Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Brain Enhancing -- or Brain Doping -- Drugs the Next Big Things for Academics to Students to Artists

A new wave of performance-enhancing drugs is coming in the wake of drugs like steroids used in Major League Baseball and elsewhere in athletics. But instead of bolstering your muscles, stamina or physical abilities, these new drugs enhance your brainpower.

sport competition drugs

Brain-enhancing drugs may give you an edge over the competition, but at what cost?

Prescribed for things such as narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer's, these highly coveted drugs are being sought by artists, students, musicians, executives, academics and more, all of whom are seeking an intellectual or creative edge.

"Cosmetic Neurology"

The recent surge in mind-enhancing drugs has been compared to the rage of plastic surgery. These drugs can take an otherwise healthy brain to the next level of focus, concentration and peace, much like a nose job can "perfect" a slightly misshapen, yet perfectly good, nose.

You've probably tried the most popular brain-enhancing drug out there: it's caffeine. Coffee is the most common "food" consumed at breakfast in America, according to the American Dietetic Association -- a morning necessity for millions of people who could otherwise not wake up or think straight in the morning.

The prescription drugs that follow, however, make coffee seem like child's play, and are pushing the limits of what a typical brain can do.

Modafinil: Modafinil, a drug originally developed to treat narcolepsy, is being prescribed off-label to a host of people who need to stay awake, including those with other sleeping disorders, depression and ADHD, people in the military and even those with jet lag.

To put it simply, modafinil shuts off the urge to sleep. Meanwhile, it allows you to stay just as alert as you would normally feel. While side effects of the drug are said to be minimal, the short- and long-term dangers of not sleeping are well known.

Ritalin and Adderall: These drugs are normally prescribed to kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD). In people with ADD, these drugs can be effective in helping them to calm down, but in people without the condition, the drugs have the opposite effect, stimulating the central nervous system and acting a lot like speed.

While these drugs may increase your focus and concentration, they may also increase your heart rate, blood pressure and risk of cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death.

drug enhanced musicians

Up to three-quarters of classical musicians may use brain-enhancing drugs to calm their nerves before a big performance or audition.

Provigil: This narcolepsy drug improves concentration and focus, but can also make users nervous, anxious and prone to headaches.

Inderal and other beta-blockers: A beta-blocker heart drug that blocks adrenaline receptors in your heart and blood vessels, also blocks adrenaline receptors in your brain. The drug can therefore calm your nerves and is used widely among musicians prior to performances or during auditions. One veteran flutist estimated that three-quarters of musicians use the drugs -- which can also cause drowsiness, fatigue and wheezing -- occasionally.

Aricept: An Alzheimer's drug used to slow mental decline is used by healthy people to improve memory, perception and judgment.

Will Brain Pills Become a Necessity?

The most obvious ethical dilemma surrounding brain-enhancing drugs is their ability to alter the status quo. If everyone at the office is taking modafinil and is able to meet deadlines 24-7, for instance, could you afford not to? Meanwhile, the drugs could create different classes of humans, separated by who could afford the drugs and who could not.

Drug companies are already hard at work to develop a blockbuster "memory" pill that could reduce "senior moments" and improve your brainpower. It could be that one day you'll have to take brain pills just to keep up, and while no one knows what the long-term impacts of drugging a healthy brain would be, experts suggest that the risks wouldn't stop most people.

"If there were drugs that actually made you smarter, good Lord, I have no doubt that their use would become epidemic," said Dr. Charles Yesalis, a doping researcher and emeritus professor at Pennsylvania State University, in the Los Angeles Times.

"Just think what it would do to anybody's career in about any area. There are not too many occupations where it's really good to be dumb."

Recommended Reading

Drugs with Potentially Psychotic Side Effects: Which Ones are They (& Who Deserves to Know)?

The Toxic Risks of Acetaminophen Every Consumer Should Know


Seattle Times December 20, 2007

Guardian Unlimited July 14, 2005

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This