Students take to anti-sleep pills in exam season

Lucknow: Prajakta Swarup, a Class 10 student, underwent a major brain surgery for a clot that led to swelling of nerves, last week.

The girl had been staying up all night preparing for her board examinations. Her mother had been giving her steaming cups of coffee to help her stay awake.

Prajakta collapsed one evening and was hospitalised. Her parents later found a bottleful of pills in her drawer and when they handed them over to the doctor, they were shocked to learn that their daughter had been on anti-sleep pills.

“Shocking though it may sound, an increasing number of students, today, are taking these anti-sleep pills that help them stay awake during examinations. This is a very dangerous trend and the drugs are being smuggled in from countries like Bangkok. These drugs can have dangerous side effects, especially if taken with an overdose of caffeine — too many cups of coffee — as it happened in Prajakta’s case,” said a leading neurosurgeon Dr Sharad Srivastava.

According to the doctor, these drugs are being sold over the counters with names like ‘chuniya’ and ‘meethi’.

“These are variants of Modafinil that is said to improve memory, and enhance one’s mood, alertness and cognitive powers. The drug has a smoother feel than amphetamines and enables the user to stay awake and alert for 40 hours or more at a stretch. Once the drug wears off, you just have to catch up on some sleep,” said another medical practitioner who did not wish to be named.

A chemist, Surinder Kohli, admitted that the sale of anti-sleep pills, memory enhancers has shot up for the past one month.

“Customers are ready to pay any amount for these drugs. They also buy energy drinks to ward off fatigue,” he said but parried questions about the legality of over-the-counter selling of these drugs.

Modafinil, sold under the brand name Provigil, among others, is mainly used in treatment of disorders such as narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, idiopathic hypersomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness associated with obstructive sleep apnea.

A senior police official made a shocking revelation when he said, “It is terrorists who are now using these anti-sleep drugs to stay awake during combat hours. It was first found during the 26/11 attacks that the terrorists carried drugs in the backpacks. Most of us do not know details about these drugs and there have been no complaints so far from the common people, so no action has been taken.”

Dr R K Saxena, a well-known psychiatrist, said that the increasing trend of students using anti-sleep pills during examinations was actually a result of growing stress and peer pressure.

“There is immense pressure on children to score high percentages so that they can get admissions in good colleges. The children are berated if they get even half a per cent less than their friends. The pressure to score 98 and 99 per cent in board examinations is slowly killing them. Parents should accept the fact that such high percentages can be unrealistic and not every child can score these marks,” he said.

Dr Saxena said that in today’s world, parental guidance was almost non-existent, especially in cases where both the parents were working.

“Parents do not have the time to watch changes in their child’s behaviour and counsel her or understand the pressure that he feels. The child is left on his own and starts taking these drugs on the recommendation of friends,” he said.

Prajakta’s parents now admit that they did not realise the kind of pressure their daughter was facing. “She kept telling us that she wanted high scores in examinations so that she could get admission in a good college in Delhi because that is where her friends would be going,” her father said.

Teachers, meanwhile, blame the parents as well as students for not maintaining a consistent study pattern.

Pushpa D’Souza, a retired teacher from an English medium girls’ school, said, “Students do not study all year through. They bunk classes and the parents remain blissfully unaware. If the parents monitor their children’s study pattern throughout the year, the examination tension will ease to a considerable extent.

The student, on the other hand, blame parents for pushing the envelope.

Suniti, who is Prajakta’s classmate, said rather indignantly, “It is the parents who keep reprimanding us and pushing us to get top scores. They compare us with their friends’ children and tell us that we are good for nothing. What else can we do in such a situation?”


Also Read

Comments are closed.