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Biotech Science

'Mind Doping' Becoming More Common 371

Posted by Zonk
from the gotta-get-my-music-on dept.
runamock writes "The Los Angeles Times is running a story on the growing use of 'mind drugs': 'Forget sports doping. The next frontier is brain doping. ... Despite the potential side effects, academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions. Unlike the anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and blood-oxygen boosters that plague athletic competitions, the brain drugs haven't provoked similar outrage. People who take them say the drugs aren't giving them an unfair advantage but merely allow them to make the most of their hard-earned skills.'" There's an interesting comment on this topic in Fresh Air's top cultural trends of 2007 broadcast.
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'Mind Doping' Becoming More Common

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  • Flashback! (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:39AM (#21814446) Homepage Journal

    People who take them say the drugs aren't giving them an unfair advantage but merely allow them to make the most of their hard-earned skills.

    That sounds like what I used to say when I was dropping lots of acid and eating oodles of mushrooms in the '80s! Worked for me and never affect me in any way... gotta run, the xmas tree is breathing again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Well yeah, hallucinogens aren't really what they're suggesting here, I'd hope. Otherwise, TV Poker would be even more boring than usual, because all that'd be going would be a table of players going "Woah, that dude's, like, putting a sword through his head. Or maybe it's my head, maaaan. Y'know, like, uh, swords. Yeah. Swords are sharp man. Y'know, like cutting, right? Yeah."
      Actually, there's a chance that it may make it entertaining enough to actually watch... Who knows? On with the drug trials!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aussie_a (778472)
        People have been talking about the smellovision for years. Well I now propose the sensavision. This will be used to inject drugs into people while they're watching depending on what the viewer wants to evoke in a scene. Want the audience to feel sad? In goes some depressants. Want them to feel the adrenaline the protagonist feels in a car chase? In goes an injection of adrenaline. It will also be used for Olympic events to duplicate the drugs the Chinese swimmers are taking as well.
      • Re:Flashback! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ehrichweiss (706417) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @11:54AM (#21815230)
        "Well yeah, hallucinogens aren't really what they're suggesting here, I'd hope."

        Funny you should say that. SOME hallucinogens behave like smart drugs at lower doses. LSD and mushrooms come to mind. LSD becomes a smart drug at 10% of the "psychedelic dosage" and behaves like it's cousin, Hydergine. Mushrooms start acting as an aphrodisiac at about 25% of the psychoactive dosage. Doesn't help me since the psychoactive dose puts my wife straight into sleepy/tired-land for the most part.
    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @11:48AM (#21815190)
      A hundred comments and no Sapho/Mentat/Dune references? Who are you people, and what have you done with the real Slashdot?
      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @12:22PM (#21815388)

        A hundred comments and no Sapho/Mentat/Dune references? Who are you people, and what have you done with the real Slashdot?
        What if we took a legendary Danish king, made some clones of him, then gave 'em all a dose of the drug, would that count as a Beowulf cluster?

        See, the Dune references were too easy. We dotters like a challenge, we want to work for our lame jokes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        A hundred comments and no Sapho/Mentat/Dune references? Who are you people, and what have you done with the real Slashdot?
        They've all crashed and burned after "mind doping" for the last 4 days straight.
         
        /hard & perscription stimulants are a nasty habit to have
  • by name*censored* (884880) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:44AM (#21814462)
    Caffeine.
    • Caffeine, certain foods, certain diets, certain lifestyles, even having a religion can all affect mental qualities.

      Am I cheating because I consume certain foods and avoid others before the Scrabble tourney so that I'm at my mental best?

      Am I cheating because I live a low-stress lifestyle which makes me better able to train for my charity poker tournament?
      • by novakyu (636495)
        Yes.

        Let's be honest here. If athletes are cheating when they consume chemicals that will help them perform at their best, so are you, whenever you do something that others don't.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          Not really, There are all sorts of ways to clear your mental process and focuss on the task at hand. In sports, the drugs give special advantages like refining muscle mas and tone towards a specific goal or increasing your oxygen levels on the blood so you can perform longer or faster.

          In mind doping, the enhancement isn't something that wasn't there before. It doesn't effect how intelligent or creative you are, it only removes obstacles hampering your ability to tap into that already existing mental capacit
          • by novakyu (636495) <novakyu@member.fsf.org> on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @04:05PM (#21816694) Homepage
            But what if part of that "mental capacity" is really ... measuring how well you can concentrate? That'd be true for a professional poker player, and the same would be true for a student taking an exam. Yes, other mental faculties still matter, but ability to concentrate is an important one (and there is a whole lot of personal difference there).

            The same exact thing you said about "mind doping" holds true for "substance abuse" of athletes. Steroids don't magically give you a bulkier body. You still have to work out. You could almost say that all steroids do is compensate for lack of hormonal inclination towards building higher muscle mass. The exact same way caffeine helps you stay awake more and other substances help you concentrate (beyond what you'd "normally" be able to do).

            You can draw as many lines in the sand and split as many hairs as you want. There is a definite double standards towards "substance abuse" of athletes and substance abuse of other professions that are, in nearly all aspects, including health of participants, exactly the same.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by skeftomai (1057866)
      I have another word: Guarana.
    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:51PM (#21818706) Homepage

      it's said that Paul Erdos was a habitual coffee drinking and user of amphetamines and was one of the most prolific mathematicians of his time because of it. however, you can't just expect to use stimulants to automatically make yourself smarter--just ask all the burnt out meth/crack addicts at NA meetings.

      stimulants are definitely proven to improve one's general cognitive abilities, but only if used correctly. while moderate amounts of CNS stimulation can improve one's thinking, after a certain point you reach the point of over-stimulation and productivity drops dramatically with the increase of stimulation.

      so if you're using meth to get high you're probably not going to gain the positive cognitive effects of stimulant use. but if you're drinking 1-2 cups of a coffee a day, then it probably does help increase your productivity. but then there are still other trade-offs, such as hypertension/insomnia/dependency. for some people it's hard to strike the perfect balance, and it may be easier to just go the natural route altogether.

  • by aussie_a (778472) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:45AM (#21814468) Journal

    the brain drugs haven't provoked similar outrage.
    As messed up as this might sound, the above most likely is because it doesn't impact on entertainment and ignorance of the side-effects. The latter is obvious that if the side-effects were well known (among lay people) to be extremely dangerous, then there would be concern over teenagers using them.

    The former might not be quite so obvious. The reason people are outraged when sportsmen or Olympic competitors use drugs is because people watch it for entertainment and to admire the abilities that people and animals can reach. College tests or business meetings aren't televised for people to be entertained or to marvel at the natural abilities of the human brain, so it doesn't have the same effect. Many horse racing gamblers will often say they wouldn't mind drugs, if the stats were released. While they're probably joking, I think there is some truth to it.
    • by aminorex (141494) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @01:20PM (#21815768) Homepage Journal
      You assume people care about the use of steroids by athletes. I don't think they do. As far as I can tell, only sports media and athletes care. Athletes care because they don't want to have to take dangerous drugs to stay competitive.

      I take piracetam, vinpocetine, adrafinil, and methylphenidate. Of course it gives me an "unfair advantage". That's why I take them. It also benefits society, because it makes me orders of magnitude more productive as an engineer and a scientist that I would be otherwise. It benefits my family, various people in need in my community, and the many children in third-world nations that I can support because my income is freaking enormous. If I were good at something more lucrative than what I do, I might feel less pressure to enhance my performance, but I doubt it. With power (to produce income) comes responsibility (to distribute income).
    • by epine (68316) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @04:54PM (#21816908)

      Unlike the anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and blood-oxygen boosters that plague athletic competitions, the brain drugs haven't provoked similar outrage. People who take them say the drugs aren't giving them an unfair advantage but merely allow them to make the most of their hard-earned skills.

      That quote constitutes excellent evidence that you can improve mental performance without actually making people any smarter. Do you think that Barry Bonds connects with that pitch because of steroids? His eye for reading the pitch is as great a natural gift as any natural gift possessed by any poker player. What the steroids do is allow his body to exploit his natural gifts more fully, at a more advanced age than was previously possible.

      Ben Johnson had an explosively quick reaction to the starting gun, which had nothing to do with steroids.

      False Start Rules May Slow Athletes Down [nserc.gc.ca]

      What would the attitude toward steroids be if a steroid was discovered with far fewer negative side effects? What athlete couldn't claim more complete exploitation of their "hard earned skills"?

      Consider the XY karyotype Spanish hurdler Maria Patino [aissg.org] who was disqualified in 1985 for not being a woman, despite having a genetic androgen insensitivity (which I presume means that even if she took steroids, it would have no useful effect).

      Indeed, there are at least two well-known American movie stars who are XY women, according to researchers in sex differences, although neither of the actresses wishes her condition to be made public.

      Careful what you wish for. Some hyper-feminine women are a genetic dead end. This is fair in Hollywood, but not in sports?

      Now let's suppose we discover that some males are endowed with a suppressed genetic response to steroids that leads to the negative side effects of roid rage and liver disorder. Should these males, who can take large doses of steroids safely, be allowed to take these drugs? Or not, because other men can't? What exactly are we trying to prove here? Shouldn't the winners win, and the losers lose? Is any sporting event won in this era by an individual who was born with genetic assets that the rest of the population lacks?

      One of the consequences of taking steroids is that they allow the athlete to train "their hard earned skills" harder and longer. Of course, the athlete might wear their cartilage to a nubbin by the age of 30, but what's to stop the athlete from having that replaced with the latest miracle Teflon?

      Let's suppose a "memory" drug is invented. How does that work? You can memorize an encyclopedia by the age of 25, but by the age of 30 you can't remember what you had for lunch yesterday, because "all circuits are busy"? Maybe this side effect isn't discovered until twenty years later, as the first generation just-add-water-and-stir "geniuses" are never heard from again as they can neither find their car keys nor their cell phones.

      There's an age old adage in sport that if you aren't cheating you aren't trying hard enough. What modern competition will become is a battle to have your particular advantage, stimulant, or beneficial genetic abnormality declared competition legal, while your competitor's advantages are restricted.

      Our athletes are already groomed more like dancers and supermodels. With improved genetic testing, we'll be able to identify the superior individual (with respect to rules we are concurrently politicking to establish) at a preschool age. Defects in knees or bone structure can be repaired while the child is young enough to rebound quickly. Endorsement defects can be repaired with cosmetic surgery. Competitive drive can be supplanted with neurological enhancers.

      And for what? Why do we worship Tiger Woods to begin with? What has he ever done for me, or anyone else here? I personally feel the human race wo

  • Right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Trailwalker (648636)

    'Mind Doping'
    Is this not a contradiction in terms?
  • Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chuck (477) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:48AM (#21814482) Homepage
    Did anyone else RTFA just to see what they should be taking to enhance their brain?
    • by Znork (31774)
      Yep, I know, poor form to RTFA, but I wanted to see if it was something new and interesting.

      But basically it looks like the ordinary newspeak about 'mind-doping'. So, people use amphetamines and derivatives to enhance mental performance. Well, duh. That's been done for half a century, and it has well known side effects. The only difference is that these days they're prescribed for ADD instead of as diet pills. And the college chem-students twisting a molecule here and there to keep ahead of the DEA have gro
    • The List of Drugs (Score:4, Informative)

      by ukemike (956477) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @12:40PM (#21815518) Homepage

      The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.


      Sharon Morein-Zamir, a psychologist at Cambridge University who writes about the ethics of brain enhancement, said her interest in the medications was largely academic. But when someone she knew who had been taking Provigil for a neurological condition offered her some pills, Morein-Zamir's curiosity was piqued.
      "I knew the literature and wondered what it felt like," she said.
      The drug helped her focus as she worked at her computer for hours straight. But she wondered if it was a placebo effect.


      Prescriptions for Inderal and other beta blockers can be readily obtained from physicians. Tuck said some doctors had told her they used the drugs themselves to calm their own nerves before making presentations at medical meetings. Musicians say their drug use is all aboveboard.


      and finally a few comments on negative side effects...

      But cosmetic neurology, as some call it, has risks. Ritalin, Adderall and other ADHD drugs can cause headaches, insomnia and loss of appetite. Provigil can make users nervous or anxious and bring on headaches, while beta blockers can cause drowsiness, fatigue and wheezing.

      One Stanford University study found that low doses of Aricept improved the performance of healthy pilots as they tried to master new skills in a flight stimulator, but the side effects -- dizziness and vomiting -- were less than desirable in a pilot.
      • by jstott (212041) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @02:28PM (#21816176)

        and finally a few comments on negative side effects...

        But cosmetic neurology, as some call it, has risks. Ritalin, Adderall and other ADHD drugs can cause headaches, insomnia and loss of appetite. etc.

        And this is just the short-term stuff. What happens when your brain gets used to all those beta-blockers/whatever in your veins and starts to re-adjust its own chemical output (aka, drug tolerance)? If you're using doping to work at a level beyond your normal ability, that's a pretty powerful incentive to keep upping the dose---an ugly potential feedback loop to get into, especially since it can take months to years for brain chemistry (and thus job performance) to return to baseline after periods of heavy use.

        -JS

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bones3D_mac (324952)
        Interesting that betablockers are on the list, and, I'm certain they do offer such advantages from personal experience during my high school years. Back when I was in my freshmen year, my track record was continuously D or F range in most instances, despite repetitive IQ studies on me often placed me at a college senior, intelligence wise.

        Then, around my sophomore year, I was placed on the betablocker, Atenolol to help offset a heart murmur I have. After about a year on the stuff, I went from my old D-F ran
    • Big in India (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheNarrator (200498)
      Bacopa, Brahmii, and others....herbs of the Ayruvedic tradition, all used now and for thousands of years by many students and engineers all over India to give them an edge... and steal your job ;) . Bacopa at least has a fair amount of clinical studies to back it up too and these herbs have a long history of safety.
  • Sorry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:49AM (#21814490)
    Doping is doping. If you're altering your state of mind you are still doping. And yes, if you were in an academic competition then taking a drug to make you more clear-thinking is an advantage.

    • by aussie_a (778472)
      Can you imagine the media frenzy when the winner turns out to have used these drugs! Oh, I can just feel the ratings pouring in. Perhaps the WCF will require random drug testing!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SlowGenius (231663)
      Jav1231 sez:

      Doping is doping. If you're altering your state of mind you are still doping. And yes, if you were in an academic competition then taking a drug to make you more clear-thinking is an advantage.


      Yes, to all of that. Your point is....?

      (I'm assuming you're trying to connect the concepts 'mind-doping' and 'bad'. I don't think you quite succeeded in that attempt.)
    • Re:Sorry (Score:4, Insightful)

      by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:20AM (#21814684)
      what about places like MIT where they use norm referencing for grading their students? I would certainly be pissed off at a doper because it directly affects my grade in the class.
    • by bleaked (609151)
      By your logic, a well-balanced meal, tea, coffee, or even a good nights sleep would be considered doping.
  • Mind doping (Score:3, Funny)

    by SamP2 (1097897) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:55AM (#21814520)
    I've been taking a mind doping drug every morning for decades. It's called coffee.
  • by nguy (1207026) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:56AM (#21814524)
    The underlying assumption here is that being smarter helps people be successful, but the correlation between intelligence and success is relatively small.

    So, many of the drugs may not be doing a whole lot to help people achieve more success.
    • Dunno, There are plenty of smart, unsuccessful people, but I've yet to meet a successful, dumb person.
  • It's a bit sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Martian_Kyo (1161137) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:56AM (#21814528)
    how hard we try to 'fix' ourselves.
    Most of us aren't really as broken as we think.
  • speed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @09:57AM (#21814538)
    I find it interesting that in these articles you always see in the news, you never see the word "amphetamine" used. It's always "ADHD drugs". When people term a drug "speed" in the majority of cases, they're referring to the stronger ADHD drugs. Adderall (d-l-amphetamine), dexedrine (d-amphetamine), and desoxyn (methamphetamine!) are all used for this purpose and yet you will never hear in the news that people 3 and up with a diagnosis of add/adhd are using amphetamine or methamphetamine. It's always euphemistically termed. Think about it.
    • by aussie_a (778472)
      The people I know all realize that speed and ADHD tablets are pretty much the same thing (if not exactly the same thing). The difference is not in the drug, but how it is used. When it is used in those that suffer from ADHD, it helps them function in society, interact with others and lead a meaningful and happy life. When those that don't suffer from ADHD tablet take it, they begin to act like as if they're a child sufferer of ADHD.

      This means its quite simple to realize if someone has been misdiagnosed.
      • Re:speed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Artifakt (700173) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @11:18AM (#21814996)
        But people are being told by the media that meth users get horrible skin lesions from the drug, that it rots teeth, causes crash and burn onset anorexia, that even one exposure causes permanent brain damage, etc.

        If all this is false, then our drug laws are based on terrible lies, and we are putting lots of people in prison for lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for essentially nothing.

        If all this is true, then we are exposing currently upwards of 200,000 5 to 11 year olds to a drug that is incredibly risky for adults, and counting on once-a-year doctor visits to control it. The pharmaceutical industry is expecting to see the number of elementary school aged children on Adderal rise to about 1 million in the next 4 years. Somehow, the medical difference between ADHD and normal brain chemistry automagically protects the child's body from all the horrible effects we see in the rest of an adult's body.

        And yes it is exactly the same drug and not just pretty much - Adderal is a mixture of Methamphetamine and Benzedrine salts, with meth amounts similar to averages for adult recreational exposure. Parts of the pharmaceutical industry have tried to get around this fact by comparing the time release average dose in a child's system at any one time to the peak dose in a meth-junkie's system immediately after injection, which ignores three things.
            1. many meth users at least supposedly addict without injecting the drug.
            2. many adverse health effects depend on average dosage at least as much as peak.
            3. elementary school age children normally have a much lower tolerance for just about all drugs than do adults. We generally assume safe exposures are much smaller even for non-perscription drugs.

        • Re:speed (Score:5, Informative)

          by gambolt (1146363) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @02:20PM (#21816118)
          It's the impurities resulting from home manufacturing methods that cause most of the problems you hear about. Plus, the therapeutic doses used in psychiatry are hundreds of times smaller than those used recreationaly. Speaking as someone who has taken Dexedrine every day for ADD for fifteen years, I can tell you that I get more of a buzz and more side effects from a double espresso. If i were to snort a whole month's worth at a time, on the other hand, I'd probably have some nasty side effects.

          There is a world of difference between responsible use of stimulants for psychiatric purposes or even for cognitive enhancement and abusing them to get fucked up. At small doses cognitive functioning is enhanced and high doses it's inebriating. It's the difference between a cup of coffee and a box of no-doze.
      • by bigdavex (155746)

        The people I know all realize that speed and ADHD tablets are pretty much the same thing (if not exactly the same thing). The difference is not in the drug, but how it is used. When it is used in those that suffer from ADHD, it helps them function in society, interact with others and lead a meaningful and happy life. When those that don't suffer from ADHD tablet take it, they begin to act like as if they're a child sufferer of ADHD.

        I've seen that assertion several times, so I don't at all think you've inven

    • by flynns (639641)
      It's cause they -aren't- methamphetamine, and "amphetamine derivative" seems to be needless fearmongering.
      • by nxtw (866177)
        Desoxyn [wikipedia.org] is methamphetamine, in pill form. Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant, but in this form safe under controlled doses.
  • Don't a lot of these drugs have effects similar to amphetamines?

    I used to take ephedrine by the truckload until the government basically pulled it off gas station shelves and started tracking purchases of it at pharmacies despite the fact that it is OTC. It pisses me off because I was told that "only methamphetamine cooks buy ephedrine" by local pharmacists, which I know is completely untrue.

    After having read this article, I'm unclear as to why these drugs are "ok" with law enforcement, but my use of ephedr
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DarkProphet (114727)
      The War On Drugs.

      The same way I can get more intoxicated from two beers than from a marijuana cigarette, yet only the beer is legal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nxtw (866177)
      A lot of the drugs *are* amphetamines, including Adderall (generic form - mixed amphetamine salts) and Desoxyn (methamphetamine).

      Others (Ritalin, Concerta & generics) are methylphenidate, which is very similar to amphetamine.
  • About the money (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:01AM (#21814558) Homepage Journal
    In sports and entertainment a million dollar contract does not buy you an employee, it buys you a product. A product that must be leveraged to earn several times that contract price, and that must be carefully controlled so that parents and the conservative will pay for the content as a wholesome product. Otherwise why would any pay the exorbitant fees when, at least from the point of view of the child, the band at the local club is much more entertaining and interactive. To complicate matters the sports and entertainment product is posited as a role model for children, which make PR control even more critical. If the sports product is seen as dressing, acting, and taking drugs just like the preferred, for instance, rapper, then how can the sports product be presented as superior product worthy of higher costs, even though the entertainment value is often less.

    So the sports product must be controlled with dress code, drug codes etc, and when the sports product does something wrong, something that any normal person would do, the product is released so as not to tarnish the lilly white reputation. The drug thing is not about the product, it is about the image of the product. This goes to non sports products targeted as family and conservative friendly, like the Disney creation Hannah Montana who commands a premium as the product is "wholesome".

    Now, if these other mental acts every become marketed as uber conservative family friendly, and the entertainers in these acts every become products, then we are likely to see them crack down on drug use, but that will be the smallest problem. Right now classical performances, art museums, indie public television, all of this type of entertainment, can get away with all sorts of stuff because they now the people who watch are not looking for the bland uber conservative family 'I am afraid of my body' entertainment. Bad or Good, the product is marketed toward a people with a wider view of the world, included families. For instance, parents send their kids off to these top rate colleges, and they must know full well that mistakes will be made in relationships and controlled substances, among other things, so there must be faith that the child has enough intelligence and a sufficiently good upbringing so the parents can let do.

    • Re:About the money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:53AM (#21814874) Journal
      Err.... what?

      There's a hell of a lot more to it than presenting a "lily white" or "wholesome" package when it comes to the ban on sports doping (couldya pack in the word "conservative a few more times? I didn't see it enough in there). There was a recent (and still ongoing) debate on the use of sports enhancers in friggin' golf FFS. (Having been stuck w/ frequently visting a hospital that doesn't have WiFi over the past month or so, I get to read the newspapers a lot). Okay... golf. We're not talking the Tiger Woods type of golfers incidentally; we're talking about old men who takes drugs to keep their knees and hips from coming apart - drugs which have a neat side effect of adding a measureable number of yards to their swing... yet for some odd reason, the entire golf industry is going apeshit over whether or not these old men, playing the various Senior tours, should be allowed to use these medicines and keep playing. The whole point had frig-all to do with image, or what the kids might think (I mean, c'mon - how many teenaged kids watch Senior Tour Golf)? No - the whole point was that golf, like any other sport*, is a measurement of how good at it a human being can get without any help of the chemical variety - they're measuring the man, not the chemicals he used to get the win.

      Point is, there are tons of people so obsessed and engrossed with sports (kids, adults, what-have-you), that it's all about the stats. It's all about the drive to eliminate 'cheating' of any kind.

      A good geek parallel would be a pro gamer being caught with a custom aimbot. Would you be so quick to dismiss that as a drive by the sponsors to present a "lily white", "conservative" image? Hell, no! You'd want the bum tossed. Similarly, you get shades of grey there, too - wallhacks, "custom" binds that enhance gameplay, things like that... all the sudden it's no longer a contest of skill, but a contest to see who can build the best hack, and the game is no longer the game.

      Sure, PR plays a pretty big role in the whole sports/drugs affair, no doubt about it, but don't fool yourself into thinking it's the primary goal of the whole anti-doping brouhaha.

      Academia is a whole other dimension - mostly because the question is... "what competition"? Sure, there is a level of competitiveness, but not in any organized sense of the concept.

      While the goal is certainly noble (more knowledge), there are a lot of side-effects that nobody understands. A researcher sucking down "mind-enhancing" pills may or may not come up with some new way to get a widget to do something neat, or they might manage to build an anti-gravity machine... but how many of these folks understand that they're facing a coctail of potential troubles down the road? The thought of accelerated Alzheimers' disease or chemically-induced mental illness down the road seems to be a hellishly high price to pay for something that may or may not come true.

      Pretty much the same deal with the whole "i'm afraid of my body" semi-taunt you posted... it isn't fear of the body (or mind), it's what happens much later on, when the demand/desire is over, and you're stuck trying to pick up the pieces with what you have left - mind, body, finances, social circle, etc. Some drugs (e.g. marijuana) can be taken over years without too much worry over long-term effects - provided that the one consuming it is at least halfway mature, does so in moderation, and exercises enough willpower to not let it affect (let alone dominate) all other aspects of his or her life. That said, most folks don't have these qualities, and tend to make a royal mess of things, even with the relatively harmless stuff (let alone the real dangerous shit like, say, methamphetamines). Same with alcohol, incidentally. (now the whole idea of legality and such is beyond the purview of discussion... personally, I believe the "war on drugs" is idiotic; there are far better ways to handle it - by actually profiting off of human stupidity (e.g. tax the shit) and at the same time

      • by Oddster (628633)

        Academia is a whole other dimension - mostly because the question is... "what competition"? Sure, there is a level of competitiveness, but not in any organized sense of the concept.

        I'm sorry, what? Have you never heard of a Grade Point Average [wikipedia.org]? Valedictorian [wikipedia.org]? Magna cum laude [wikipedia.org]? The Fields Medal [wikipedia.org]? How competitive it can be to get a position, from student through professor, at a prestigious school? How competitive it can be to get research funding?

        There is plenty of organized competitiveness in academia. Just none of it is on the publicity scale of professional sports.

      • Re:About the money (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gambolt (1146363) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @01:32PM (#21815842)
        Are you kidding me?

        There are tenure track jobs available for maybe 5% of new philosophy phds. Otherwise you spend years in the brutal world of publish or parish, moving from state to state taking short term jobs at community colleges while trying to pay of tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

        This is why so many people with philosophy degrees end up doing geekwork. It pays the bills.

    • Re:About the money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mapkinase (958129) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:53AM (#21814878) Homepage Journal
      Putting aside your clear political motivation, the real difference and the real reason why the original post is so overstretching is that sports IS entertainment which is based on certain rules, that every participant should meet certain standards to enter _competition_.

      Real life (business) is not about _competition_ and _winning_ _everyone_. It is about money. Who cares if Bill Gates is number one or number 10? As long as he does not violate rights of others, he can do to himself whatever he wants according to the rules of Western society.

      Sport is about "ultimate" justice, "honesty". That is why it is a model. A second life, an incubator, an artificial construct. Real world is not.
    • It's about risk assessment and encouraging bad behavior. Conservatives are more likely to look for the downside, and we're quite often right. Steroids have some pretty nasty side effects so while pro athletes will likely benefit short-term and find the downside acceptable, having impressionable children who haven't developed their risk assessment skills yet try to emulate them would be Bad. Less high profile people are less of a concern.

      Don't think kids are that impressionable? Guess why the Left fights
      • I should have said the grade school use of unprescribed cognitive enhancers. Bad enough that the kiddies get them under doctor supervision.
  • having nothing to do with this subject, but applicable nonetheless

    "accelerated decrepitude"

    here's another one:

    "How much of my long-term health am I willing to sacrifice for the sake of short-term glory?"

    from nytimes science section [nytimes.com]

    now enjoy your mind doping

    you have been warned
  • by ttroutma (552162)
    I think that a normal healthy person can get better results with proper sleep, diet and exercise and a daily power nap or meditation. Saying this as a former brain doper that now has better results the natural way.
  • Not really new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by el_munkie (145510) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:13AM (#21814646)
    Paul Erdös [wikipedia.org] seemed to be quite productive on uppers:

    His colleague Alfréd Rényi said, "a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems", and Erdös drank copious quantities. (This quotation is often attributed incorrectly to Erdös.)[3] After 1971 he also took amphetamines, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him $500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month. Erdös won the bet, but complained during his abstinence that mathematics had been set back by a month: "Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper." After he won the bet, he promptly resumed his amphetamine habit.

  • Nicotine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bryanp (160522) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @10:24AM (#21814720)
    This isn't entirely new. The fact that nicotine enhances short term memory has been known for quite a while. I know someone who doesn't smoke but does buy the nicotine gum just so he can get that specific boost.
  • Good to be dumb (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmpeax (936370)
    FTFA:

    There are not too many occupations where it's really good to be dumb

    Actually, many non-graduate jobs prefer people to be pretty dumb, academically at least. The jobs they offer only require a small amount of training which doesn't require much intelligence or academic ability, and doesn't offer much other than tedium. They don't want to employ someone who has academic prospects for fear that they might leave or just start not caring. This was a problem when I was a high school student - retailers didn

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dilute (74234)
      The jobs they offer only require a small amount of training which doesn't require much intelligence or academic ability, and doesn't offer much other than tedium. . . .I'm in my final year of university now and at the beginning of the year I got a part-time (and damn well-paid, for a student at least) job as a PHP developer . . . .

      Come, on, PHP isn't THAT bad!
  • It's desperation for success. This drives people to want that extra 10% out of themselves and they'll do anything to get it rather than learning to be content with who they are. Using 'mind-enhancing' drugs may bring brief success, but dependence follows and ultimately the person loses themselves.

    I'd agree that a bit in moderation is ok, and perhaps quite good (I'm thinking of coffee and tea here).
  • by kimanaw (795600) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @11:51AM (#21815212)
    nootropics [wikipedia.org]

    Interesting the term never surfaced in the article...perhaps the author needs some. OTOH, the number of misspelled, grammatically flawed entries here would indicate many of us could use a little mental boost.

  • Nootropics [wikipedia.org], popularly referred to as "smart drugs", "smart nutrients", "cognitive enhancers" and "brain enhancers", are substances which are claimed to boost human cognitive abilities (the functions and capacities of the brain). ... Typically, nootropics are alleged to work by increasing the brain's supply of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones), by improving the brain's oxygen supply, or by stimulating nerve growth.

    This stinks like pharmaceutical white-wash to me: "lookie, people are

  • Sure, you might be able to think like Einstein but will you end up growing bigger testicles, better-defined pecs, and increased sperm motility? Where will the self-respecting geek be then?
  • by jago25_98 (566531) <[jago25_98] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @12:21PM (#21815384) Homepage Journal
    I have experimented with Nootropil.

    It worked, in a subtle way. And bear in mind the down is bigger than the up, useful for getting out of a dopey mood. Could be a lifesaver if you had to perform. However, you should be able to make yourself alert without drugs.

    However:

    - it doesn't fix confidence, just the ability to think quick if you want it
    - you can still feel sleepy or lazy. If at a party it just prevents that mind freeze
    - the next day I felt as dopey as I felt alert before; i.e. the low is a little greater than the high so you have to be prepared for this
    - it creates dependency. You notice the times of not being on it more, obviously, the drugs don't work

    I now keep just a few half tabs in case I need to drive back from somewhere for work / prevent getting stranded and for emergencies.

    That's my experience on the subject.
  • You still have adrenaline flowing in your body, but you don't feel that adrenaline rush so you're not distracted by your own nervousness," said Dr. Bernd F. Remler, a neurologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

    OK, so if I block all the adrenaline rush when I want to concentrate on an event, work on an emergency project etc etc.... when I go out on a bike ride and have that fun downhill, when I drive my car and drift out on some black ice, or when whatever out of the ordinary happens, th

  • I graduated in '02, back then most of these drugs were taken for pleasure.
    I have friends who graduated in '04. In the two year timespan they described a very different situation. Already a shift had occurred where you can literally hear sniffing of all kinds in the university library of people taking amphetamines. Nasal consumption is more direct so a lot of people just snort.
    By my friends' estimates greater than 90% of the students in my old uni's library were on these amphetamine-like compounds to study

  • Bah... I can't take the article seriously when they don't mention The Simpsons' Focusyn: Summary [tv.com] and details [snpp.com].
  • Stimulants (amphetamines, modafinil) can be addictive (or have potential to be--modafinil is Schedule IV), beta-blockers (Inderal, aka propanolol) cannot. There is a huge, huge difference between the two. Beta-blockers have long been indicated for anxiety and are well tolerated in most patients, your grandfather is probably on beta-blockers, I'm not really sure what relevance they have to TFA. I guess the journalist here doesn't know the difference or just doesn't care.

    (Not a doctor, not a pharm anyth
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine [wikipedia.org] plus alpha lypoic acid [wikipedia.org] plus Selegiline [selegiline.com] (or here [wikipedia.org]). ALC plus ALA is a memory improvement therapy for aging rats [raysahelian.com]. I figure that if it's good enough for our elected "representatives", it's good enough for me [annalsnyas.org]. Selegiline inhibits the breakdown of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is frequently associated with "pleasurable" activities, such as food [wikipedia.org], sex [wikipedia.org], or slash-dot [wikipedia.org]. In doses higher than 20mg, Selegiline can have side effects, such as high blood pressure and hypertension (a hypertensive
  • Should coffee produce outrage? It has similar effects. It is more addictive than adderoll. Why is there this religion of "natural"? Just because the random nature has produced one chemical in a plant by accident but didn't produce the other we should assume that the one produced by nature is more "natural"? Well, then cocaine is natural. It's just an extract. I wouldn't recommend it instead of adderall.
  • by MrT1000 (1207816) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @03:54PM (#21816628)
    I can attest to how effective Provigil is. It does have side effects, though.

    Firstly, it really *does* work as advertised -- when I take it, I feel like my IQ has jumped by 20 points. My brain feels like a well-oiled machine. Ideas flow, I work WAY more efficiently and with a much greater degree of focus, I'm wittier in conversation... it really is that good. Even if you've gone 24 hrs without sleep, you can take it and be fully functional. You'll still feel physically tired, but your brain will be humming along just fine. It's pretty remarkable. I would take it daily, if not for the side effects.

    That's the good... now the bad. You DO (or at least *I* do) crash, when it wears off. For the first 5 hours everything is fine, but then progressively my brain starts to get foggy and I start to feel a bit dizzy and spaced out. By T+ 7-9 hrs, I'm not doing so great, and I just want to sit or lie down someplace and veg. The drug has a long half life, so even though I'm feeling more and more tired as the evening progresses, I do have dificulty falling asleep that night, and when I do sleep, my sleep is crappy. Even the following day (if I haven't taken more), I'm sort of out of it and I'm still feeling foggy. The day after THAT, everything is back to normal.

    If not for the side effects, it really would be a miracle drug. As it stands, I take it only when I really have to (important deadline for work, etc.), & often I'll just take 1/2 or 1/4 of a pill.

    Disclaimers: YMMV, and in general I seem to be more sensitive than average to any drug I take...
  • Be Precise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday December 25, 2007 @05:15PM (#21817006) Journal
    The article is about using psychotropics like amphetamines and methylphenidate (Ritalin) to "improve" brain power. In the short term they do. Then they bring on rebound effects like chronic depression. Continuing after that stresses the dopamine system (that these force to work harder) and can bring on Parkinson's. The Alzheimer's drug does the same, but they consider the long term drawbacks to be less than the immediate benefit. Using these drugs for the purpose stated in TFA is called "off-label use". This (mis-)use has been going on since the first stimulants (cocaine among them) became available over a century ago. These are performance enhancers, not true cognitive enhancers. The distinction is important, and there but buried in TFA.

    From TFA:
    > "Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.

    The first company to come out with a memory pill (a true cognitive enhancer) was Sandoz of Switzerland. The name is Hydergine. The person who discovered it was Albert Hoffman. If he hadn't also discovered LSD and become (in)famous for that, he'd probably been nominated for a Nobel for Hydergine (and a bucket full of other highly useful drugs of his day). He mentioned he takes Hydergine 4 or 5 times a day -- at his 100th birthday party.

    There have been many such drugs (nootropics; noh'-oh-troh''-pics) created since then. All of them are owned by companies that are owned by people not from the U.S. and so no U.S. companies can make profit from them. Thus, the FDA won't approve them, and pretend they don't exist. As evidence I point to recent Nobel recipient Eric Kandel (for his work on the dopamine system) who claimed he'd use his award money to create the first cognitive enhancing drug (nootropic), essentially publicly and purposefully ignoring Hoffman's discovery and the subsequent inventions.

    On my way to a PhD in neuroscience, I got a master's in healthcare administration. I learned way too much about the FDA and big pharma to ever be comfortable with them again. The above statement is only one reason for that. An excuse given for not approving it is that it can cause one to become dizzy if they stand up fast. In other words, it's an effective anti-hypertensive -- it lowers blood pressure. That's more a benefit than a drawback, and is more harmless than the "acceptable" side effects from recent drugs being advertised. Hydergine and the other nootropics have far fewer negative side effects than most drugs and virtually no interaction with any other drugs, and have beneficial side effects besides. These are approved in part by the FDA, but only for advanced brain degenerative diseases, where their benefit is fairly negligible and unrecognizable. Use by those without such disease is not approved, and actively discouraged.

    The good news is that due to the 1989 AIDS drug law, one can import from overseas 90 days worth at a time of any drug approved there for the on-label use. The bad news is that the USPS will try to confiscate any drugs coming from outside the US -- even those allowed by the 1989 AIDS law. This is due to pressure from the FDA, the corporate welfare office for big pharma.

    I myself took Hydergine and Nootropil for 2 years, instead of the levodopa prescribed for Parkinson's. After that I no longer needed the levodopa (and still don't, a decade later), which itself has a rebound effect, causing permanent and progressive degeneration of motor control. If it weren't for these nootropics I probably would never have been able to finish my PhD. They cost me about $150 per 90 days, sent from Portugal. I consider that to be the best value for money spent in my entire life.

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