Background As prescribers of methylphenidate for children with ADHD, we have been interested in following the debate about its use to improve academic performance in healthy students, including medical students. Many are buying psychostimulants online - students should be made aware of potential hazards.
Method We performed a literature review and consulted colleagues in the legal profession, police and pharmacy to clarify implications.
Buying methylphenidate (controlled drug), without a prescription, is illegal in the UK even if purchased abroad and imported.
Drugs purchased online may not be what they claim to be.
Will not receive recommended medical monitoring or follow-up.
General Medical Council has clear guidance on self- prescribing - ‘Wherever possible you must avoid prescribing for yourself or anyone with whom you have a close personal relationship. Controlled medicines present particular dangers, occasionally associated with drug misuse, addiction and misconduct. You must not prescribe a controlled medicine for yourself or someone close to you unless: no other person with the legal right to prescribe is available to assess and prescribe without a delay which would put your, or the patient’s, life or health at risk or cause unacceptable pain or distress, and the treatment is immediately necessary to save a life; avoid serious deterioration in health, or alleviate otherwise uncontrollable pain or distress’.
Conclusion Students may not be aware of GMC guidance or may not equate it buying medication online. Students need to be made aware of the risks so they do not inadvertently compromise their health or future careers.