Should we use smart drugs to improve cognition?

13th Mar 2019

Brain and Neuroscience Advances HeaderMore and more people are using cognitive enhancers, also known as “smart drugs”, at work to improve their concentration, motivation and overall quality of their work. But is it safe to use them and what are the ethical concerns?

This recent article by Brühl, d’Angelo and Sahakian (2019) in the BNA’s official journal ‘Brain and Neuroscience Advances’ discusses these issues in great depth, in particular for Modafinil, a more recent cognitive-enhancing drug.

Rates of overall smart drug use are between 3% and 5%, with Modafinil being the most used cognitive enhancer in the UK. Its effect is the strongest when used to fight the effects of a lack of sleep, to increase the amount time you can perform well or in people that generally perform worse than others.

The drug has relatively few side-effects and chances of addiction are low, but whether using it for a long period of time is safe and effective needs to be researched further.

One ethical issue is that using these types of drugs at work may create can unfair advantage. Moreover, the actual improvement between normal performance and improved performance is also hard to measure, meaning that it may be difficult to determine when it is acceptable and ethical to use the drugs in healthy people.

Neuroscience research can help with our understanding of these drugs, which can then be used to inform potential users of its safety and effectiveness.

To access the full article, click here

Brühl, A.B., d’Angelo, C. and Sahakian, B.J., 2019. Neuroethical issues in cognitive enhancement: Modafinil as the example of a workplace drug?. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 3

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