Monday, December 8, 2008

This is Your Brain...The is Your Brain on "Brain Steroids"

We all know about well know sports figures being busted for taking performance enhancing drugs. But what about the college kid who scores some Ritalin to help him do better on a big test?

Right now it is illegal, of course. You are not (legally) allowed to take these drugs without a doctor's prescription. Some substances, such as caffeine are legal and we know that students routinely have very high blood caffeine content!

Yesterday in the journal Nature, a team led by Henry Greely of the Stanford Law School published a piece titled, "Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy". Their thesis is that we can and should responsibly use drugs with low risks to side effects to improve our mental abilities.

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."

You can read all their arguments. They reject arguments against congnitive enhancement as long as the drugs pass muster on the safety side.

I have mixed feelings on this one. We are looking at using drugs in normal healthy people. Frequently drugs can obtain FDA approval and end up having undesirable long term side effects that don't show up in the approval process. If the drugs are used to treat a debilitating disease, the risk of the side effects may justify the use of the drugs. Can the same be said in healthy individuals looking for a little extra advantage?

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.


kkdither said...

Drugs vary. You have caffeine, pain relievers, herbs, etc. The jury has long been out on many drugs, just like some foods. Something is good for you one day, then the next thing you know, it is bad.

Who knows what the new GARDASIL vaccine to protect against cervical cancer will show in years to come? What about Viagra? Remember the old ads saying soda (Coke) and cigarettes were good for you?

I think anytime you put something into your body, be it a drug or simply daily consumption of a certain food, there are risks of which you need to be cognizant.

Why Not? said...

There are of course those "drugs" that are not good for you with even the lightest of consumption. But i truly believe that most things in moderate amounts are not that dangerous. Caffeine has been shown to have positive effects in smaller consumption.

Know that no matter what you put in your body has some sort of effect on it. Just because it's "all natural" doesnt mean it's free from side effects.

AvengingAngel said...

Arsenic is all natural. Seriously, taking brain chemical enhancers such as Ritalin is very dangerous. Once stopped, they create a bounce back effect that can cause severe depression that has led to [rarely] suicides.

hale-bopp said...

Yes, AA, arsenic is are lots of chemicals yet they get a bad rap! Maybe we should ban dihydrogen monoxide while we are at it! It's a VERY dangerous chemical!

AvengingAngel said...

I remember DiHydrogen Monoxide well. It almost killed me!

kkdither said...

I too have heard about this. Although, the lack of it almost killed me...

OrbsCorbs said...

I hear that the Great Lakes are seriously polluted with DiHydrogen Monoxide.