If drugs can safely give your brain a boost, why not take them? Of course, if you don’t wish to, why stop others?
In a era when attention-disorder drugs are regularly – and illegally – being utilized for off-label purposes by people seeking an improved grade or year-end job review, these are generally timely ethical questions.
The latest answer comes from Nature, where seven prominent ethicists and neuroscientists recently published a paper entitled, “Towards a responsible usage of cognitive-enhancing drugs from the healthy.”
“Mentally competent adults,” they write, “will be able to embark on cognitive enhancement using drugs.”
Roughly seven percent of all university students, and up to 20 % of scientists, already have used Ritalin or Adderall – originally designed to treat attention-deficit disorders – to enhance their mental performance.
Many people reason that chemical cognition-enhancement is a kind of cheating. Others say that it’s unnatural. The Nature authors counter these charges: best brain health supplement are just cheating, they say, if prohibited through the rules – which require not be the truth. When it comes to drugs being unnatural, the authors argue, they’re forget about unnatural than medicine, education and housing.
In lots of ways, the arguments are compelling. Nobody rejects pasteurized milk or dental anesthesia or central heating system because it’s unnatural. And whether a brain is altered by drugs, education or healthy eating, it’s being altered at the same neurobiological level. Making moral distinctions between them is arbitrary.
However, if a few people use cognition-enhancing drugs, might everybody else need to follow, whether they wish to or otherwise?
If enough people boost their performance, then improvement becomes the status quo. Brain-boosting drug use could become a basic job requirement.
Ritalin and Adderall, now ubiquitous as academic pick-me-ups, are merely the initial generation of brain boosters. Next up is Provigil, a “wakefulness promoting agent” that lets people choose days without sleep, and improves memory on top of that. Stronger drugs follows.
As the Nature authors write, “cognitive enhancements modify the most complex and important human organ and the potential risk of unintended negative effects is therefore both high and consequential.” But even if their safety could possibly be assured, what goes on when staff are anticipated to be able to marathon bouts of high-functioning sleeplessness?
Many people I am aware already work 50 hours a week and find it hard to find time for friends, family as well as the demands of life. None wish to become fully robotic to help keep their jobs. And So I posed the question to
Michael Gazzaniga, a University of California, Santa Barbara, psychobiologist and Nature article co-author.
“It is actually possible to do all of that now with existing drugs,” he was quoted saying.
“One has to set their goals and know the best time to tell their boss to get lost!”
Which can be not, perhaps, probably the most practical career advice today. And University of Pennsylvania neuroethicist Martha Farah, another from the paper’s authors, was actually a bit less sanguine.
“First the initial adopters take advantage of the enhancements to get a good edge. Then, as increasing numbers of people adopt them, those that don’t, feel they must just to stay competitive with what is, ultimately, a whole new higher standard,” she said.
Citing the now-normal stresses produced by expectations of round-the-clock worker availability and inhuman powers of multitasking, Farah said, “There is undoubtedly a risk of this dynamic repeating itself with cognition-enhancing drugs.”
But people are already using them, she said. Some version with this scenario is inevitable – along with the solution, she said, isn’t to merely claim that cognition enhancement is bad.
Instead we should develop better drugs, understand why people use them, promote alternatives and make sensible policies that minimize their harm.
As Gazzaniga also pointed out, “People might stop research on drugs that may well help memory loss inside the elderly” – or cognition problems from the young – “as a result of concerns over misuse 75dexjpky abuse.”
This could certainly be unfortunate collateral damage today theater from the War on Drugs – along with the question of brain enhancement needs to be found in the context of this costly and destructive war. As Schedule II substances, Ritalin and Adderall are legally equivalent in the United States to opium or cocaine.
“These laws,” write the character authors, “needs to be adjusted to protect yourself from making felons out of those who seek to use safe cognitive enhancements.”