Can Pills Make You Smarter?
Would you take a pill that promised to make you smarter? That could help you do better on tests? Give you the energy to be more productive? Make you feel more alert?
It is possible, but not without risks.
What are smart drugs?
Smart drugs are really just prescription stimulants (Dexedrine, Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta) that have been used to successfully treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) for many years now. However, when a person without one of these medical conditions takes these drugs, it's basically a prescription "upper" that gives the user a feeling of being able to conquer any task, along with the ability to stay up longer to complete it.
There is another class of drugs known as eugeroics (ie: Provigil) that work to block chemicals in the brain that cause fatigue and, in-turn, provide the user with a feeling of alertness. These medications were originally used to treat narcolepsy and excessive sleepiness due to medical conditions or shift-work.
You can see why college students are gravitating toward these drugs, but do they give them an unfair advantage over students that aren't using them?
It's important to remember that these are addictive narcotics with many dangerous side effects. Even so, students and professionals are still using them to get an edge over their competition.
From Marie Clare - Pills to Make You Smart.
According to a reader survey conducted by the scientific journal Nature, one in five respondents has used prescription cognitive enhancers for nonmedical purposes — that's 50 percent more than those who reported taking these drugs for their intended use! When asked whether these practices should be allowed, 86 percent of the 1400 surveyed answered yes. Apparently, while the chattering classes tsk-tsked the doping habits of pro athletes, those within their own circles — writers, designers, scientists, scholars — have been juicing up themselves, or secretly wishing they could.
Here is a video from Duke University about the use and abuse of smart pills by college students:
From PBS - Statistics on Stimulant Use.
The dramatically rising production quotas shown below mirror the growing demand for prescriptions in the U.S.
According to the United Nations, the U.S. produces and consumes about 85 percent of the world's methylphenidate.
It's not just about whether or not using stimulants (off label) is morally wrong, it's also about putting your health in jeopardy just to increase your chances of doing better than the next guy. Is it really worth it?
From Scientific American - Turbocharging the Brain.
Taking a highly provocative stand, a group of ethicists and neuroscientists published a commentary in Nature last year raising the prospect of a shift away from the notion of drugs as a treatment primarily for illness. The article suggested the possibility of making psychostimulants widely available to the able-minded to improve performance in the classroom or the boardroom, provided the drugs are judged to be safe and effective enough for healthy people.
In the future, smart drugs may actually work to prevent cell death in our brain.
From Dr. Pribut's Blog - One Pill Makes You Smarter.
Science Friday recently interviewed researcher Steven McKnight and reported on a new study that came up with what may be the first pill to lessen cognitive decline.
From Mother Nature Network - A pill to make you smarter?
Researchers have found a drug that can help the brain grow new cells and said their study may lead to ways to improve experimental Alzheimer's drugs.
The researchers' work, done on rodents, builds on findings that all mammals, including humans, make brain cells throughout their lives. Most of these die, but this drug helps more of the baby cells survive and grow to become functioning brain cells.
What do you think? Are smart pills the way of the future? Would you be okay with your son or daughter using these types of stimulants to do better in school? Would you consider using them yourself? Let us know in the comment section.
Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan -- Also at Catherine-Morgan.com
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