Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category
An increasing number of healthy students dope themselves with ADHD drugs. What happens when ‘study drugs’ become normal? A new study sets out to find the answer. Having observed how students in the US and Denmark use study drugs, a Danish anthropologist hopes to shed light on this poorly researched area. For some students, the pressure to get good grades is so strong that they take prescription drugs in an effort to improve their performance. In the vast vacuum of qualitative studies in this field, Danish anthropologist Margit Anne Petersen’s PhD project aims to take a closer look at this phenomenon known as smart drugs, intelligence enhancers, neuroenhancers, nootropics, or simply ‘study drugs’.
When faced with these complex ethical questions, it is tempting to take sides either for or against biotechnology. Utopian proponents will argue that biotech will end human suffering. Detractors will label it “unnatural” (many of them in blog posts on the equally unnatural internet).
But the reality, as always, is somewhere in the middle. These technologies are coming. Some are already here. And real people will make real decisions about which ones to develop and how and whether to release them to market. There will be profiteering motives and black market abuses. There will also be public discussion in the press, on the web, and in the streets that will have real effects on government policy. Pharmaceutical companies have powerful, well-heeled lobbies. But Occupy Wall Street has recently demonstrated the power of the people to organize into a formidable political force.
In other words, major decisions about how we want to reshape our brains and our entire species are upon us, and their outcome depends on our energy or apathy in addressing them.
Too much memory, attention or willpower, instead of making us into uber-geeks, might drive us the way of the wooly mammoth. Our gift as a species—what brought us on an evolutionary track from the Flintstones to Steve Jobs — relates to our capacity to allocate just enough cognitive resources to the task at hand to get the job done.
Most of today’s cognitive enhancers improve our ability to focus—but most benefits accrue to those with attention deficits. They allow the child with ADHD to learn the multiplication tables, but for those with average attention spans or better, these drugs can sometimes usher in comic mishaps.