‘Memory pills that have high dosages of caffeine, vitamins and sedatives can disturb sleep pattern and also affect appetite’

Quick fix solutions with claims of boosting memory are much in demand with the onset of the exam season. Even though schools and colleges seem to be taking up innovative steps such as Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) and Open Book Examinations to reduce stress, many students, it appears, are resorting to memory pills, energy drinks and ayurveda syrups that claim to boost memory.

Enquiries with half a dozen medical stores in the city revealed that the demand for these pills and syrups that promise to improve memory is seen only between February and April.

One of the employees of a medical store in Vijayanagar said the demand for these products sees around 50 per cent increase during the examination season. Another medical store owner in Basaveshwarnagar termed this a “seasonal” item.

Some of the students that The Hindu spoke too said they are trying to cram up and revise as many lessons as possible before appearing for the exam. Seventeen-year-old Sagar M., who is appearing for the II PUC exam this year, said he was resorting to energy drinks and caffeine to increase his attention span.

However, psychologists and doctors blamed parental and peer pressure for this trend. They also emphasise that there is no concrete evidence to prove that these help in improving one’s memory.

K. John Vijay Sagar, associate professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), said resorting to memory pills, energy drinks were not advisable and had no direct correlation with performance in exams.

“They are not prescribed by doctors and students buy them over the counter. They may contain stimulants and may provide increase in attention for the time being but may not necessarily increase their attention during exams.”

Memory pills that have high dosages of caffeine, vitamins and sedatives can disturb sleep pattern and also affect appetite, he warned. “These forms of medication may have abuse potential and one should not take it without prescription,” he said.

He said students generally also tend to consume high amounts of caffeine during examination for greater attention span as they stimulate the brain, but he said students could suffer from withdrawal symptoms once addicted to it.

What causes stress?

A recent study ‘Stressors of Academic Stress — a study on pre-university students’ conduced by the Department of Human Development, Central Institute of Home Science, Bangalore, published in the Indian Journal of Scientific Research states that high aspiration, poor study habits, study problems, change in medium of instruction and low socio-economic conditions are factors responsible for academic stress. The study was conducted on 360 pre-university students who were assessed on a stress event test, socio-economic status scale, aspiration scale, study habits schedule and study problems schedule.

Kamala Vishwanath, counsellor for Samudra Foundation that runs the SSLC helpline said the helpline had received 150 out of 650 calls for anxiety-related reasons and most students were reporting anxiety and memory-related issues.