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Pill Popping Success

Would you take a pill that made you smarter, more productive and improved alertness?

Written by . Published on December 12th 2011.


Pill Popping Success

A GROWING number of individuals are turning to ‘smart drugs’ in search of greater cognitive enhancement. Students pulling all-nighters have often used caffeine to cram for exams or finish essays. Now some are using drugs to improve their performance and gain that all important edge. With increasing pressures and demands to succeed the difference could be that higher A-Level grade or better exam result, so you can see the temptation. Would this bring their use into the same realms of athletes illegally using performance enhancing drugs – except no-one drug tests students? Some experts are concerned that it could even result to a kind of two-tier educational system.

Some proponents of the benefits say that regulated it could make us a more productive society but that sounds scarily dystopian rather than utopian. The two-tier argument means that only those able to afford the drugs will obtain the benefits.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge, has been researching cognitive enhancers for more than a decade. Sahakian cites how ‘there is increasing lifestyle use of cognitive enhancing drugs, or smart drugs by healthy people. Are people using these drugs just to realize their potential, or is it that pressures to perform in a globally competitive environment means that individuals’ feel that they cannot afford an ‘off day’ due to lack of sleep or stress?’

Certain drugs such as Modafinil, which are usually prescribed for medical reasons such as narcolepsy, have been found to improve alertness and overall performance. Users have testified how it has allowed them to work for 20 or 30 hours straight, improve flexibility of thinking and reduce impulsivity. Fighter pilots and other military personnel use drugs to stay focused and vigilant in situations that can often be a matter of life and death. Studies have showed the benefits to sleep deprived surgeons.

RogenSeth Rogan claims smoking marijuana helps his creative process

What about the risks of using so called cognitive enhancing drugs? As many of the drugs used are prescription only they are typically bought online which means you can’t really be sure what you are getting. Also no research has been conducted on long term effects of usage. Then there is the issue of addiction or becoming self-reliant.

They are ethical concerns too. Some proponents of the benefits say that regulated it could make us a more productive society but that sounds scarily dystopian rather than utopian. The two-tier argument means that only those able to afford the drugs will obtain the benefits.

The limited research that has been carried out has produced mixed conclusions from its participants. Some said that it considerably improved their concentration levels while others just experienced negative consequences. Like most drugs it seems that it effects people in different ways. Obviously in an ideal world exercise, diet and a healthy life/work balance is preferable.

Using drugs to improve performance is nothing new, even though it’s illegal athletes continue to do it and many writers have written some of their best work in music and literature while under the influence. Actor and director Seth Rogen recently admitted that smoking weed helps his creative process.

LimitlessBradley Cooper in Limitless, which tackles this idea

In the movie Limitless Bradley Cooper’s character Eddie Morra stumbles on a super drug that can turbo charge his mental capacities. The effects are unimaginable as he is able to use hundred per cent of his brain’s capacity. It’s a modern Faustian tale of what would you give for amazing brain power and the confidence that goes with it – even if there could be dire longer term consequences.

At the moment cognitive enhancing drugs could theoretically improve your performance by ten per cent but what if smart drugs were developed which improved your performance by say 20 or even 50 per cent, would you be tempted?

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