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A researcher who found 6% of University of Auckland students had used drugs to boost academic performance believes the practice is probably just as prevalent in Dunedin.
The survey of 400 students found Ritalin, which is prescribed to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), was the drug most commonly used as a study aid. The study comes after University of Otago student Druvi Patrick Rodrigo, who admitted supplying Ritalin to classmates, had his conviction and sentence quashed in March by the Court of Appeal, which found his offending to be ''at the low end''.
Senior lecturer at the University of Auckland's school of pharmacy and an author of the survey, Dr Bruce Russell, believed a similar proportion of Otago University students as in Auckland would have used drugs to boost academic performance.
''I would be extremely surprised if there wasn't,'' Dr Russell said.
The survey's finding that 6% of students had used ''cognitive enhancer'' drugs suggested their use was not as common as an the United States and United Kingdom, where it was easier to get hold of the drugs.
While neutral on the ethics of academic doping, Dr Russell felt it was important people were aware of the issue.
''I think there needs to be a discussion around it and people need to be aware that these drugs are out there.''
Dr Russell said he was concerned ''that people will use cognitive enhancers to the point where they perceive a need for them and then use them in an almost addictive manner''.
Around 12,000 people received prescriptions for stimulants used to treat ADHD in the year to June 2013.
Any attempt to sell a controlled drug or to obtain it without a prescription is a crime under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and it is illegal for controlled drugs to be imported by members of the public.
Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, of Dunedin, said he had not heard of Ritalin use being an issue among Otago University students.
''Ritalin is still a major problem. The drug is sold and dealt in the drug community but it is something we haven't heard of appearing within the student community'' Det Snr Sgt Inglis said.
- additional reporting The New Zealand Herald