The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

This is Your Brain…The is Your Brain on “Brain Steroids”

We all know about well know sports figures being busted for taking performance enhancing drugs. But what about the college kid who scores some Ritalin to help him do better on a big test?

Right now it is illegal, of course. You are not (legally) allowed to take these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Some substances, such as caffeine are legal and we know that students routinely have very high blood caffeine content!

Yesterday in the journal Nature, a team led by Henry Greely of the Stanford Law School published a piece titled, “Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy”. Their thesis is that we can and should responsibly use drugs with low risks to side effects to improve our mental abilities.

“The drugs just reviewed, along with newer technologies such as brain stimulation and prosthetic brain chips, should be viewed in the same general category as education, good health habits, and information technology — ways that our uniquely innovative species tries to improve itself.”

You can read all their arguments. They reject arguments against congnitive enhancement as long as the drugs pass muster on the safety side.

I have mixed feelings on this one. We are looking at using drugs in normal healthy people. Frequently drugs can obtain FDA approval and end up having undesirable long term side effects that don’t show up in the approval process. If the drugs are used to treat a debilitating disease, the risk of the side effects may justify the use of the drugs. Can the same be said in healthy individuals looking for a little extra advantage?


December 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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