cognition enhancers can potentially enhance brain performance in a variety of ways, for instance to improve short-term memory or speed of thought.” The report called for an assessment of the long and short-term effects of using cognition enhancers and recommends ongoing monitoring of their use in non-medical contexts. The report lists six categories of drugs available on prescription, such as modafinil, which is used to treat narcolepsy, ritalin and related amphetamines for attention deficit disorder, and donepazil for Alzheimer’s disease. The student, who has now finished his finals, said he took these drugs while “actually sitting exams.” However, he denies that he had an advantage over those students who did not take drugs. “The drugs don’t help you write stuff. It motivates you to do exams and I needed them because I felt so shit I wouldn’t write anything without them,” he explained. A spokesperson for the University said, “we would strongly advise students against the practice of taking drugs that have not been specifically prescribed to them as this is dangerous and can be illegal.” The spokesperson added that students “who are struggling to cope personally or academically, or who have any kind of drug problem“ should contact one of the many support or counselling services in Oxford. However, the finalist disagreed with this advice. He said, “it takes three to four weeks to schedule a counseling session. Tutors are not easy to talk to and the peer support program – why would you want to tell your problems to people who are in the same college as you?” He added, “before coming to Oxford, I always thought of myself as someone who wouldn’t have to rely on these drugs. But, you do kind of feel helpless sometimes. “I regret that I had to rely on these drugs but I don’t regret having taken them.” An increasing number of Oxford students are putting themselves at risk by using dangerous drugs to aid their revision. A government-commissioned report, co-authored by an Oxford don, has warned students of the potential psychological disorders arising from the continued use of drugs for revision. However, students continue to ignore such warnings, putting themselves at risk. A finalist, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has been taking “study drugs” on-and-off throughout university, with the dosage and frequency of his drug taking rising dramatically in his final year. He said, “I’ve used drugs to do my work through every stage of my degree and that includes both submitted work and final examinations.” He said he started with taking ephedrine, a nasal decongestant, in a cocktail mix with caffeine and aspirin – commonly known as ‘ECA stacks’, a component found in weight loss pills, that work to speed up the metabolism and cause food energy to burn faster. It is a popular supplement also taken by body builders before workouts due to the increased amount of energy and alertness. He said “I, too, started taking it for gym work but then saw the alertness effects. I thought, ‘This is interesting,’ and started doing research on such drugs.” The student claimed that he was aware of the risks of the drugs he was taking as he researched them both online and in the drugs section of the Radcliffe Science Library. The finalist said that it was here that he learned of another drug, modafinil, which he was able to purchase online. He said, “a single box or thirty tablets of modafinil cost $125. The order was made online, processed at a very old office in London, money was sent to an account in Panama, and the drug came from Turkey.” The student admitted that he was worried that ephedrine, while legal in the UK, is banned in the US, having been blamed for a number of deaths. He said preferred modafinil over ephedrine because it was more effective, saying he was able to stay awake for five days in a row. last_img read more

Spain meets European Commission deadline with new pensions law

first_imgThe Spanish Parliament has passed a law establishing the basis for calculating annual indexation rates for state pensions, together with a sustainability – or “intergenerational equity” – factor to be introduced at a later date.The new law breaks the traditional link between pension increases and inflation in the country.The changes, following demands from Brussels for reform, are aimed at capping government spending and balancing the social security budget.At present, the replacement ratio for Spanish pensioners is close to 74%, according to the OECD. The law has had a stormy passage through the legislative process, partly because of opposition from the Socialist Party and the unions.But it cleared the final parliamentary vote just before Christmas, complying with the European Commission’s end-of-year deadline, and took effect from 1 January.Previously, pensions were guaranteed to rise in line with inflation.The new revaluation index guarantees a minimum annual increase of 0.25% but no more.Inflationary increases will only be added if certain economic conditions are met.The indexation formula includes factors such as the nominal income of the social security fund, the number of pensions being paid out and a percentage of the social security deficit or surplus.The figures used will include averages for past years and estimates for future years.At present, these factors are largely negative, preventing any inflationary increases in pensions.However, future governments will be able to establish more generous uplifts when the economic situation improves.The maximum increase will be consumer price index (CPI) inflation for the previous year, plus 0.5% (increased by the Senate from the government’s proposed 0.25%).The new ceiling on individual state pensions will be €2,554.49 per month, as from 1 January.This will rise each year in line with the general increase in pensions, but not, as was the case before, in line with inflation.For the 2014 calendar year, state pensions will be increased by 0.25% as from 1 January.The same rules also apply to pensions for work-related injuries and illnesses; extraordinary pensions awarded to victims of terrorism; and pensions paid to individuals who have worked outside Spain.In its statement, the government said: “The aim is to respond to public mistrust and guarantee adequate pensions for the pensioners of today and tomorrow, with similar patterns of behaviour in the level of pensions.”The sustainability factor, which is based on retirement age and links the level of pensions to life expectancy, will apply from 2019.It will be used to establish the initial level of pension for those about to retire.Every five years, the factor to apply to new pensioners will be revised.Two control mechanisms have been established to assess the effect of the measures.The Spanish government will present an evaluation report to the Congress of Deputies and social partners every five years to confirm that the level of pensions is sufficient.The government is also setting up an Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility to supervise the stability and sustainability of government budgets as a whole.As part of this role, the authority will give an opinion on the level of pensions calculated by the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, as well as the determination of the pensions revaluation index applicable each year, and the sustainability factor.Jon Aldecoa, consultant at Novaster, said: “This is a strong mechanism to control spending, and it will have a big effect on medium and long-term pension levels.“People under 50 will have to supplement their pensions with occupational or personal pensions. But right now there is a big private pensions coverage gap.”Aldecoa added: “These mechanisms will heavily reduce the replacement ratio of the pension, compared with final salary, over 15 or 20 years. So adequacy is not guaranteed in the medium term.”Jaume Jardon, pensions manager at Deloitte in Barcelona, said: “Ironically, the effect of the new revaluation index for this first year seems to be contrary to that expected, since the increase in pensions will be 0.25%, while inflation will be around zero.“However, as long as the new rules are applied year by year, they will be more successful than the previous framework in containing costs.”But he added: “The formula is not easy for workers and pensioners to understand, so there is scope for confusion.”last_img read more