It's that time of the year again when children start cramming for their annual exams and chemists make a fast buck selling memory booster drugs of all hues, despite medical warnings that these 'wonder drugs' may have harmful side effects.
The popularity of medicines that claim to enhance memory can be gauged by the tens of advertisements seen in the local dailies every day.
"Lured by the advertisements, especially of ayurvedic medicines promising no side effects, parents anxious to see their children excel in examinations rush to the chemists to buy brain tonics," said Anshumali Joshi, a chemist in the posh Shakti Nagar area of the state capital.
"Earlier, the annual examination time (usually in the months of March-April) used to be 'memory power boom' season, but now we get such customers throughout the year," says Joshi.
Deepak Chaturvedi, a doctor at a private hospital here, said: "I get eight to 10 calls a day seeking advice on which medicine to take for improving a student's memory. In many cases it is the parents who seek such advice."
Apart from ayurvedic medicines, some homeopathic and allopathic drugs are also being sold. Some common memory enhancers readily available with the chemists are Shankhpushpi, Dimagheen, Memo Nerve and Brain Tone Tablet.
"I was worried about my child as she failed to score good marks in a test series earlier this year. Looking at her inability to memorise important lessons we have now started giving her an ayurvedic medicine, which helps increase memory," says Laxmi Sharma, mother of Ipsha who is to appear for Class 7 examinations next month.
Drug manufacturers and sales representatives claim that these medicines improve memory and enhance learning ability by increasing protein activity and new protein synthesis, relieve mental strain and stress and make the mind sharp and alert.
But doctors advise against use of such memory enhancers. They say it is better to sleep for around eight hours, increase intake of fruits, dry fruits and milk and also avoid stress to feel better equipped to face the exams.
"These so-called memory enhancers could have an adverse effect on the child's memory as the effects start tapering off three to four months after their continuous intake. These medicines increase the flow of glucose into the brain, which when stopped can lead to the decline of natural memory," warns said R.N. Sahu, head of the psychiatry department at Hamidia Hospital.
M.S. Meenai, former head of medical service at a government hospital here, said: "No medical research has so far proved that these tonics really work. Rather than getting these it is necessary for parents to have a more positive approach towards their children's exams. Instead of stressing on marks, they should stress on the holistic overall development of the child's personality, social skills and performance as an all rounder."