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How should we deal with cognitive-enhancing drugs? (stanfordalumni.org)
39 points by frankus on Mar 26, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments



"But I do think one can distinguish between the two in a number of different ways, the most important being that there’s the potential for real personal and social benefits from cognitive enhancement that is much, much weaker in terms of sports enhancement."

Sure, but if the UPS worker can lift and move far more weigh over time, if the construction worker can work longer hours and lift heavier items, isn't that a gain for the world?

If the average physical laborer can be more effective, doesn't that boost productivity?

I can imagine this leading to a "reality is for people who can't handle drugs" dystopia, but sports-related drugs could also show real personal and social benefits.


Yes! The main reason why sane people want legal cognitive-enhancing drugs is more regulation, not less. I want to be sure that whatever I take is as safe as aspirin, in what conditions, what dosages and for what length of time. And current regulations don't say any of this.

Oh well. I fully expect both this and the other kind of cognitive enhancing to be available in Japan way before the rest of the world. One more reason to move there.


And you think that if the government slaps a label on something that the information is correct?

Part of the reason why products aren't always labeled with safety information is because we don't know. Even with the drugs that are heavily regulated by the FDA we often discover things about them long after they have been labeled and consumed by thousands.


That's a generic argument not to do anything, ever.

The discussion is (as stated in the article) about weather a drug is safe for non-medical use. That is, for various degrees of "safe". Safe means one thing when given to severe cases of cancer patients, and a completely different thing when sold to children over the counter (like vitamins for example). The problem is, there is a general bias against computing the last kind of "safe".


Waiting for the day when someone will be banned from an examination after drug testing :)

I am surprised that the issue hasn't been widely commented on here !

I for one, am ok with using these drugs, at the end of the day it just depends on how much one person is driven to do a thing. IF someone wants to score an A so bad that he needs to take a drug, then so be it.


This was an exceptionally thoughtful discussion of the regulatory trade-offs involved in acknowledging drugs as enhancements to normal cognitive functioning in healthy people.


By consuming them?


We already do. Forget the synthetic pharmaceuticals, nothing is quite so effective as a cigarette, a strong cup of coffee, or a chocolate bar. You have to wonder why it is that most (if not all) ancient civilizations had some sort of drug tradition, whether it was smoking opium or eating mushrooms. If being straight-laced was such a good idea, how come the straight-laced societies didn't overrun all those drug-addled societies?

...of course, that's not to say modern medicine isn't useful. It's the reason that we know coffee + chocolate == good, cigarettes == bad. Still, there's something to be learned from history...


I've seen a lot of cognitive enhancement articles lately that only focus on CNS stimulants and similar drugs like modafinl. I'd love to see more coverage of non-stim nootropics like alcar, racetams, sulbutiamine, deprenyl, etc. I like the dopaminergic stims too, but I don't feel like they are a good long term or healthy solution to cognitive supplementation.



"Fast Times at Fairmont High" is an entertaining short read about this issue.


When is Adderall going OTC?


First, no jokes about banning coffee, please! Studies have shown it to be good for general health (diabetes prevention, etc, etc) in addition to its mental influences.

I would love to try e.g. Ritalin, but couldn't handle breaking (non-traffic) laws.

Also, I can't even handle computer games and never install them. If Ritalin worked for me and I could sit and hack code/read manuals with higher efficiency, I'd never stop using it, whatever the side effects. ("Just this project; I also just want to learn X,Y,Z...")

I assume other people here would get the same effect.


There may be studies showing positive benefits to coffee, but there are also studies showing negative side effects. I'll stick with my chocolate bar, thank you :)




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