Neuroenhancement among German university students: motives, expectations, and relationship with psychoactive lifestyle drugs

J Psychoactive Drugs. Nov-Dec 2012;44(5):418-27. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2012.736845.


Recent research has indicated that neuroenhancement (NE), the use of legal or illegal drugs by healthy individuals to improve their cognitive performance, is widely practiced among students in both the United States and Germany. The primary objective of this study was to identify the motives for and beliefs regarding the benefits and risks of practicing NE among a sample of German university students and graduates. The secondary objective was to determine the relationship between the use of neuroenhancers and the use of several common psychoactive lifestyle drugs. A web-based survey was used to interview students and postgraduates. Of the 1,324 participants, 93 reported having practiced NE for the primary motives of improving concentration (55%) and increasing vigilance (49%). Participants who reported having practiced NE were more likely to assess NE as more beneficial and less harmful compared to participants who reported not having practiced NE. The former also reported greater use of all lifestyle drugs except alcohol compared to the latter. The primary motives for practicing NE are associated with management of a high level of stress and a large academic workload. As such, decreasing the prevalence of NE among students requires implementation of strategies targeting stress reduction and workload management.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nootropic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Nootropic Agents