Spend a semester at university and you'll appreciate just how much students juggle. For 12 weeks a semester there's a barrage of assignments, homework, tests, and group study sessions—with work and life somehow squeezed in between.
As VICE has previously detailed, it's this stress that turns many to Nootropics: a new wave of grey market cognitive enhancers. Armed with these, students feel they no longer need to choose between their social lives and study. At the cost of sleep, they can do both.
With exams looming for students around Australia, we asked students what study drugs they plan on using.
VICE: Hey Duncan, what's your favourite study drug? Duncan: I've tried Adderall and Modafinil. I'd definitely say Modafinil.
Why Modafinil? It provides a really natural sense of focus. It gives you a drive. You want to study. It really stops me procrastinating.
How do you get your hands on it? If you know someone who has it you can buy it, which is what I have done in the past. Recently, I just ordered it online. There's online pharmacies that specialise in selling Modafinil. It delivers to Australia in about 10 days, like ordering something from eBay.
Each time you stock up, how much would you be spending? If I buy in bulk—about 100 at a time—the price comes to about US$1.50 per pill.
Can you describe what a typical Modafinil study session looks like? I normally do it with mates. Everyone's on the same level, no one is really talking. Normally we get up at around 6 AM, have a big breakfast, take a dosage, then study for a solid 12 hours with food breaks here and there.
Do you ever worry about whether it's fair on other students if you're using study drugs? If I'm paying all that money, and spending three or more years of my life studying so that I can build the career I want... Is it unfair to your co-workers to stay late at the office, log extra hours, take on a higher workload and sacrifice more to get that promotion? I don't think so. All I'm doing by taking Modafinil is optimising my efficiency.
If it's unfair then so is drinking coffee to study, paying for a tutor to help with work, or working in a group to study. It has zero impact on anyone else, and for that reason I don't believe it's unfair or unethical.
Hey Anna, what's your favourite study drug? Marijuana.
Okay, I haven't heard that one before. Why is it your favourite? I love marijuana, regardless of whether I'm studying or not. It helps me when I study because I'm a perfectionist, so coursework can cause a lot of stress. When I'm high, I feel relaxed and more confident in my ability to do the work.
What do your friends use to help themselves study—anyone else find weed helpful? A lot of them don't use stuff, but I do know people who have used Ritalin and Adderall. I'd be keen to try both one day.
Why did you start smoking weed to help you study? Usually I would wait until after studying to treat myself. But I was blazed as fuck one night and realised I had school work that needed to be done by the next day, so I did it when I was high and found it surprisingly easy.
How do you get your hands on it? I buy off friends, and friends of friends. I've been buying for a long time so I've made a lot of connections.
Do you ever make dumb mistakes when you're doing assignments high? Only little things like getting distracted and forgetting the question, or forgetting what I'm writing about mid-paragraph.
Hey Krystal, which study drugs have you tried? A few forms of Modafinil and some No Doz. There are a few different dosages: Waklert, Artvigil, Modvigil, Modalert.
Modafinil definitely seems to be the most popular. What's your favourite type? Waklert. It's a slightly different drug. Similar to Modafinil but it's a bit more intense and lasts longer.
How do you normally get Waklert? The internet. It's shipped from India.
Have you looked into whether that's legal or not? I haven't looked up how legal modafinilcat is. I was referred to it so I trusted it on that basis.
Why did you start using Waklert? A friend of a friend was dealing it from Sydney. She'd buy a few hundred pills at a time and sell them to her friends. That friend passed a few onto me.
When do you normally take it? Generally only for all-nighters. The night before something is due to punch it out. The other day I got up at 8 AM then took some around 8 PM. I rolled through until 9 AM the next day. I probably could have kept going but I was like, nah I should have a nap.
Does Waklert help you to feel less stressed when you're studying? It puts you in the shit when it wears off, and it messes with your sleeping pattern. I wouldn't say it alleviates stress. It probably causes more later down the track.
If it messes with you, why do you keep using it? It really assists with study emergencies, it means I don't have to freak out about staying awake or not. I'm pretty set in the way I study so all-nighters are normal for me anyway, it just helps me stay awake.
Robbie, what's your favourite study drug? Modafinil.
Why is it your favourite? It lasts for the entire day and it's really cheap. It doesn't have too much of a crash either.
How do you usually get your hands on it? Online, I found some website that sells it real cheap.
Online seems to be the go. How did you get started using it? Some friends were talking about how they could get their hands on Ritalin, then Dexys. We tried those and they were pretty good but they didn't last long and I'd feel pretty shit afterwards. We got our hands on Modafinil and just went from there.
Are you ever worried that you'll become reliant on it? Do you think you'll still use it after you graduate and start working? Not really, I try as often as I can to take time off it and I can go to work easily without it. I don't think I could work 9 AM to 5 PM, five days a week, and be popping Mods all the time.
I've heard it can really mess with your sleeping patterns. How often do you take it? I take it in the morning or around lunch time so for me, it doesn't really mess with my sleeping pattern. I would take it once or twice a week during semester and a lot more during the exam period. Maybe up to four days per week.
Why do you think students increasingly turn to drugs like Modafinil to help them study? I think it's just the lifestyle that students live. They have to go to uni and work as well. They're gonna go out a fair bit, too. You're constantly in a state of needing some kind of stimulation.
*Some names changed for privacy.
Follow Scott on Twitter