141: This Is Your Brain on Smart Drugs

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This Is Your Brain on Smart Drugs

"Imagine the benefits, even just for the gaming community. No more choosing between late-night guild raids or sleep. Laser-sharp concentration for all those Halo matches. Even casual players could benefit, chemically amplifying their alertness while they go for that million-point combo in Bejeweled.

"But here's the dirty little secret: The pills are out there, just prescribed for different conditions. Healthy individuals are secretly taking drugs that fix ailing hearts and help kids with ADHD sit still in class, to make themselves smarter."

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Drugs are for pussies, be they illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter. I'll take X, Y or Z to kill off an infection or to treat a legit medical condition, but that's as far as I go with medicine. I won't even touch Tylenol or Advil unless its damn near a migraine... The idea of using meds to improve my gaming clashes with my own beliefs of self-achievement... I play games for fun and for personal challenge, "Smart Drug" victories would be the same to me as admitting I failed.

A rather disturbing look at pharma-culture, even opened my eyes to some things I didn't know.

The ethical debate over whether it's even right or fair to take performance-enhancing drugs in any situation is debatable, considering the effects those drugs have, both on the boyd and the user's personality. Could a drug change the very being of someone? The answer is most likely yes - after all, just taking drug addicts as an example, people sacrifice every last drop of their rational, stable selves in pursuit of that next chemical high.

It's a heavy issue, which will no doubt never find a resolution. Whilst intrigued in Transhumanism, I can't help but feel that this side of the debate has the potential to split an already pronounced societal gap wide open.

What worries me is not the possibility of super-smart people. After all, naturally smart people tend to be quite good for society. I've not seen a pattern of them abusing their power.

What worries me is people taking drugs and harming themselves in an attempt to compete. Particularly if the whole thing's kept secret, by the time a user is discovered they may have suffered irreparable harm.

I'll take the all-natural side.

Been prescribed plenty of brain-stims and mood alterers. Flushed them all down the toilet. I just woke up one morning, didn't recognize myself anymore, and I didn't like it.

I'll take the occasional spurt of not being able to pay attention and feeling bummed out as a reasonable price for having a personality.

I dont like the idea of any form of unnatural chemicals altering my brain, infact i utterly loathe the idea. I take pride in being who i am, flaws and everything.

In my opinion this falls under the same principles of Narcotics, if we live in a society were everyone shoots up on heroin every day because it makes them happy, do we live in a good society? In the same way we shouldent be reliant on medicin to solve our mental problems.

While I agree there is a danger they could change your mood and personality I can see why people might take them, especially students. A lot pf students are under incredible pressure to perform, and though I'm not sure if I'd ever have the balls to take Smart Drugs, I could very certainly be tempted.

As someone who was prescribed Ritalin in college and took it when I needed it, it got the job done. My anxiety left, and i was filled with a hyper-focus feeling of "Oh man, I can't stop" and got a lot accomplished on the pill. This was followed by a 5 hour crash which felt like committing slow suicide. 3 years later i have found something much better, meditation. Instead of trying to cover up or remove the feelings of anxiety i just sit quietly and take a look at them, and lo and behold, they disperse. It's natural, free, anyone can do it.

Also on the pills i didn't feel like myself, i felt like a maniac, as well iv'e read stories
about people committing suicide while on some learning disability drugs due to being misdiagnosed. Also iv'e worked around upper class folk in a restaurant who where on Prozac and other feel good drugs, these people struck me as wack as out of their minds.

Magnetic2:
Also on the pills i didn't feel like myself, i felt like a maniac, as well iv'e read stories about people committing suicide while on some learning disability drugs due to being misdiagnosed.

Suicidal, no... Homicidal yes... I was misdiagnosed with ADD, and being forced to take medication against my will did lead to very violent behavior. The few times they succeeded in getting some Ritalin in me I was more violent than the times they gave up.

To be specific, this article did not describe drugs that indeed make someone smarter, but rather make them able to focus better or remove anxiety. By my understanding that doesn't make one more intelligent or creative. It would simply allow them accomplish these task with greater ease.

Personally, I agree with Khell_Sennet that nearly every situation does not require drugs or at least as many situations that doctors prescribe drugs. Would it be possible with understanding of your mental condition (ADHD, OCD, bipolar, etc.) to keep control of it with mental exercises (such as meditation) or more natural methods?

This is an area I have little personal understanding or experience. I would like to gain more insight as I sometimes have concern over my own mental integrity sometimes.

There are always non-medicinal solutions to non-life-threatening ailments.

If I get ill I eat chicken noodle soup and just take it easy. ColdFX is a placebo, and while Tylenol Cold or similar things DO work, the more you use such meds, the less they work.

Sore throat, I eat Halls cough drops like it's halloween candy. The extra strength "regular" type of Halls has no medicinal ingredients. There's menthol, but that's just a mint extract, and no more a medicinal component than the capsaicin from cinnamon. Honey in tea works too but I don't drink tea.

Headache? Smack the kids till they shut the hell up. Lolz, j/k. If you're suffering from a headache, take a nap. If you can't take a nap, dim the lights and stay off the computer for a lil while.

As for the more common things to medicate one's self for these days...
Anxiety - Get some fresh air
Stress - Stop your damn worrying...
Depression - Trust me, it can ALWAYS be worse. Be happy it isn't.
Insomnia - Buy a new pillow (works 90% of the time), or a stuffed bear. It's becoming more accepted that a stuffed animal promotes a good night sleep. Call it your subconcious child mind or whatever, it WORKS.
Nymphomania - This one needs help to cure, my number is ...

Lots of thoughts on this matter
- We already self medicate via coffee and other psychoactive consumables. I am guessing that the huge number of iPods I see plugged into people's heads are a often a form of meditation, music is magical that way.
- Anxiety and Depression are not always solvable by 'just get over it'. Our meat is run by chemicals (thanks Kurt Vonnegut) and sometimes those chemicals can be out of balance.
- We live in an artificially stimulating world. We move faster, eat more and have way more new stuff thrown at us than our evolution has prepared us for. Unless you are willing to go live in a grass hut on a savanna someplace and hope the world ignores you, you have to try to cope by whatever means are available.
- The scary part about these drugs is that there is no history of long term effects, so decisions to use them are going to be made with a huge gray area of ignorance.

Good read. Thanks.

Khell_Sennet:

I was misdiagnosed with ADD

Are you sure it was a mis-diagnosis? I keed, I keed!

Anyway, I can speak to the wonders of certain smart drugs Lara covered in her article. Without endorsing anything, it's absolutely awesome to be able to take a pill that lets you 1) Focus inside a hurricane, and 2) Feel like a million bucks while doing so. That said, like anything else, to me they're sometimes foods, mostly because I don't need them to get through everyday life. However, it's nice to be able to reach for a little extra something when life decides to be anything but everyday.

From a bioethical position, I can see both sides of the issue, but I tend to err on the side of "what makes me feel better." I feel better knowing I have the option to do what I want to my body. I'm healthy, in my 20s and don't have any conditions that make these types of drugs especially unsafe, so it's not a public health problem in my case. What's more, it's not like my taking them makes them less effective on other people, like is the case with overmedicating bacterial infections.

There are some great comments in here! I've been having fun reading your reactions to what I think is going to be a major ethical debate in the coming years. :)

To be specific, this article did not describe drugs that indeed make someone smarter, but rather make them able to focus better or remove anxiety. By my understanding that doesn't make one more intelligent or creative. It would simply allow them accomplish these task with greater ease.

Absolutely true. But creativity and intelligence depends on the ability to access certain parts of your mind, and if you can't concentrate or focus, then both creativity and intelligence suffers. With ADD, Beethoven is still Beethoven, but he can't settle down and focus to unlock all those symphonies he has inside him. Indeed, we might assume Beethoven with ADD is much stupider or less creative than he really is.

Could a drug change the very being of someone?

To an extent, I think every drug, from antidepressants down to coffee, changes the very being of someone. And in most cases, that's exactly the point! We take mood-altering drugs because we are able to recognize and admit that who we are is somehow deficient for the lifestyle we want to live. Even the coffee you drink is an admission: "I am not as alert as I need to be."

I think of a friend of mine, who can barely function without her antidepressants. Off her meds, she has trouble getting out of the bed in the morning, even though she gets terrible insomnia. She won't eat, won't go out, won't take a shower - she simply loses the will to live. That's who she is naturally - someone held prisoner to her naturally-borked brain chemistry. But with the meds, she can changes who she is into who she wants to be: a vibrant, happy self-sufficient woman.

Who am I to tell her that the person she becomes on the medication is somehow not real, that her life on drugs is inauthentic or somehow "not free"? That her life is somehow less than "good"? And yet, she's been told this - and sometimes, she even thinks it herself, that she should remain locked in the "real" her, that taking drugs is somehow cheating.

But that's an extreme case. In a greater sense, who we are is not static: It's a choice we make every day. We choose how well we want our brains to function, and what mood we want to be in - from the foods we eat, to the exercise we get (or don't get), to how much sleep we get, to the drugs we take. All of these actions change the very being of ourselves, and while I won't equate taking anti-depressants to going for a run (sorry, I'm not Tom Cruise), both actions fundamentally change your brain chemistry - and thus, who you are.

WillyWombat:
We live in an artificially stimulating world. We move faster, eat more and have way more new stuff thrown at us than our evolution has prepared us for. Unless you are willing to go live in a grass hut on a savanna someplace and hope the world ignores you, you have to try to cope by whatever means are available.

I see many people saying that they wouldn't take these drugs if they became more widely available, but Willy brings up a good point. Soon, we're just going to have to run in place to keep up.

Imagine you work in a high-powered, high-stress environment - in fact, let's say you're a game developer. You're already expected to work long hours, and then put in 70 hour work weeks during crunch time. Some of your coworkers start taking a drug to keep their minds alert, their focus sharp. And it works; they're not just weathering the 70 hour work weeks, like you are, but breezing through them. Their work is actually improving; they're able to get more done on less sleep and rest, with less consequence to their health and sanity.

Soon, the higher-ups have taken notice of their improved performance, and give these workers raises and more vacation time - even promotions. They've also noticed you lagging behind your artificially-enhanced peers, and have warned you to pick up the pace, or they'll find someone else who can keep up. You have two kids to feed and a mortgage to pay - what do you do? It's easy to say you wouldn't take the drugs even if your livelihood depended on it, but what about when your family's security depends on it?

The scary part about these drugs is that there is no history of long term effects, so decisions to use them are going to be made with a huge gray area of ignorance.

Exactly. Many mood-altering drugs haven't even been studied over the long term (5-10 years) for their appropriate patients, much less those who don't need to take them. If every drug changes you somehow, and every change has risks and consequences, then as Dr. Chatterjee says in the article, if you're healthy, are any risks worth taking?

Anyway, good thoughts all around. :)

Drugs and medication in general are a band-aid on a bullet hole. They mask the problem and might even prevent you from bleeding to death, but fail to address the real issue. I am not saying that we shouldn't do drugs, m'kay. They are a temporary, but necessary solution to many problems. Often they are the only solution.

At some point we will be able to alter and enhance our bodies and minds with chemicals so effectively and profoundly that our current knowledge of the subject will seem crude in comparison. However, at the same time our knowledge of genetics will improve as well. Soon we will begin to use genetic manipulation to treat an ever increasing variety of conditions and illnesses. Perhaps genetics will replace chemicals as the primary treatment.

It is likely that introducing strange and unnatural chemicals to the body will be viewed as a dark age for medicine by some future generation.

Khell_Sennet:
Drugs are for pussies, be they illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter. I'll take X, Y or Z to kill off an infection or to treat a legit medical condition, but that's as far as I go with medicine.

So drugs are bad, except for the ones you say aren't bad? Whatever, dude.

Razzle Bathbone:

Khell_Sennet:
Drugs are for pussies, be they illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter. I'll take X, Y or Z to kill off an infection or to treat a legit medical condition, but that's as far as I go with medicine.

So drugs are bad, except for the ones you say aren't bad? Whatever, dude.

Taking prescription or over the counter meds to cure a legit ailment is what medicine was invented for. Taking prescription or over the counter meds to enhance your body or mind beyond what it is normally capable of is for weak people. And taking illegal drugs (Canabis thru to Heroin) is for people who are f**king retarded.

Taking prescription or over the counter meds to enhance your body or mind beyond what it is normally capable of is for weak people.

Okay - so why is that bad? Why should "weak" people who find their abilities lacking be forbidden from improving themselves? And what differentiates the enhancing capabilities of over-the-counter medication from those of coffee, or alcohol - or even exercise?

Lara Crigger:

Taking prescription or over the counter meds to enhance your body or mind beyond what it is normally capable of is for weak people.

Okay - so why is that bad? Why should "weak" people who find their abilities lacking be forbidden from improving themselves? And what differentiates the enhancing capabilities of over-the-counter medication from those of coffee, or alcohol - or even exercise?

If people start chugging lots of meds to overcome problems there can be serious consequences. I dont want to sound like a twat, but Bioshock is a great example of this. People start taking "meds" to give them abilities they dont actualy need and all hell brakes loose. I guess it's a wild exaguration but couldent the same thing happen to us? If society adapts after the majority taking these meds it will force those who dont want them to take them anyway. It will turn those who value their natural integretity inferior and force them to follow the masses to not be left behind in society. If an entire generation of people start depending on anti-depressants and focus pills to get by, wont that genetical be passed on to the next one? I just se a downward spiral here.

On more positive note, i realy did enjoy your article. One of the most thought provoking I have seen on the site.

Personally I'm not a big fan of enhancement on the physical or mental side.
On the mental side I can't help but picture the manufactured genius being more of the Flowers for Algernon variety (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowers_for_algernon), then the Einstien.

Though this is mostly going by the track record established by physical chemical enhancements, 'roid rage, muscle tears, liver damage and so on.
This quote from Willywombat worries me the most

' We live in an artificially stimulating world. We move faster, eat more and have way more new stuff thrown at us than our evolution has prepared us for. Unless you are willing to go live in a grass hut on a savanna someplace and hope the world ignores you, you have to try to cope by whatever means are available. '

Because at least in my mind this is the mentally that drives such things forward, it's the idea that the ends justify the means.

Lara Crigger:

Taking prescription or over the counter meds to enhance your body or mind beyond what it is normally capable of is for weak people.

Okay - so why is that bad? Why should "weak" people who find their abilities lacking be forbidden from improving themselves? And what differentiates the enhancing capabilities of over-the-counter medication from those of coffee, or alcohol - or even exercise?

This is more my belief than proof, but I would say this is bad because it does tend to push people in to the above mentioned 70 hour work weeks. From the movie of the same name, Koyaanisquatsi is a Hopi word with several meanings: crazy life, life out of balance, life disintegrating into turmoil, a way of life that calls for another way of living. I believe this further pushes our society in this direction. We have become so focused on accomplishing tasks that we tend to lose sight of what we want out of life. Some people enjoy working like a dog sacrificing their entire lives to these kinds of pursuits. This can be a good thing to push the envelope of human creation. It is also a good example of, 'everything in moderation, including moderation.' However, I feel much like the film I mentioned that the society I'm a part of obsesses far too much on the material (to be fair I'm just as guilty). We work so hard not because of the enjoyment of the work, but for the things it can get us. This cheapens the soul. The use of such drugs become and enabler and crutch toward those ends.

It is important for me to differentiate those who truly benefit for these drugs such as the person mentioned above who likely wouldn't be able to function at all from those seeking a mental form of anabolic steroids. This will only lead to a hyper-competitiveness that goes well beyond healthy. As animals, we all use what is to our advantage in what makes us up and minimize our weaknesses. The strong use their strength, the smart use their intelligence, beautiful use their appearance, the cunning use their resourcefulness, and so on. We have put stigmas on the use of some these natural advantages: it is wrong for the strong to use their force on the weak, and improper for the beautiful to seduce. I hope these 'performance enhancing drugs' fall at least along this vein.

I want lastly mention a more spiritual side to this careening post. I feel that use of these drugs really in all cases useful or not risks the danger of weakening the soul. Our humanity is best forged in the fire of personal hardships. We each have them, and they are as varied as we are. We like to think that some hardships are worst than others because how they limit the sufferer. This is merely a greater challenge to overcome to such people. Admittedly, I believe my own personal hardships pale against the stories of the news with cancer suffers overcoming it to win bike race after bike race, those with missing limbs climbing the greatest of mountains, and even 'beautiful minds' plagued with dementia. These drugs seem to be the 'easy' or at least the 'normal' setting for such people. Perhaps they don't want the greater challenge afforded them (I doubt I would). However, we look upon those who would refuse the drugs as the weak not accepting help or being ignorant of their use. I believe they seek a overcome this hardship with their personal will and fortitude. True, this will likely take more of their effort that could be used for other tasks, but I think successful or not, they soul will be richer for the experience. To continue the gaming analogy and summerize, the introduction these drugs as merely an enhancer places a level of 'fake difficulty' to the rest of us. Ultimately, this cheapens the experience of an increasingly cheap life.

Reading this article, and all these responses, I can't help but liken this situation to the debate we may have on artificial limbs and attachments someday. By artificial, I'm referring to prosthetic arms, legs, eyes, etc. People may end up willing getting body parts chopped off and replaced by a synthetic equivalent that does the job better and faster. At which point, we'd have to ask ourselves "when do we stop being human?"

I know, it sounds like something from cyberpunk or Shadowrun, but think about it. I highly doubt these drugs are composed entirely of natural compunds found in nature. These pills are likely lab-created, filled with synthetic chemical compounds (and by all means, prove me wrong if I am wrong). So, what makes that so different from getting a mechanical arm that could type as fast as you thought and lift a ton with no ill effect? You're just using modern technology to improve your own performance, aren't you?

Hey everyone, I'm a big fan of the Escapist and have been for sometime, I've only just decided to make an account now because this topic is totally down my alley.

I've been studying (in my own spare time) the pursuit of Super-Humanity (it sounds awesome saying it like that) through whichever means necessary, and I honestly think that the natural processes are the only way to go to get long-term problems solved. To a large extent everyone is born equally as a Homosapien Child, an animal that doesn't know anything from experience yet. As we grow into the world, certain events shape who we are and form brain altering imprints that are responded to in neurochemical ways. Any Psychiatrist can tell you that the best way to solve a problem is to go to the source, usually in childhood when a behavioural pattern develops and takes route. (Admittedly I don't know much about ADD but I assume it doesn't fall into this category as it is there as a Chemical Inbalance.)

As has been said, methods like Meditation and Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy (the Butterfly Effect laying down relaxed trance kind, not the stage-show magician kind) are the real fixes for these problems, because they actually take to routing out the original faulty memory imprint from Childhood. Chemical drugs are just a band aid, that we know will not cure the problem indefinitely. If a problem persists after a medication, that medication isn't the cure, and this is very often the case with Drugs as they simply placate the effect, until it returns again in the future.

To an extent, I think every drug, from antidepressants down to coffee, changes the very being of someone. And in most cases, that's exactly the point! We take mood-altering drugs because we are able to recognize and admit that who we are is somehow deficient for the lifestyle we want to live. Even the coffee you drink is an admission: "I am not as alert as I need to be."

Focused power-naps can be just as effective as Coffee... I've never drunk Coffee before in my life, so I don't have a body that is fuelled by it. As such I work just as well as anyone else who constantly needs Coffee to perk themselves up. It's healthier too, dehydration is often the reason we feel groggy in the morning and I've heard Water's awesome at fixing that problem. =]

I think of a friend of mine, who can barely function without her antidepressants. Off her meds, she has trouble getting out of the bed in the morning, even though she gets terrible insomnia. She won't eat, won't go out, won't take a shower - she simply loses the will to live. That's who she is naturally - someone held prisoner to her naturally-borked brain chemistry. But with the meds, she can changes who she is into who she wants to be: a vibrant, happy self-sufficient woman.

Who am I to tell her that the person she becomes on the medication is somehow not real, that her life on drugs is inauthentic or somehow "not free"? That her life is somehow less than "good"? And yet, she's been told this - and sometimes, she even thinks it herself, that she should remain locked in the "real" her, that taking drugs is somehow cheating.

I think the fact that she realises it herself and so do those around her points to the nagging fact that no one wants to pursue: that the drugs don't really work. Not really. Patients like this certainly get a great boost from the drugs, but then they become addicted to them, and end up running a high risk of long term health problems. I honestly can say from personal experience that natural methods like Meditation and Hypnotherapy could cure these problems. Dr. Paul McKenna the Hypnotherapist is famous in Britain (where I'm from) for showing just how powerful these techniques really are. They're quite simple but it's a relatively under-used practise due to many factors like the drugs trade which costs so many companies so much per year. If the population found out how easy it was to cure crushing phobias and whatnot, or the natural healing power of the Mind and Body, we'd a lot of powerful people would have a lot to lose financially.

In a greater sense, who we are is not static: It's a choice we make every day. We choose how well we want our brains to function, and what mood we want to be in - from the foods we eat, to the exercise we get (or don't get), to how much sleep we get, to the drugs we take.

This is a very important point. We are the only ones in control of our minds. A lot of the problems in 'Western Civilisation' come from shifting our problems, placing blame from feelings of fear or powerlessness. "I can't do anything about my weight problem so I won't try." A lot of things in life we have no control over, but we have total dominion over our own minds and subsequent actions we take. I think what Khell was saying about it being weak to take drugs is true, but it's a weakness often born from ignorance to the facts of life, our body and mind. That we are all quite as capable and as powerful as anyone else, no matter what anyone else tells you. To be honest, low self-esteem is almost always Chinese Whispers, one person hates the way they look or feel and decides to take it out on an innocent so that they too feel that way. Or the social atmosphere makes it okay to feel bad or powerless about yourself (or even to take drugs) because everyone else does it. It's the normal thing to do, but it's a complete fabrication of society.

WillyWombat:
We live in an artificially stimulating world. We move faster, eat more and have way more new stuff thrown at us than our evolution has prepared us for. Unless you are willing to go live in a grass hut on a savanna someplace and hope the world ignores you, you have to try to cope by whatever means are available.

I see many people saying that they wouldn't take these drugs if they became more widely available, but Willy brings up a good point. Soon, we're just going to have to run in place to keep up.

Imagine you work in a high-powered, high-stress environment - in fact, let's say you're a game developer. You're already expected to work long hours, and then put in 70 hour work weeks during crunch time. Some of your coworkers start taking a drug to keep their minds alert, their focus sharp. And it works; they're not just weathering the 70 hour work weeks, like you are, but breezing through them. Their work is actually improving; they're able to get more done on less sleep and rest, with less consequence to their health and sanity.

Soon, the higher-ups have taken notice of their improved performance, and give these workers raises and more vacation time - even promotions. They've also noticed you lagging behind your artificially-enhanced peers, and have warned you to pick up the pace, or they'll find someone else who can keep up. You have two kids to feed and a mortgage to pay - what do you do? It's easy to say you wouldn't take the drugs even if your livelihood depended on it, but what about when your family's security depends on it?

Again, this is about self-control, and avoiding the societal traps that make you think you need to do something. Do you really need a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 given their pitfalls and quite how desperate these companies are to sell you one? Do you really need that new game with marginally better graphics to what you already have if you already have a hundred like it or can get Indie games for pennies? Do you really need a job that has you working most of your week to pay for a house that you leave empty all day, and a car that you only drive to that job? A set of clothes you've only bought for that job? Do you really need to go that extra mile and take health-risking drugs to sustain it all?

I don't think so. But we're often forced to believe that's the case, and it can't be blamed, especially if the only contact you ever has tells you it's that way, this is how Peer Pressure operates, and it's got our entire society working themselves to death like slaves in pursuit of the freedom they could attain if they just stopped. The key is getting out of that rut for the betterment of the one life that you get to live. (Or the one life as a Human in quite some time for the re-incarnationists.)

Anyway, the point is that endorsing drugs as the only solution, severely under-values the power that human beings naturally possess to generate the exact same and even better results and cures for such problems of the mind.

Suffice it to say, I really really enjoyed this story. It was excellent, and refreshing to read. I'll stick around to see what else is said! And I definitely agree that this argument is going to get bigger in the future of humanity, and I'll be there gunning it for Meditation and Hypnosis as the definitive cures for initial causes of drug related problems.

Necrohydra:
Reading this article, and all these responses, I can't help but liken this situation to the debate we may have on artificial limbs and attachments someday. By artificial, I'm referring to prosthetic arms, legs, eyes, etc. People may end up willing getting body parts chopped off and replaced by a synthetic equivalent that does the job better and faster. At which point, we'd have to ask ourselves "when do we stop being human?"

I know, it sounds like something from cyberpunk or Shadowrun, but think about it. I highly doubt these drugs are composed entirely of natural compunds found in nature. These pills are likely lab-created, filled with synthetic chemical compounds (and by all means, prove me wrong if I am wrong). So, what makes that so different from getting a mechanical arm that could type as fast as you thought and lift a ton with no ill effect? You're just using modern technology to improve your own performance, aren't you?

Well, I think the human body is definitely a machine to begin with. A Bio-Organic one, but it's still a machine like any robot, it just has an incredibly complex grown bio-organic structure as opposed to a conventional Compound Metallic one like the robots we think of.

So it's hard to decide what makes us no longer human if we take this definitive idea of what a human is. (A Homo-Sapien with an active brain.) I think if you want to get definitive then you would have to say that we cannot define a Human being, because even in the womb, we are taking on chemicals from the outside such as food and water (even drugs and chemicals in some cases) which change who we are constantly.

Thus, if you ask what is and isn't human when it comes to replacing body parts... Well, that's a headache I could use some smart-drugs for. =D

Arkitext and others, you make some excellent points. As I said before, I'm having fun reading what everyone thinks on the subject. But I did want to say this:

Anyway, the point is that endorsing drugs as the only solution, severely under-values the power that human beings naturally possess to generate the exact same and even better results and cures for such problems of the mind.

I don't want to give the impression I endorse (or don't endorse) the use of smart drugs. As far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out. But I do think they raise some very interesting questions.

It's taken me a long time to sort out my reactions to this article, partly because the issue itself really touched a huge, inflamed, exposed nerve, and partly because there were so many different points, ideas, and misconceptions about psychiatric drugs brought up in the article and ensuing thread.

Normally I like to be very cogent and thorough (read: loooooong) in my responses to issues that are important to me, but I'm still hashing this one out, so I'm going to have to kind of core dump this a little and then run away and think some more.

Also, I hope I do not come across as harshing on Lara Crigger. I think she covered a lot of ground in a short space but the issue raised is kind of huge.

People argue that suffering deepens the soul, enlightened the spirit, and builds character. I think people who really believe that should probably spend more time in prisons, homeless shelters, and state-run drug rehab facilities. Why are these people not the deepest, most enlightened, most upright people around?

When you are in the middle of suffering, you spend a lot of time looking for a way out of it. In doing so, you may discover many truths about yourself. However, I think this is rather like finding your cell phone charger while looking for your keys. Sure, having a good dig through your apartment turns up other stuff you lost or forgot, but repeatedly losing your keys doesn't make you a more organized person in and of itself, and losing keys as a means of being forced to learn to organize will never work as well as simply being an organized person in the first place.

The whole debate about cosmetic pharmacology is built on the premise that we will eventually develop drugs that enhance mood, cognitive function, and emotional resilience, but come with no serious risks or side effects, to the degree that physicians will be willing to dispense them the way they dispense nose jobs. Given the current state of neuropharmacology, this makes the whole thing rather like debating how we will direct and manage traffic when we finally get flying cars, or how we are going to divide territory on the moon once we get around to colonizing it.

It's true that students and athletes, according to research, or I should say, according to media articles that say "according to research", are trying these drugs in record numbers in the belief that they will improve performance. Sure the kids and athletes are trying the drugs, but are the drugs actually doing what they hope they will do? Students and athletes put a lot of dumb shit in their bodies in the belief that it will improve performance, a great deal of which doesn't actually work. How many of these kids are trying them, finding they don't work, that they have nasty side effect, and quitting them? How many kids are taking them in the belief that the drugs are doing things which in fact they are not? Does The Research ask and answer these questions? I don't know. What I do know is that the articles citing the research don't.

These sort of articles seem to like to throw out some scares: Your boss will start making you take drugs to do your job better or you'll get fired, your kids will have to take drugs in order to compete for the top slots in the education industry college, and we will turn into some sort of Brave New World with the Alphas taking Smart Drugs and the sad little Epsilons droning away with their wee little brains powered by nothing better than alcohol or caffeine.

It's probably naive of me to point out that all the valuable oxygen being used to over-inflate these OH NOEZ would be better spent dealing with the fact that employers world-wide are already demanding that their employees work unreasonable hours in unsafe environments or risk unemployment and poverty, that if we are really worried about baseline inequalities in the educational system, we'd go back to funding Head Start and school nutrition programs, and that Brave New World was Huxley's satire on his existing society, not a cautionary tale. In other words, if the Alpha-Epsilon divide worries you, you might want to stop looking into a pharmaceutical crystal ball and start looking into a current events mirror.

There is a certain paradoxical comfort in such predictions. It's easier to worry about the future than deal with the present, especially if the future is given an air of scientific and capitalistic inevitability, so we can sigh and say, "Oh what is the world coming to?" and then yield to it. Talk about the sacrifice of free will.

I also have a lot to say about (everything. Shut up!) how the Smart Drug scare and its attending assumptions about human nature really blow back a lot of crap into the faces of people who are actually being treated for depression, anxiety, and attention deficit, not the least of which are the judgement that they are weak, and the demand that they somehow prove to the satisfaction of other people that they were suffering enough to truly deserve the help. I can't say it now, though (thank god! Shut UP!) because I'm still working it out.

If you have something that leaves you in debilitating pain for most of your life, and when you smoke a joint, you feel able to cope, whether it's illegal or not, would you be so callous as to deny that person the right to live a pain-lowered life?

Illegal drugs are the ones that aren't taxed. Coffee, Tobacco and some of the legal drugs have WORSE addiction rates than some of the softer drugs. Without a cup of coffee in the morning, I'm unable to function properly; and after 48 hours without I'm bent double with a crippling migraine.

That's not to promote drug use in any way, just to get it into perspective.

Drugs DO change your moods, but ultimately they just strengthen moods that were already there. Smart Drugs are lovely if you're doing exams and things; which is the reason most students take Mountain Dew/Coke/Red Bull and Pro-plus.

The thing is though, they take a price from you. Increased strain on the heart, irritability, tooth decay, lots of things.

Now, if you NEED a drug to get you through the day, by all means have it, but realise what it's doing to you.

Anyone who criticises drug use can chuck all their music in the bin right now, because the Entertainment industry is rife with it; and when the smart drugs come in, there'll be people shovelling down their throats as fast as they can.

And they'll be dead long before their time; but they'll have created some great music.

Your choice whether you listen to it.

Drugs always come with a price.

The_root_of_all_evil:
The thing is though, they take a price from you. Increased strain on the heart, irritability, tooth decay, lots
of things.

Now, if you NEED a drug to get you through the day, by all means have it, but realise what it's doing to you.

If I NEED a drug to get me through the day...? I've got a real problem with that phrase but I am to tired and hungry to pull that apart right now.

Also realize that it's not simply a matter of getting through the day - it's preventing a cascade of physiological damage caused by cortisol and other stress hormones. What it's doing to my body is lowering my risk of brain damage, heart disease and cardiac mortality, and osteoporosis. I'm still trying to check the refs on the following articles, but I'm confident enough at this point to cite them.

http://mednewsarchive.wustl.edu/medadmin/PAnews.nsf/0/67AE0F5AC5F06C7786256D710072479A
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-19950301-000007.html
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20050816-000003.html

Note: I'm not a humongous fan of Psychology Today, but they do give their sources so it is possible to check up on them.

The conflation of drug abuse and the damage it causes with treatment using psychiatric drugs doesn't do anyone any favors. One of the things I need to address and write up are some of the misconceptions about psychiatric drugs and their dangers when used correctly, but before I do that I need to eat, sleep, and get in touch with some of the scientific and medical types who are helping get some of the info that isn't easily googled.

sammyfreak:

wont that genetical be passed on to the next one? I just se a downward spiral here.

Lamarckism why won't you die?

Khell_Sennet:

Taking prescription or over the counter meds to cure a legit ailment is what medicine was invented for. Taking prescription or over the counter meds to enhance your body or mind beyond what it is normally capable of is for weak people.

Couldn't you use that arguement about guns? Or tanks? Or phones?

"Real men don't need performance-enhancing communication technology. They just yell real loud!"

I don't need drugs to rain pwnage on da n00bzorz!
I need them to stop me blacking out and killing people.

Khell_Sennet:
And taking illegal drugs (Canabis thru to Heroin) is for people who are f**king retarded.

That's a little harsh and totally pointless, but I'm not here to argue illegal drugs with you.

Back on topic, I think there's no definitive answer as to whether drugs that alter your personality are right. It depends on the person. I know people who've been on Ritalin and they totally change when they take it, but sometimes they need to, because if they don't they can't do shit. They become distracted and don't do what they need to. It depends on the person and the situation.

i wish that existed...

Khell_Sennet:
Drugs are for pussies, be they illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter. I'll take X, Y or Z to kill off an infection or to treat a legit medical condition, but that's as far as I go with medicine. I won't even touch Tylenol or Advil unless its damn near a migraine... The idea of using meds to improve my gaming clashes with my own beliefs of self-achievement... I play games for fun and for personal challenge, "Smart Drug" victories would be the same to me as admitting I failed.

I half agree with you. I dont like taking pills. I feels so unnatural and like im cheating life. I broke my foot and twisted my toe 90degrees. It hurt like a bitch but i would take my pain killers unless my Mom shoved down my throat. With force too. I only believe in natural drugs and I'm not just talking illegal. I.e. sitting auround a bowl of boiled spices and herbs relives congestion in the nose and thoroat. This ones a little odd but shoving two orange peels up you nose helps headaches. And smells good.

A very interesting article.

It makes me think of mentats from Fallout.

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