In the wake of the Nature survey that found that 20% of scientists admit to using brain enhancing drugs, Wired has just published an article detailing what drugs their scientist readers use to keep on keepin’ on.
Although the drugs issue is obviously the headline-grabber, the publication also has a great feature on cognitive enhancement that largely covers tips, tricks and techniques to boost your mental skills that aren’t drug-related.
The article itself is anecdotally interesting, but has a curious tone throughout:
Surprisingly large numbers of people appear to be using brain-enhancing drugs to work harder, longer and better. They’re popping pills normally prescribed for narcolepsy or attention-deficit disorder to improve their performance at work and school.
“We aren’t the teen clubbers popping uppers to get through a hard day running a cash register after binge drinking,” wrote a Ph.D. research scientist who regularly takes a wakefulness drug called Provigil, normally prescribed for narcolepsy. “We are responsible humans.”
Whenever people talk about using drugs, they’re always keen to distance themselves from that sort of drug user. You know, the ones that aren’t responsible.
This belies the fact that most people use most drugs with few problems. Even teen clubbers popping uppers.
While all drugs have risks and illicit street drugs increase the health risks and definitely have an impact on body and brain function, it’s only a minority of drug users who have problems that interfere with their daily lives.
For example, a recent study found that 4% of Australian workers use the (fairly nasty) drug methamphetamine. The figure rises to over 11% for 18-29 year olds. That more than 1 in 10.
While the study found that using methamphetamine significantly increases chances of a range of health problems, it’s still the minority of users that report significant problems. This is the typical pattern for studies on drug use.
In other words, drugs are bad for you but most people manage the risks. A small minority, of course, don’t, and die instantly or suffer long-term consequences.
The benefit and using and abusing prescription drugs for ‘brain doping’ is largely in the fact that you can be sure of the purity of the product and that probably (depending on how you acquire them) you’re not funding a vicious criminal network.
At the end of the day though, the process is the same, whether you’re using legal drugs, illegal drugs, for recreation or for performance.
Just make sure you’re educated about the risks and know the consequences. Just like everything else in life.