They might need to come out with a new version of that “This is your brain on drugs” ad if a group of scientists get their way. In a paper titled “Towards Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy” published in Nature, seven scientists from the US and UK advocate the use of brain-enhancing prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin as study and work aids in a manner similar to caffeine. Their Peter Tosh-like solution to “legalize it” aims to make these drugs legal, stopping an illicit trade that, according to the article, is sweeping through college campuses around the world.
The stigma of using “drugs” is hard to overcome, but the scientists want us to realize the benefits of medications like Adderall and Ritalin, prescribed primarily to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive side effects include increased focus and attention span, enhanced memory, heightened reflexes and the ability to start fires with your mind. (I’ll have to double-check that last one.)
The report argues that these drugs should be no more controversial than brain-boosting activities like reading, sleeping, going to school, using the computer, eating and exercising:
The drugs just reviewed, along with newer technologies such as brain stimulation and prosthetic brain chips, should be viewed in the same general category as education, good health habits, and information technology — ways that our uniquely innovative species tries to improve itself.
However, the scientists do realize the need for further study of the drugs’ effects and, if legalized, the need for their regulation:
We call for enforceable policies concerning the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs to support fairness, protect individuals from coercion and minimize enhancement-related socioeconomic disparities.
The scientists stop short of mandating brain-altering drugs in schools and workplaces (gee, thanks, Big Brother), declaring:
Employers, schools or governments should not generally require the use of cognitive enhancements.
However, they add:
If particular enhancements are shown to be sufficiently safe and effective, this position might be revisited for those interventions.
Could we someday see kids lining up for their shots of Ritalin alongside their mumps and measles vaccines? If so, the sugar cereal industry could go bankrupt.