Clinician's Digest

Clinician's Digest

By Garry Cooper

July/August 2009

Recent surveys have suggested that increasing numbers of college students are taking neuroenhancing medications—psychostimulant drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Provigil—to sharpen and prolong their focus. These students don't have AD/HD, and, unlike earlier students who periodically tanked up on caffeine and amphetamines to meet deadlines and recover from the effects of too much partying, today's students regularly are taking drugs to improve their baseline academic performance. Estimates of the percentage of undergraduates who use off-label psychostimulants range from 4 to 35 percent. Now the practice has spread to the business world, and younger children may not be far behind. In a poll of 1,400 readers of the journal Nature, taken after the December 11 issue published a commentary calling for destigmatizing the use of neuroenhancers, one-third said they'd feel pressured to give their kids neuroenhancing drugs if other kids were taking them.

In the April 27 New Yorker, journalist Margaret Talbot predicts that we're just at the beginning of this trend of using mind-enhancing drugs. A new generation of medications that will prevent memory loss and boost short-term, verbal, and visual episodic memory are currently undergoing clinical trials. Some workers talk about being pressured by their bosses to boost their productivity so they can match the elevated performance levels of their coworkers already taking neuroenhancers. People trade advice on…

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