Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Smart Drugs hit the Boardroom

The LA Times' Karen Kaplan and Denise Gellene wrote a piece on the use of smart drugs recently.

Smart drugs can be compared to steroids, but without any known deleterious effects.

"If there were drugs for investment bankers, journalists, teachers and scientists that made them more successful, they would use them too," said Charles E. Yesalis, a doping researcher and emeritus professor at Pennsylvania State University. "Why does anyone think this would be limited to an athlete?"

The growth of the brain drugs bears a striking resemblance to the post-World War I evolution of plastic surgery -- developed to rehabilitate badly disfigured soldiers but later embraced by healthy people who wanted larger breasts and fewer wrinkles. |Id.|


The article suggests that the use of smart drugs is rapidly spreading through society and is totally legal (at the moment... of course if we get another Republican in the White House...)
Despite the potential side effects [of smart drugs], 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 drugs haven't been tested extensively in healthy people, but their physiological effects in the brain are well understood.

They are all just precursors to the blockbuster drug that labs are racing to develop.

"Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.

Unlike the anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and blood-oxygen boosters that plague athletic competitions, the brain drugs haven't provoked similar outrage. People who take them say the drugs aren't giving them an unfair advantage but merely allow them to make the most of their hard-earned skills.

In the real world, there are no rules to prevent overachievers from using legally prescribed drugs to operate at peak mental performance. What patient wouldn't want their surgeon to be completely focused during a life-or-death procedure?....

The use of cognitive-enhancing drugs has been well documented among high school and college students. A 2005 survey of more than 10,000 college students found 4% to 7% of them tried ADHD drugs at least once to remain focused on exams or pull all-nighters. At some colleges, more than one-quarter of students surveyed said they had sampled the pills. |Id.|

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