Social Med-ia hits Cambridge

Halfway through week one and the ‘Study Drug’, Modafinil, is already getting plugged on CUSU fresher’s page, writes HEATHER MCKAY

Drugs modafinil performance enhancing drugs

Amongst all the posts from keen societies, discount sunglasses salesmen, and The Tab (sorry) the Fresher’s Facebook page receives every day, one particular one went unnoticed by CUSU moderators for quite some time: a message advertising the ‘study drug’ Modafinil.

What was different about this one – and probably why it was missed – was that it wasn’t  plain old spam but geared towards Cantabs; the post used the Bubble’s lingo to appeal to students across the University.

The drug, which can be prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy, is fast becoming the replacement for its Red Bull and Ritalin rivals, by hard working students or anyone who’s left an essay till the last minute due to sleep / Facebook / inebriation.

One of the drug’s effects is a sense of ‘wakefulness’ and a better ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.

At some point it goes the other way.


This anti-procrastination pill was advertised by the British Med Store – an ‘official distributor’ of Sun Pharma products, an Indian pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Mumbai.

A ‘starter pack’ from the British MedStore’s site contains 40 pills and will set you back £45 whilst the ‘mega-value pack’  contains 120 for £100.

It might sound expensive but a phone call between The British Med Store and a Tab reporter revealed that a special deal meant we’d get 130 pills for our money.

The well-spoken, English, voice on the other side of the Skype call stressed that there was nothing illegal about their business: “If you’re importing Modafinil for personal use it’s not classified under the misuse of drugs act.”

The drug is subject to a legal loophole: you can’t legally obtain it in the UK without prescription, but you can import it for personal use.

The British Med Store gets around this by directly importing from the Indian distributor, taking payment either in bank transfers or via the murky world of bitcoins – a ‘cryptocurrency’ used by the recently defunct online drug dealing market The Silk Road.

The Tab was told that there was no danger of repercussions on buyers: “We never have any issues with parcels held at customs.” but made it clear that if we wanted more than the mega-value pack – i.e. more than personal use which would be illegal under the Misuse of Drugs act – they’d ship it over in smaller, separate batches, avoiding detection.

Complimentary express shipping was included with any of the differently sized deals – the drugs would arrive from India in three to five days.

Testemonials selected on the website do convey satisfaction. One praises their ‘English-speaking Customer service!!’

When asked about side-effects The Tab was told that they’d rather not give us medical advice and referered us to the NHS website.

The British Med Store sings the drug’s praises (it’s also the only med they sell) but the side effects are numerous and worrying, including anxiety, diarrhoea, and swelling of the face.

Whilst the brain-boosting power of these pills were given a good review from The Oxford Tab, not all students are convinced by these arguments:

“This just reinforces the negative perception of Cambridge being an overly-pressurized environment.” said one worried post-grad who asked not to be named “I’m sure far too many Freshers will be tempted to try Modafinil after seeing this post.”

For science.

Sam, a Mathmo at Selwyn, was wistful: “I wish I’d taken some Modafinil. Maybe then I’d have something witty to say about the matter.”

A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire police confirmed that there was nothing illegal about the act of importing Modafinil but issued a firm warning:

“Think before you take any action on medicines that have not been prescribed to you.

“It’s a prescription only medicine for a reason. It should only be supplied by an approved practitioner. The reason Modafinil was made prescription only was because of the potential risks.”