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Subst Use Misuse. 2017 Jun 7;52(7):950-958. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2016.1267223. Epub 2017 Feb 22.

Pharmaceutical Cognitive Enhancement in Greek University Students: Differences Between Users and Non-Users in Social Cognitive Variables, Burnout, and Engagement.

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a Department of Psychology, Sociology & Politics , Sheffield Hallam University , Sheffield , UK.
b Department of Psychology , International Faculty of the University of Sheffield , Thessaloniki , Greece.
c Laboratory of Hygiene and Environmental Protection, Democritus University of Thrace , Alexandroupolis , Greece.


Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement (PCE) represents the non-medical use of prescribed medication for the improvement of cognitive functioning and academic performance. Although there are some studies about PCE prevalence, it is less clear how users and non-users of PCE substances differ with respect to their positive and negative student experiences (e.g. academic burnout and engagement with studies) and in social cognitive variables that relate to decision-making and self-regulation of PCE use. The present study assessed whether students with different experiences of PCE substance use displayed differences in academic burnout, study engagement, and social cognitive variables relevant to PCE use. Three hundred and forty-seven university students (mean age (M) = 22.15 years, SD = 1.69; 54% females) completed a battery of anonymous questionnaires on academic burnout, engagement with studies, social cognitive variables relevant to PCE use, and self-reported use of PCE substances and non-prescribed nutritional supplements. Three user groups emerged, namely non-users (51.9%, n = 180), single users of non-prescribed dietary supplements (25.4%, n = 88), and dual users of both non-prescribed dietary supplements and PCE (22.8%, n = 79). Multivariate analysis of variance indicated significant differences among the three user groups in intentions, attitudes, social norms, and anticipated regret toward PCE use. No significant differences were observed with respect to academic burnout and work engagement. The findings show that university students may engage in PCE use independent of their student experiences. Rather, a chemically assisted performance enhancement mindset seems to differentiate users from non-users of PCE substances.


Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement; academic burnout; engagement; social cognition

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