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01.06.2012 | original article | Ausgabe 11-12/2012

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 11-12/2012

Cognitive-enhancing substance use at German universities: frequency, reasons and gender differences

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift > Ausgabe 11-12/2012
PhD, MSc Stefanie Mache, MD Patrick Eickenhorst, MSc, PhD Karin Vitzthum, MD, PhD Prof. Burghard F. Klapp, MD, PhD Prof. David A. Groneberg



The purpose of this study was to give an overview whether German students regularly use stimulants for enhancing their academic performance. Reasons associated with the use of these substances were explored. Moreover, gender differences were analyzed.


A cross-sectional survey study was performed analyzing a random sample of 1,053 students of different fields of study in Germany. Students were asked to complete an anonymous self-administered web-based survey containing questions on cognitive performance-enhancing substance use. We used statistical analyses, e.g. non-parametric tests to evaluate the data of our questionnaire.


Among 1,053 students, 61 % responded to our questionnaire. The average age wasM = 24.58; 635 participants were female and 418 were male students. Total 1–13 % of the participating students have taken prescription stimulants (e.g. modafinil) or illicit drugs (e.g. cannabis) at least once in their lifetime. The most common reasons for taking stimulants were to support concentration, to relax and to increase alertness. We found significant gender differences with regard to frequency and reason for using performance-enhancing substances.


Our study results give an overview about the actual situation on frequency and reasons for taking performance-enhancing substances. Departments of Public Health should address this issue in national health debates and discussions. Based on our study findings health education programmes should be developed.

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