Science Performance Enhanced
posted by December 27 at 14:40 PMon
Something to think about if you had coffee this morning:
Despite the potential side effects, academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions.
“There isn’t any question about it — they made me a much better player,” said Paul Phillips, 35, who credited the attention deficit drug Adderall and the narcolepsy pill Provigil with helping him earn more than $2.3 million as a poker player.
The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer’s patients.
The scientific and medical community starts asking questions:
Although the appeal of pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers — to help one study longer, work more effectively or better manage everyday stresses — is understandable, potential users, both healthy and diseased, must consider the pros and cons of their choices. To enable this, scientists, doctors and policy-makers should provide easy access to information about the advantages and dangers of using cognitive-enhancing drugs and set out clear guidelines for their future use.
The Nature editorial goes on to ask a few good questions:
When imagining the possible influences of efficient cognitive enhancers on society as a whole, there can be many positive effects. Such drugs may enable individuals to perform better and enjoy more achievements and success. However, cognitive enhancers may have a darker side. Fears have been raised of an overworked 24/7 society pushed to the limits of human endurance, or of direct and indirect coercion into taking such drugs. If other children at school or colleagues at work are taking cognitive-enhancing drugs, will you feel pressure to give them to your children or take them yourself? What if a perfectly safe and reliable cognitive enhancer existed, could society deny it to healthy individuals who may benefit from it?(emphasis added.)
If others at school are taking these drugs, will you feel pressure to give them to your children?
At present, relatively safe cognitive enhancers with clear effects in healthy individuals are available. Today, in healthy individuals, most cognitive-enhancing drugs yield only moderate effects, and enhance only a subset of cognitive abilities. In the case of some drugs, such as methylphenidate, there are improvement in some domains such as attention, but there may be impairments in others, such as previously learned spatial tasks. Consequently, we believe that current debates must focus on the risks and harms at the level of the individual.
How do a surprising number of medical professionals and academics vote with their own bodies?
In academia, we know that a number of our scientific colleagues in the United States and the United Kingdom already use modafinil to counteract the effects of jetlag, to enhance productivity or mental energy, or to deal with demanding and important intellectual challenges…For many, it seems that the immediate and tangible benefits of taking these drugs are more persuasive than concerns about legal status and adverse effects.
Compare this relatively nuanced discussion—tilting heavily in favor of safe, legal and inexpensive access to brain-enhancing drugs—to the hysteria around body enhancing drugs in athletics.
Do we value the mind more or less than the body? What would you take?
DB makes an interesting point:
Body enhancing drugs (mostly) only benefit the user, where as mind enhancing drugs have more potential to enhance society.