Non-medical use of prescription stimulants and illicit use of stimulants for cognitive enhancement in pupils and students in Germany

Pharmacopsychiatry. 2011 Mar;44(2):60-6. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1268417. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


Introduction: The aim of this study was to assess for the first time the prevalence and factors associated with stimulant use exclusively for cognitive enhancement among pupils and university students in Germany.

Methods: A sample of 1 035 pupils (vocational and grammar schools) in small and big cities and 512 university students of 3 Departments (Medicine, Pharmacy, Economics) completed a questionnaire regarding knowledge and use of stimulants for cognitive enhancement and factors associated with their use.

Results: Lifetime prevalence for use of prescription stimulants (methylphenidate, amphetamines) for cognitive enhancement in pupils was 1.55% and in students 0.78%. Last-year and last-month prevalence rates were significantly lower. 2.42% of pupils and 2.93% of students reported lifetime illicit use of stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy) for cognitive enhancement with lower last-year and last-month rates. Prevalence was higher in male pupils, pupils from vocational schools and pupils with bad marks.

Discussion: The illicit use of stimulants for cognitive enhancement is significantly higher than non-medical use of prescription stimulants among pupils and students. Stimulant use is determined by gender, school type, and school marks. The potential risks associated with stimulant use require early awareness and intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nootropic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Students
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Nootropic Agents