Exploring the understanding, source of availability and level of access of cognitive enhancers among university students in the United Arab Emirates: a qualitative study

Safia Sharif, Suzanne Fergus, Amira Guirguis, Nigel Smeeton, Fabrizio Schifano

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Abstract

Objective: The use of prescription stimulants for cognitive enhancement by healthy university students, identified as the largest cohort of cognitive enhancer (CE) users, is of growing interest. The purpose of this study was to look at the understanding, perception, experience, and level of access of CEs among healthy university students in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Methods: The study was conducted in six highly competitive university programmes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 university students to discuss their own experiences and those of their friends and peers regarding the use of prescription stimulants. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven teaching faculty staff members (registered pharmacists and medical doctors) to explore their views on the use of CEs in their university. Results: Data were analysed thematically for the identification of themes and subthemes within the data using coding. It was found that, ‘Adderall’ was the most common prescribed CE drug and caffeine super strength pills were the most common non-prescribed CE drug, both reported to enhance concentration, motivation, and meet academic deadlines. Conclusions: It is expected that the findings of this study will be of interest to a wide range of services in UAE universities. This will enable them to raise awareness about the use of CEs among students.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2888
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental
Early online date30 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2023

Keywords

  • Cognitive enhancers
  • qualitative
  • smart drugs
  • university students
  • drug misuse
  • UAE
  • cognitive enhancers

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