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Biotech Medicine

Cosmetic Neurology 369

Posted by kdawson
from the we-have-a-pill-for-that dept.
The New Yorker has a long piece examining the growing trend of healthy people, not diagnosed with any mental condition, taking drugs that enhance mental functioning, including Adderall and Provigil. The profiles include a Harvard student, a professional poker player, a number of brain researchers, and a self-described transhumanist. "Zack [Lynch]... has a book being published this summer, called 'The Neuro Revolution'... In coming years, he said, scientists will understand the brain better, and we'll have improved neuroenhancers that some people will use therapeutically, others because they are 'on the borderline of needing them therapeutically,' and others purely 'for competitive advantage.' ... Even if today's smart drugs aren't as powerful as such drugs may someday be, there are plenty of questions that need to be asked about them. How much do they actually help? Are they potentially harmful or addictive? Then, there's the question of what we mean by 'smarter.' Could enhancing one kind of thinking exact a toll on others? All these questions need proper scientific answers, but for now much of the discussion is taking place furtively, among the increasing number of Americans who are performing daily experiments on their own brains. ... [A cognitive researcher said,] 'Cognitive psychologists have found that there is a trade-off between attentional focus and creativity. And there is some evidence that suggests that individuals who are better able to focus on one thing and filter out distractions tend to be less creative. ... I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.'"
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Cosmetic Neurology

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  • For years... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shikaku (1129753) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:13PM (#27723737)

    Everyone has been taking caffeine. So what else is new?

    • Re:For years... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:27PM (#27723843)

      And alcohol, and caffeine, and all sorts of prescription drugs with adverse side effects.

      Society doesn't seem to think drugs need to be banned or even disapproved of just because they can have (extremely) undesirable side effects.

      If a nootropic came to exist that made you a whole bunch smarter, and a whole bunch less creative with no other obvious side effects - I think you can kiss creativity goodbye.

      • Re:For years... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Narpak (961733) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:38PM (#27724411)

        If a nootropic came to exist that made you a whole bunch smarter, and a whole bunch less creative with no other obvious side effects - I think you can kiss creativity goodbye.

        "Smarter" is a fairly vague term. Smarter how? Some activities (work related or not) require creativity for you to be effective. Not counting the obvious ones (like design, music, painting, architecture etc) I would say that a scientist or detective without creativity could be hyper intelligent and still not be able to produce a usable result; depending of course on what the desired result is. One could argue that making certain connections requires creativity.

        That being said I find this area of research to be fascinating; even if it does at times make me a just a bit apprehensive.

      • Re:For years... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @07:08PM (#27724637) Homepage
        Um... "a whole bunch smarter, and a whole bunch less creative" is damn near a contradiction in terms. Granted, there are all kinds of "smart", but some form of creativity (whether analytic or intuitive) is involved in most of them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Yvanhoe (564877)

        Society doesn't seem to think drugs need to be banned or even disapproved of just because they can have (extremely) undesirable side effects.

        Except that it bans fairly benign drugs while authorizing the dangerous alcohol and the uninteresting dependency-hazard that is nicotine. I'd like some coherence here. According to a Lancet study [bbc.co.uk], LSD, amphetamines, ecstasy or cannabis are all less dangerous than alcohol both in terms of dependence and side effects. Drugs is not just a think that is to be abused, they also have a lot of positive uses regarding creativity, sociability and conscious mood-alteration or introspection. I wish there was a permit

    • by RDW (41497)
      It's much worse than that. Last year the NIH cracked down on scientists found to have indulged in 'Brain Doping [blogspot.com]!'
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Ah, that was an April Fool's Day joke. Helps if you read the article. :(

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by el3mentary (1349033)

      "Looks like I picked a bad day to quit amphetamines..."

    • Re:For years... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rootofevil (188401) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:49PM (#27723979) Homepage Journal

      not to mention 'creativity enhancers' like acid, pot, shrooms, etc.

      it all depends what you want to optimize for.

    • Re:For years... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:03PM (#27724111) Homepage
      The idea of healthy people taking modern pharmaceuticals to enhance their thinking dates back at least to LSD in the 1960s.
  • Less Creative? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:20PM (#27723791)
    Bah, I say! I am no more or less creative when I take my prescribed adderall, only more able to apt to finish the task at hand before wondering off into a new creation or idea.
  • Used in college (Score:5, Interesting)

    by usul294 (1163169) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:26PM (#27723841)
    I just finished up undergraduate classes as an electrical engineer, and I would say the majority of people in my department used Adderall to help them study longer. Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it. It's almost the same question with sports and steroids, if I had used that kind of drug to increase my studying capacity, I probably could have gotten enough of an extra boost to enter "free Ph.D." territory.
    • Re:Used in college (Score:5, Insightful)

      by techno-vampire (666512) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:44PM (#27723967) Homepage
      Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it.

      And how much did they retain a month later, would you think, compared with those who didn't? That's the real point of getting an education, you know, not just grades.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I see what you're getting at; you don't want to admit that there is actually a lasting advantage to using a drug to help learn. Your sense of right and wrong desperately wants any benefits to be temporary and even better, have some sort of horrible side effect down the road. I don't think the answer to your question is relevant because whether it's happened or not eventually there will be drugs that enhance intelligence/learning with no significant side effects.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I see what you're getting at; you don't want to admit that there is actually a lasting advantage to using a drug to help learn.

          No. As I explained to another poster, I wanted to know if the advantage were long-term or short. And, as I've been out of school for longer than the average slashdotter's been alive, it's only a case of satisfying my curiosity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by madsci1016 (1111233)

            I wanted to know if the advantage were long-term or short. And, as I've been out of school for longer than the average slashdotter's been alive, it's only a case of satisfying my curiosity.

            I'm not sure about the long term, but i have witnessed first hand the same person studying with and without Adderall and the difference is scary. When on Adderall knowledge retention becomes increased ten fold and immunity to distractions becomes perfect. It reminds me of movies where you see super geniuses recite any line from a book read in the past.

            • Re:Used in college (Score:5, Insightful)

              by moteyalpha (1228680) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:56PM (#27724549) Homepage Journal
              Mind and body and personality. I can over clock my CPU until it melts and it gets faster and faster until it dies. In the 60's it was a common expression to hear, "Speed Kills" and it was very true, as I witnessed the slow/fast decay of numerous people, not just from Amphetamines, but LSD-25, Heroine, Cocaine and things that are not even around anymore.
              The few that lived after sniffing Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons or OD ing, I see trying to make change at the local ice cream store or equivalent.
              To some extent they all eat away at the body and mind. It is a strange road to take and the end of that road is as often creativity or some other advantage, followed by the opposite *10.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by nxtw (866177)

                Mind and body and personality. I can over clock my CPU until it melts and it gets faster and faster until it dies. In the 60's it was a common expression to hear, "Speed Kills" and it was very true, as I witnessed the slow/fast decay of numerous people, not just from Amphetamines, but LSD-25, Heroine, Cocaine and things that are not even around anymore.

                And eating too much kills. Drinking too much alcohol kills. Products tainted with poisonous substances kill.

                Mass manufactured, consistently dosed products

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ChrisMaple (607946)

              When on Adderall knowledge retention becomes increased ten fold...

              The effect on a person who normally has retention above 10% must be startling.
              Someone who can recite any line from a book is more likely to be an idiot savant than a genius.

            • When on Adderall knowledge retention becomes increased ten fold

              Yes, I'm sure it does. What I want to know, however, is that long-term, or only short?

          • Basically, drugs like Adderall are just really powerful stimulants (in fact, they're essentially the same thing as speed). They work simply because they help you spend more time studying, in exactly the same way as if you had spent extra time studying without them. They just help you compress that time by eliminating distractions (or by allowing you to actually spend more time at it before getting tired). It's like the difference between working a normal 8-hour day, and working for 8 hours without checking

    • Re:Used in college (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:59PM (#27724075)
      I know the feeling. I went to university with people who were on that same drug. I wasn't taking ANY drugs, but I knew I had some sort of studying-related problem. Now I find out I had undiagnosed OCD/ADHD (a common pairing, as I understand) the entire time. So I know why I got sucky grades compared to all the people I lived with, even though they all thought of me as "gifted."

      Looking back, on the one hand I want to go back to school and see how I would do on all my new wonder drugs; on the other hand, I am really grateful for that experience and the humility that it taught me. I was able to work around my condition even though I didn't know anything was "wrong," and I learned a lot from all the F's, D's, and C's I got, eventually raising my GPA to just under a 3.5.
    • by westlake (615356)
      It's almost the same question with sports and steroids, if I had used that kind of drug to increase my studying capacity, I probably could have gotten enough of an extra boost to enter "free Ph.D." territory.

      and what price does the steroid-boosted athlete pay later on in life - in the years when an academic is still likely to productive?

    • Re:Used in college (Score:5, Interesting)

      by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:12PM (#27724171) Journal

      I just finished up undergraduate classes as an electrical engineer, and I would say the majority of people in my department used Adderall to help them study longer. Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it. It's almost the same question with sports and steroids, if I had used that kind of drug to increase my studying capacity, I probably could have gotten enough of an extra boost to enter "free Ph.D." territory.

      I prefer the term "brain management". It's asinine to assume (as John Q. Public does assume) that everyone's bran operates in the approved western modern 40-hour-work-week manner. Those whose brains do not -- be they ornery, overly type A, sociopathic, a bully, depressed, whatever -- can have a better life if they can make some adjustments. The only question is, what are the risk tradeoffs for the current crop of brain-adjustment drugs?

      There is going to be a lot of embarrassing public hue and cry about this, coming from those who luckily do not need any such adjustments.

      I once worked for a guy for three years and was always mystified by his occasional "asshole" days, in which he was an insufferable type-A jerk. Years later I bumped into him in another city, and he apologized, explaining that those bad days were the ones when he'd run out of grass. inviolet was enlightened.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by madsci1016 (1111233)

      I just finished up undergraduate classes as an electrical engineer, and I would say the majority of people in my department used Adderall to help them study longer. Those people all ended up with better GPA's for it.

      Any chance you go to a Florida school? Because as soon as i saw this article, i was going to post exactly what you said.

      I can count at least half of my BSEE graduating class that used Adderall for every test, and they always got better grades because of it.

      I'm not going to argue it won't hurt them down the road, but guess what, their drug inflated GPAs are getting them jobs now in this bad economy while the honest are struggling. How is this not a form of cheating?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rastilin (752802)

        How is this not a form of cheating?

        Because they did the work...

        Similar to using caffeine to stay up through the night before the exam. What matters is how much work you do, not how you do it.

  • About time (Score:5, Funny)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:27PM (#27723847)
    I, for one, seriously, welcome accountants becoming more focused and less creative.
  • by Sybert42 (1309493) * on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:31PM (#27723867) Journal

    In the march to the Singularity, we don't need history majors writing papers or Baseball players hitting homeruns. We need science. A neuroscientist taking a cognitive-enhancing drug is a direct example of recursive, exponential growth to the Singularity. Keep it coming.

    • A neuroscientist taking a cognitive-enhancing drug is a direct example of recursive, exponential growth to the Singularity.

      Heh, kind of like making a +intelligence potion in Morrowind [uesp.net], drinking it, using your temporary intelligence boost to make a more powerful version, and then repeating until you're making +1000 potions.

      • For those following at home:

        mrchaotica refers to The Singularity in essence as a "game design bug".

        OMG HAX

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by tverbeek (457094)
      "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your Singularity." - a 21st century Emma Goldman
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Manchot (847225)

      In the march to the Singularity, we don't need history majors writing papers or Baseball players hitting homeruns. We need science. A neuroscientist taking a cognitive-enhancing drug is a direct example of recursive, exponential growth to the Singularity. Keep it coming.

      Personally, I think we'd be better off if amateur futurists (read: all futurists) understood that extrapolating exponential growth far into the future is idiotic. Not that I disagree with your premise that science is important.

  • Focus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:36PM (#27723905) Journal

    >I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.

    Very focused accountants isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    I've taken some of these drugs myself - medical necessity. Couldn't focus on tasks worth a damn. Slept through high school, slept through college. I'd fall asleep at work, fall asleep while driving. Right now I've got a regimen that's working pretty good. If it were really good I would be doing something useful rather than goofing off on Slashdot, but the brain's working well enough that I tend to get my work done, just slower than I should be.

    I feel like I'm performing the best I ever have. More ambitious about taking on projects, doing new things. I don't think I'm less creative for it, unless by creative they mean the dream-like half-conscious state I was in for twenty years.

    But I've been doing all this by the book, under medical supervision. I don't think I'd be taking this stuff illegally for competitive reasons, like athletes do steroids - not sure if that makes me righteous or stupid.

    The general idea of amping up brains seems like a positive to me, but I wouldn't be the guinea pig if I didn't have medical need.

    • Seconded. I had to make the choice though... perform better, or go flying legally. FAA et al don't much like folks flying on meds. Shame really, because many will be better pilots with their drugs of choice (or necessity).

  • by openfrog (897716) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:42PM (#27723955)

    There have been a few pieces of that kind in recent months, among those one in The Economist. They all follow the very same scenario and use the same rhetoric. Comments from readers testified of few benefits (confusion and excitation rather than concentration) and dramatic, often tragic side effects, with dependency consequences, etc. Each time the piece resurfaces, none of the downsides are mentioned and the same rhetoric: benign use, everybody uses it, unquestioned efficiency is brought back. Deregulating the sale of those drugs seems to be a coveted objective of Big Pharma and no wonder, considering the fabulous sums involved. Soma anyone?

    • While I trust drug companies approximately as far as I can throw them, I'm not at all sure that that is what is at work. Most of the compounds mentioned in TFA are either still in the experimental/underground use stage, where there is No Chance that they'll be over the counter anytime soon, Economist articles or no, or are compounds that are already at, or nearing, the end of their span of patent protection.

      Generics are big business; but their margins absolutely suck compared to the on-patent stuff.
    • by glavenoid (636808)
      For that matter, paxil anyone?
  • by Virak (897071) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:56PM (#27724043) Homepage

    It's like saying driving a car instead of walking is "cosmetic transportation". Something whose main purpose is to provide functionality is pretty much the exact opposite of "cosmetic".

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:04PM (#27724117) Homepage

    While I am not against the use of such drugs because of safety reasons per se, to me, it feels like we're cheating evolution. Perhaps evolution could come up with many of these modifications (intelligence/less drowsiness) naturally.

    Heck, it's only a theory, and would be impossible to enforce in reality, but if nobody say... showered, shaved or brushed their teeth, I bet evolution would eventually bias towards those who were naturally less smelly, or clean-shaven looking. Thus saving everyone half an hour per day or whatever in the future.

    • by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:21PM (#27724241)

      "While I am not against the use of such drugs because of safety reasons per se, to me, it feels like we're cheating evolution. Perhaps evolution could come up with many of these modifications (intelligence/less drowsiness) naturally."

      Sigh... why do people keep thinking that things are "unnatural" technically everything we do is NATURAL by definition, value judgements that x is good and y is bad because it is not 'natural' is cultural thing not ab objective truth.

      If we were really so concerned about "cheating evolution" we would not save the sick, we would not have hospitals that keep people who are "wasting resources" on life support for x many years, we would let diseases run their course and not have anti-biotics or drugs, only our natural immune systems to deal with sickness.

      The whole idea that we are "cheating evolution" or doming something "unnatural" is bogus, psychologically generated bullshit that we inherit from the culture and our proclivities.

      IS playing video games natural?? or inventing computers? What about programming? What about making machines that do work for you so you no longer have to work at hard labour which kept your muscles in shape?

      This whole obsession with an unreal version of nature that never was in our cultural mythos is the culprit.

      • by Twinbee (767046)

        [quote]IS playing video games natural?? or inventing computers? What about programming?[/quote]
        I enjoy doing those things. I don't enjoy 'wasting' time brushing my teeth for the 5723rd time.

        As for the sick, well that's going to be a touchy subject, but one has to try and balance the advantage to evolution with the degree of pain suffered by said person and family related to them. I can't discount the possibility that most/much health treatment would be a thing of the past in 500-5000 years though if nobody

        • by Moridin42 (219670)

          There was nothing said about anyone's ability to enjoy (or not) an "unnatural" activity. Completely beside the point. Either they're cheating evolution, or they are inherently part of it. It may be possible that doing away with medical science would improve the health of those that survive and their descendants. I imagine an organized eugenics program would do lots to reduce and possibly eliminate many genetic conditions, while simultaneously improving mental and physical ability. But humankind hasn't evolv

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Except that it didn't favor those people before 100-200 years ago. It seems there's an advantage to being hairy and smelling strongly of pheromones.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bnenning (58349)

      it feels like we're cheating evolution

      Yes, and that's a good thing. Unless you want nearsighted people to be eaten by bears.

      Perhaps evolution could come up with many of these modifications (intelligence/less drowsiness) naturally.

      Quite possibly, but I'd rather have them in 20 years instead of 200 million.

      • Th first thing I thought of when I read that was "Bear City" from SNL.
        "There were 2 people left but they were quickly eaten by the bears.

    • by Wheat (20250) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @08:16PM (#27725011) Homepage Journal

      The toothbrush has only been in widespread use for the last few hundered years, so evolution has already had it's chance to do what it could with humans who didn't brush.

      You can't "evolve" past the basic fact that your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, and that as that bacteria piles up and dies it's going to create unsightly, disgusting plaque. Well, maybe if humans grew stainless steel teeth -- but that'd be quite the stretch in evolution, since we'd need some kind of organ to act as a smelting and refining and we'd need to digest lots of raw ore ...

      Humans have done quite well without the toothbrush in terms of dentistry. Weston Price's work well documented that primitive people's had very low incidences of tooth decay and other dental problems when subsiting on a native diet, and how members of those same cultures who had transitioned to a western diet had much, much higher incidences of tooth decay.

      • by Twinbee (767046)

        That's interesting.

        Perhaps with out 'latest diet' though, I would argue that evolution could take place again. We've managed okay in the past because our diet was different then.

        I imagine that it may be possible to overcome all the bacteria inside our mouth if our body's defences are sophisticated enough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Geekbot (641878)

      I feel more like this is society cheating humanity.

      I don't know where the line falls, but there is a line where what we do is productive and healthy. On the other side of that line we may be productive, but we are not healthy. I don't believe that a society with so many people out of work is really in need of a work force that pops pills to be more productive.

      Humanity is plenty productive already and needs more downtime to devote to the arts, culture, civil liberties, families, and other outlets that enrich

  • by Pedrito (94783) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:14PM (#27724187) Homepage

    I don't really see anything wrong with this, as long as the drugs aren't over-used to the point where health is compromised.

    I took Ritalin for a while. It was effective for a number of months and really helped me to focus, but it did cost me a great deal in terms of creativity, which is something I depend on more than I realized before taking Ritalin.

    Eventually the Ritalin stopped working and my choice was between raising the dose (and probably having to boost my blood pressure meds concurrently), or quit. I chose to quit since I was missing my creativity.

    While I understand the concern of doctors from the "if it ain't broke" camp, most doctor are happy enough to start throwing Paxil, Prozac and other SSRIs at people at the first hint of anxiety or depression, without even a hint of trying to address the real problem (whatever is causing the anxiety or depression). Why should they be so skittish about giving drugs to make people focus better and otherwise improve the quality of their lives?

    • I find this interesting because I do not notice a change in my creativity. I was thinking perhaps my definition of creativity is different; would you mind expanding on what you considered "your creativity?" Mine refers to both creative works, like writing stories, 3D modeling, as well as developing alternate, better or otherwise different means of accomplishing tasks, such as how to go about implementing a simple physics simulation.
  • Reinvented wheel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anonum (1057442) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:15PM (#27724191)

    AFAIK amphetamines were popular already in WW2 among soldiers being able to stay sharp extended periods (weeks or so), in 1960's truck drivers and students did it for the same purpose. This is really nothing new, just amphetamines renamed. The extremely addictive nature of amphetamines will create once again another generation of drug addicts from unsuspecting students who fall for the hype.

  • by wjwlsn (94460) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:15PM (#27724193) Journal

    Many people are taking smart drugs now -- solely for advantage, without prescribed a medical need -- but in most fields, I don't think it's to the point that *not* taking them is a disadvantage, yet. I admit to a certain amount of interest in nootropic drugs, especially those that could help me hyperfocus. However, I've limited myself to vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, with a primary goal of maintaining long-term brain health.

    I've seen too many retirees and seniors slide away into fuzziness, dementia, or worse. On the other hand, I've seen a few that remained sharp as tacks into their 80s and 90s. There are some pretty clear differences between the lifestyles of these two groups. I've tried to learn something from those differences.

    I'm turning 40 this year, which is about when most people say they start to feel age-related decline. I want a healthy, well-functioning brain for now and the future. So, I pay a lot more attention to my nutrition than I used to, have started a regular exercise program, and engage in a few different "brain training" activities on a regular basis. I actually feel many benefits now -- I feel better, I'm happier, and my mind seems a little sharper.

    In addition to the above, I take a prepared "stack" that includes a variety of nutrients and compounds for both mild cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection. I did a lot of research before I picked AOR's Ortho-Mind, which seems pretty well-balanced and reasonably priced. I also take an Omega-3 supplement daily, along with a good multi-vitamin and a "green" drink with a lot of antioxidants and phytonutrients. My monthly investment, dollar-wise, is less than $100. I have friends that spend that amount each month on coffee.

    The big thing here is to be careful in what you choose to take. I chose to focus first on overall brain health, and I'm happy with results so far. Only then did I start adding some mild cognitive enhancers, but even then, I made sure my chosen stack included agents specifically chosen for their neuroprotective properties. If I ever become convinced that any of the various smart drugs make sense from that perspective, then maybe I'll change my strategy... but right now, I think a little conservatism is a good thing.

  • Spectacluar (Score:5, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:23PM (#27724259) Journal

    For once, an article that carries through the excellent understanding of the researchers. They have a very good grasp of the current state of cognition research. I've not seen the balance between focus (under control of executive function) and heuristic (purposefully instigated but unconsciously operating) cognition.

    However, they answer has already been obtained. True nootropics (cognition enhancing drugs) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropics [wikipedia.org] were first created/discovered over 50 years ago. If it weren't for the fact he discovered/created LSD, Albert Hoffmann would have been in line for a Nobel for Hydergine. It, and its many derivatives (the racetams), have been in use for more than half a century. Hoffmann himself credited hydergine for his longetivity (he died not long ago at age 103). These drugs are frequently reclassified, almost invariably downwards, to "possibly effective" in the US, and only recommended for late stage dementias. Elsewhere these drugs are used for all stages of cognitive decline as well as cases such as illustrated by TFA, desire for improved cognitive processing.

    Despite widespread positive results, clinical and real life, in the US the FDA has been dragging its feet on approving these drugs so long that the patents on some are expiring. Their efforts have been so effective that Nobel winner Eric Kandel (major player in describing the dopamine system) announced that he would use his prize money to start a company to create the first nootropic, apparently unaware that he was at the time almost 50 years too late.

    Thanks to the 1989 AIDS law, people in the US can obtain a 90 day supply of any drug approved anywhere in the world, as long as they can get a prescription for it. There are many non-US pharma companies willing to accept such prescriptions and ship the meds. I won't go as far as to suggest their use by others for any particular purpose, but I will state that despite the correlation/caustion problem in a single data point, I credit a 9 month course of hydergine and nootropil with a decade long suspension and even partial reversal in the progress of my Parkinsons. I only have a background in these nootropics as can be obtained by sources not under the influence of the FDA. I do have a professional research background in Parkinsons and other dopaminergic disorders and can find no other reason for such a lengthy remission and reversal of some symptoms beyond the frequent but under-reported medical observation of "inexplicable".

    The use of drugs that force the system into a state of enhanced cognition will always prove futile and usually addictive in some sense. Drugs that promote natural enhancement have already proven effective.

    • Re:Spectacluar (Score:5, Informative)

      by Obyron (615547) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:59PM (#27724567)

      Hear hear. I actually clicked on this thread to post about my experience with hydergine, piracetam + lecithin + choline supplements, 5-HTP, etc. There's no doubt that these drugs are making a big impact for some people, but the results can be spotty. Finding the proper attack dose and then tapering to your needed dose of piracetam can take a little time, unless you're just one of those people it doesn't work for. The main thing with nootropics is taking the time to work out your stack, and figure out what doses work for you. I'm glad you've had such great experiences with hydergine, which is, in my opinion, a wonder drug.

      A less-discussed topic is the use of currently illegal or semi-legal (ie: controlled substance analogue) drugs in a nootropic capacity. MDPV is a (currently) non-controlled stimulant active at the range of just a few milligrams for which I've read great results for nootropic use. Unfortunately it's also prone to abuse, so who knows how it'll last. I had some interesting results for anxiety and depression with low doses of methylenedioxymethcathinone (aka: MDMCat, Methylone, etc.) which is a beta-ketone analogue of MDMA (aka: Ecstasy). I've also read of good results using low (sub-hallucinogenic) doses of LSD and psilocybin for nootropic purposes. And then there are all the synthetic tryptamines-- iprocine, ipracetine, miprocin, psilacetine-- and some of the phenethylamines as well. These are mostly used for recreational purposes, but show promise for therapeutic use at low doses.

      I think we're ultimately doomed on this one unless people wise up and throw off their preconceived notions, though. Even though LSD has proven useful in helping people overcome alcoholism, even though psilocybin has shown promise in helping people who suffer from cluster headaches, and even though MDMA has proven very effective in psychiatric counseling, these drugs are all classified by the US Government in Schedule I as having no recognized medical use.

      The fact is that for every Albert Hoffman or Alexander Shulgin who pushes the boundaries of organic chemistry for the benefit of mankind, there is a Timothy Leary who pushes too far with their creations and ruins everything for people who would use them responsibly. We have been programmed in this country to believe that using a drug to expand your mind is unlawful and without any redeeming medical value. With the puritanical bastards we have running the FDA and the DEA, I'm amazed things like the -racetams and hydergine are even still legal.

      • The anti-drug zealots tend to attack things that cause people to act in a socially-unacceptable manner (slurred speech, giggling without obvious cause, paranoia, excessive reduction of inhibitions, etc.). Something like hydergine tends to produce no obvious results in a normal healthy person, nor does he feel much different. The symptoms of an overdose are headache or upset stomach. It's hard to attack something so benign when there are so many obvious targets available.
  • I call BS (Score:2, Flamebait)

    "Cosmetic neurology"? What's wrong with the existing term for someone who takes Adderall without a prescription: Amphetamine abuser. Take it from someone actually has (quite pronounced) ADD: It doesn't work the same way on someone who doesn't have ADD. Likewise, if I overdose, I don't get the intended effect either. (and the dosage that 'works' best for me is about ~30-60 mg a day. Not really an addictive-level dose. In fact, I have a much harder time holding up on coffee) It's hardly news that someone ta
    • Re:I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Obyron (615547) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @07:08PM (#27724635)

      When you're using a prescription drug without a prescription, that's drug abuse. When you're using a drug in a way its not intended to be used, that's drug abuse.
      Let's not kid ourselves with name games here.

      When you're using a drug in a way it's not intended, that's off-label use. When you're using a drug with a prescription, that's prescribed use. When you're using a drug without a prescription, that's illicit use. It is possible to abuse a drug even with a prescription, and it is possible to use a drug responsibly without one. I have, for example, used benzodiazepines for which I have no prescription to control anxiety. With no health insurance it's easily possible for buying the medicine on the street to be more cost effective than paying for a doctor's appointment, scheduling time off from work to go to the appointment (for which you won't be paid), and then paying outlandish prices for prescriptions, depending on the medication the doctor agrees to give you. And that's not to mention subjecting a person with anxiety to the harrowing process that is convincing your doctor that you need a controlled medication. I now have a prescription for anxiety, but I battled it in my own way for years because the thought of going to a doctor and being subjected to their suspicion was enough to put me into a panic attack. I realize that's irrational, but that's anxiety.

      I'm glad your Adderall works for you, but I'm sorry that you can't accept that there are other people who can also benefit from the medication who, for one reason or another, do not have or want a prescription. It's not like ADD isn't real until a doctor tells you it is. It's worth remembering that drug regulation laws were not enacted because people were abusing drugs, but rather because drug companies were putting out tainted shit that killed people.

  • by rickyb (898092)
    What hasn't yet been brought up in this discussion is the fact that these are all controlled substances, meaning that they are not just prescription drugs, but that their use and prescription by a physician is closely monitored to ensure they they are only given for FDA-approved uses. In fact, Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, which puts in in the same category as Opium, Morphine, Percocet, Hydrocodone, etc. Whatever your position on using these substances is, all of the above uses are not F
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rickyb (898092)
      And I forgot to mention that on February 9, 2006, the FDA voted to include a Black Box warning on all stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD due to the sometimes significant cardiovascular side-effects. In medical ethics, there is a principle of nonmaleficence, or "do no harm." Prescribing these drugs to otherwise healthy individuals would, in my opinion (and the opinions of some very smart individuals at the FDA, including the author of this New England Journal of Medicine article: http://content.nejm.org/cg [nejm.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)
      That's an interesting point that tends to be glossed over ... Provigyl is Category III but the amphetamine derivatives are Category II. One doesn't prescribe these drugs like candy^HProzac. Who the hell is doing this?

      This is a separate argument from whether or not it's a good idea, but from the physician's point of view, it's pretty dangerous to routinely prescribe these for boderline to non existent conditions.
  • ...you knew, that question "Could enhancing one kind of thinking exact a toll on others?" is always answered with "yes". See it as a partially limited resource.

  • by billsf (34378) <<billsf> <at> <cuba.calyx.nl>> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:55PM (#27724539) Homepage Journal

    How can such a helpful class of drugs be so demonised? Pilots, mostly military -- presumably -- have often said it was what got them and their plane home alive. Clearly there is a downside,
    but 15mG of a racemic mix is a very small dose of amphetamine. Its a very common 'programing fluid' which can be borne out by studying some code. No names mentioned, but there are those that smoke pot, drink coffee/Jolt and those that do amphetamines and amphetamine-like drugs or even beer. :)

    If I was stoned, I might have to get stoned to understand what I did, same for 'drunk', wired or jacked up on caffein or any combination. MODERATION is key -- always. I never used stimulants,
    alcohol or pot in university. (college was the reward for not using)

    What's the big deal? I guess its 'still shocking' to the New Yorker types, but used properly, drugs get the job done. Personally I can't type stoned, but I can make written notes. LSD is
    certainly not very smart, but it can in rare moments provide access to 'hidden insights'. Only once did I get a good piece written while tripping that impressed many when published in the
    S.F. Chronicle.

    Finally drugs are best on the short term. Take speed (meth) to kick out those lines of code and meet a deadline. Maybe a week of use is about all its good for? As another reader said: "What's new" and I agree. Smoke a joint to relax when done. :) If you are leaving the wrong impression on
    others: Moderation! Be cool.

    BillSF

  • did you imply that accountants are not creative? You should meet mine. He comes up with crazy stuff to avoid taxes!

  • by ruinevil (852677) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @07:38PM (#27724753)
    Most slashdot.org users including myself have screens that are at least 1280 pixels wide. Even you netbook users have 600 pixels. The New Yorker's website only use like 400 pixels, and leaves the rest to white space. THEY DON'T EVEN USE THE SPACE FOR ADS.
  • breakfast shake (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wheat (20250) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @07:59PM (#27724899) Homepage Journal

    From the article, "For breakfast every morning, he concocted a slurry of oatmeal, berries, soy milk, pomegranate juice, flaxseed, almond meal, raw eggs, and protein powder. The goal behind the recipe was efficiency: to rely on âoeone goop you could eat or drink that would have everything you need nutritionally for your brain and body.â He explained, âoeTaste was the last thing on my mind; I wanted to be able to keep it downâ"that was it.â"

    I started having a nutritionally complete shake for breakfast every morning - and it rocks! But I wouldn't describe it's taste as something that I have trouble keeping down - instead it's very yummy. The recipe I usually use was designed by nutritionist Sam Graci and is:

      * 1 cup of berries (blueberries, blackberries)

      * 2 scoops of high alpha whey protein

      * 1 tbsp high-quality fish oil

      * 1/2 tsp borage oil

      * 2 tbsps flax seeds and 2 tbsps sesame seeds, ground in a coffee grinder

      * 4-6 tbsps plain low-fat organic yogurt

      * 1 cup rice milk or soy milk

    That's the basic recipe, but there are lots of other ingredients you can use to mix it up: hemp protein powder, other fruits (banana, strawberry, kiwi), acai and goji juice, raw eggs.

    The basic idea of the breakfast shake is that your bodies metabolism has started to slow down since you haven't eaten since yesterday evening ... you want to have a nice balance of carbs, protein and fat to get your metabolism back in the game. Nutritionally you also want to have lots of omega 3 fatty acids (flax and fish oil) which promotes healthy brain cells and also foods with high anti-oxidant properties to promote healthy blood (berries). Finally the probiotics in the yogurt promote healthy digestion.

    Combine the breakfast shake with a daily green drink and a healthy diet of lots of veggies and fruits, and you will notice a marked improvement in overall energy and mental functioning -- I estimated that I could crank out 25% more lines of code after a couple months, and overall my code was of markedly better quality. Plus since your overall mood is better I was about 25% less acerbic in conversations with my co-workers :P

  • by bitt3n (941736) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @08:33PM (#27725105)

    I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.

    perhaps preferable to a generation of very creative accountants.

  • by melted (227442) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @09:35PM (#27725461) Homepage

    What I do need is better memory, because the way it is right now, it's pretty much bursting at the seams. I want it to be like it was when I was in my teens. I could read three pages of text once and then recite them pretty much word for word. I felt like I could keep information in my head indefinitely. Complex words (e.g. DNA, NADF, etc.), formulas, numbers, War & Peace - it was all effortless.

    A little less than two decades later, I don't remember what I ate in the morning. I would gladly pay 5-10% of my substantial income every year (I hope someone from Big Pharma is reading this) to get my memory back.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:39AM (#27729875)
    Seriously, when steroids were discovered, people were saying that in the future athletes and others who needed a boost to physical prowess would take steroids. It turns out that the side effects of steroids are serious enough that in the long term the boost to downside is greater than the temporary boost unless one has a diagnosed physical ailment (even with the improvements to reduce side effects).
    As to drugs which improve mental performance, people have been trying from time immemorial to find such, look up Freud and cocaine.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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