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Academic Doping: Psychostimulant Use Among Medical Students

27 May 2016 | By Inserm (Newsroom) | Public health

Under severe pressure owing to an intense workload, medical students are attempting to boost their performance by any means. An Inserm study has revealed possible psychostimulant use among a third of these students.

A population of 1,718 French medical students (average age 27 years, 37% male) was interviewed on the subject of psychostimulant use. Inserm researchers recorded the participants’ motives, together with their sociodemographic and academic characteristics.

Among those interviewed, 33% use psychostimulants (29.7% take over-the-counter medicines, 6.7% prescription medicines, and 5.2% illegal drugs). For the majority of students using over-the-counter substances (energy drinks and caffeine-based products), the aim is to enhance memory and concentration in preparation for exams. This type of use is, however, predictive of subsequent medically prescribed psychostimulant use. Out of these products, corticosteroids take the lead (4.5%), followed by methylphenidate and modafinil.

According to the study results, there is a high probability that public health recommendations aiming to restrict the prescribing of methylphenidate and modafinil are indeed effective.  These substances are therefore used to a lesser extent by students who fall back on corticosteroids, which are easier to access.  According to the researchers, this constitutes a new public health problem given the potential severe side effects of these substances.

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Researcher Contact

Guillaume Fond

Unité Inserm 955 ” Institut Mondor de recherche biomédicale”


01 49 81 32 90 // 01 49 81 35 30


(Mis)use of Prescribed Stimulants in the Medical Student Community: Motives and Behaviors : A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study

Guillaume Fond, MD, PhD, Martine Gavaret, MD, PhD, Christophe Vidal, MD, PhD, Lore Brunel, Msc, Jean-Pierre Riveline, MD, PhD, Jean-Arthur Micoulaud-Franchi, MD, PhD, and Philippe Domenech, MD, PhD