Medicines used for Alzheimer's disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder taken by 1% of 14 to 18-year-olds

Some young people in Britain have used drugs for dementia and other conditions to boost their mental performance, a major survey suggests.

Medicines normally prescribed for Alzheimer's disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were taken by 1% of 14 to 18-year-olds to improve their focus, concentration or memory, the report found. The independent survey carried out by Ipsos Mori for the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest biomedical research charity, drew on responses from more than 1,000 adults and 460 young people chosen as representative of the UK general public.

In the survey, nine young people claimed to have taken drugs for conditions like ADHD or dementia, but of these, only two could name specific drugs, such as Ritalin, Donepezil, Provigil or Aderall.

If the 1% figure is accurate and representative of the UK population, then around 38,000 young people have tried off-label drugs to boost their cognitive performance. Two per cent of adults queried in the survey said they used the drugs.

The figures, compiled for the Wellcome Trust Monitor, give the first accurate picture of how widespread the use of cognitive enhancing drugs is among the general public in Britain. Previous surveys, by Nature magazine and New Scientist, have surveyed readers online, and found much higher drug use. The Nature survey found one in five had used drugs like ritalin and provigil to sharpen their minds, while 38% admitted to using the drugs in the New Scientist survey.

© Guardian News and Media 2013