Panic-stricken Year 12 students are asking doctors to give them stimulant drugs to help get through their final exams.

Australian Medical Association WA psychiatry spokesman Paul Skerritt said he usually saw stressed and anxious high school students at this time of year.

But there was no treatment he could offer that would take effect in time for the WA Certificate of Education, which start on Thursday.

"The request for dexamphetamines sometimes turns up at that time," he said. "They say 'what about some dexies to tide me over for the exams'."

Professor Skerritt said students requested dexamphetamines because they were known to help improve focus and took effect quickly.

But they were also habit-forming and potentially dangerous.

"The law doesn't quite allow them for that purpose," he said.

He found it frustrating that students left it so late to ask for help instead of starting treatment in March, because stress could provoke other more serious mental health problems.

Steve Wilson, a Bassendean GP and chairman of the AMA (WA) Council of General Practice, has seen a gradual increase in school students with stress and anxiety.

"I think there is more pressure on kids these days," he said. "But there's a lot more distractions for kids as well. They seem to have so much more going on in their life than just being able to focus on school and sport."

Some students from certain ethnic backgrounds were put under extra duress by parents with high expectations.

Dr Wilson said the fact that students now had to stay at school until they were 17 placed more emphasis on academic achievement.

"But I think there's more pressure to succeed because society has become a lot more competitive," he said. "We're a lot more materialistic these days."

This led to increased peer pressure and a perception that people had to work harder to obtain possessions such as smartphones and designer trainers.

AMA WA president Richard Choong said he often saw Year 12s who were so stressed they could not sleep, which meant they were too tired to remember anything.

He suspected some were consuming too much caffeine, in the form of coffee, energy drinks or pills.

Senior school psychologist Melanie Hutflesz said she set up programs at Churchlands Senior High School three years ago to deal with stress, anxiety and depression because she was seeing so many stressed Year 11s and 12s.

"But a bit of stress and anxiety is actually good. We want to see them slightly stressed because that helps with performance," she said.

National Drug Research Institute director Steve Allsop said there was a black market for dexamphetamines.

Stimulants might make students more alert but their ability to recall information was impaired.

The West Australian

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