A growing trend in the workplace and on college campuses is the use and abuse of prescription drugs to enhance brain performance. Drugs like Adderall, Ritalin and Provigil – normally prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy – are used by many researchers and students as a way of maintaining focus and raising productivity levels.
With standards for achievement seemingly always on the rise (particularly at UC Davis, where the average GPA for admitted first-years is now 3.94), it’s no wonder people are turning to what has become known as “brain doping” to achieve.
In the past several months, this has raised a number of questions about the ethics of using substances to enhance mental performance. Should these drugs be made legal for those without a medical condition? Should people who use them be required to announce publicly that they use them? Should they be banned in academia?
These questions will take much debate and discussion to resolve. However, those who do use brain boosting drugs and those who are considering it should keep a few basic facts in mind.
First, Adderall, Ritalin, Provigil and similar drugs are classified as Schedule II substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This means they are known to have some risk of dependency, and some studies have even shown that these drugs are more addictive to those who don’t have ADHD or another medical condition that legitimates their use.
Furthermore, the use of brain boosting drugs is illegal in many cases. While some people manage to get prescriptions for these drugs to use them legally, in many cases they are bought and sold in an illegal black market. This is a federal felony that puts “brain dopers” at risk of jail time and beefy fines.
Perhaps more disturbingly, the relative newness of these drugs means their effects are not fully known. While they have been clinically tested on people with ADHD and narcolepsy, their effects on healthy individuals have not been studied extensively. Moreover, the long-term effects of these drugs on the brain is not well known due to the fact that people have not been using them for generations.
These risks should be seriously considered by anyone trying to get ahead with controlled substances, and Americans as a whole need to start discussing the ethical questions behind the use of brain boosting drugs.