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Is Non-Prescription ADHD Medication Use Ever Ethical? 487

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the there-go-your-tour-de-college-titles dept.
derekmead writes "College students' voracious appetite for study drugs like Adderall is widespread enough that it was one of the main topics of a marquee lecture on neuroethics at Society for Neuroscience's 2012 conference called 'The Impact of Neuroscience on Society: The Neuroethics of "Smart Drugs."' It was excellent stuff by Barbara Sahakian, faculty at Department of Psychicatry at the University of Cambridge. Her focus is on prescription drugs for diseases and conditions like Alzheimer's, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression, with the fundamental goal of understanding the neural basis of dysfunction to develop better drugs. Specifically, she wants to create drugs with no risk for substance abuse which means drugs that have no effect on dopamine. The true goal then of her research, fundamentally and briefly, is to repair the impaired. But doing so brings us to the discussion of how much repair is ethical when the repair can be disseminated to people who don't actually need it. Divisions abound on what is to be done. Some experts say that if people can boost their abilities to make up for what mother nature didn't give them, what's wrong with that? Others say that people shouldn't be using these drugs because they're designed for people with serious problems who really need help. So another question for the ethicists is whether cognitive enhancers will ultimately level the playing field or juice the opposing team."
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Is Non-Prescription ADHD Medication Use Ever Ethical?

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  • by styrotech (136124) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:16AM (#41737321)

    Some experts say that if people can boost their abilities to make up for what mother nature didn't give them, what's wrong with that?

    Just like steroids in sports right?

    • by plover (150551) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:59AM (#41737657) Homepage Journal

      No, it's not nearly the same thing as steroids in sports today. Steroids are used to gain an advantage in an playing field kept as level as possible through external rules and a large suite of referees watching every move, in order to maximize the entertainment value. But this is about life, where the playing field is never level, the rules are far more vague, and enforcement all but non-existent.

      In school, the idea is that these drugs improve your grades. But that might mean you remember "more", or somehow end up "smarter" than you would have otherwise. You might go be a more productive member of society. What if these drugs make the difference, enhancing someone enough to recognize a novel cure for some horrible disease, or design a new class of CPUs, or a new energy source?

      Many of us spend our livelihoods trying to enhance human knowledge and experience and abilities through improved software. Hell, half of us would sign up today for an internet implant chip. What's wrong with improving the wetware directly?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'd be probably be flipping burgers if it weren't for unpresecribed Adderall.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:44AM (#41737953)
          Now you are assistant manager?
      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @02:42AM (#41738245)

        What's wrong with improving the wetware directly?

        Your brain isn't a computer. You can't just upgrade the processor and it works 20% faster from that point on, but otherwise does the exact same stuff. Anytime you tweak something in a brain, any brain, you're making a tradeoff. You're getting one thing by giving up another. Millions of years of evolution have figured out the most efficient way to balance survival, intelligence, and metabolic conservation. You start tweaking that on your own, and while you might get something you want, and may not notice a downside right away -- eventually, one will become apparent. And it could be irreversible.

        There was a drug used to treat anxiety a number of years ago... and it's still on the market... and some patients who were taking it had their symptoms re-appear (shaking, nervous facial tics, etc.)... so the doctors thought the underlying pathology had worsened and increased the dose. And this went on for several years -- the dose levels creeping slowly upwards to combat the apparently chronic and worsening underlying disease. And then one day, someone noticed a correlation: For this subset of patients, the drug was simultaniously the cause of, and the cure for, muscle twitching. And when the patients were taken off the drug, the symptoms were unbearable to watch... they'd flop about like a fish out of water. As it turns out, the drug turned what had been a mild problem into a permanent and severe neurological condition.

        So the next time you get the notion in your head that tweaking your brain with chemicals, wires, magnets, or whatever else you happen to read about: Remember the law of unintended consequences. In biology, there is always a price to pay. Every evolutionary step is a tradeoff. Every. Single. One.

        • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @03:14AM (#41738371) Journal

          Millions of years of evolution have figured out the most efficient way to balance survival, intelligence, and metabolic conservation.

          True but the environment that they have optimised us for is the one that we were in during the Stone Age. Evolution is great at optimising but very slow to adapt to changes which is why we are so successful as a species: our intelligence lets us adapt far faster than evolution.
          That being said, while I have no objection in principle to intelligence enhancing medication, in reality the problem is that while the short term effects can be easily determined the long term effects are far harder to figure out. So, just like sport, you do not want to end up with people being forced to take drugs to compete which may have deleterious long term effects.

        • by bickerdyke (670000) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @03:28AM (#41738435)

          What's wrong with improving the wetware directly?

          Your brain isn't a computer. You can't just upgrade the processor and it works 20% faster from that point on, but otherwise does the exact same stuff.

          Why not stick with that analogy... Your brain is the CPU that's soldered into the iPhone of your body. if it's damaged, you wasted your body and live. You may be able to overclock it by 20% with drugs - but did you remember to improve the cooling by... well.. how many percent is save? You only have one try.

          • it the problem of high performance always has a price. Okay so you used Thinkrin(TM) to boost your brain by 20% so now what??

            Where is the 20% going to come from??

            Look at Every Single Star in various Fields and then count the number of them that

            1 Did not die either well or of Old Age
            2 are severely CRACKED
            3 have bodies that are a wreck (for Fields that include a lot of Physical Stuff)
            4 landed up adding their pharmacists to the Christmas list just because DAH DRUGS became very important

            sure overclock your brai

        • by Lando (9348) <lando2+slash@g m a il.com> on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @03:48AM (#41738543) Homepage Journal

          Sorry but what?
                As far as I know brain workings are still experimental, but you are saying that there always has to be a negative along with a positive. That somehow doesn't sound correct, in fact it sounds more like intelligent design than evolution. Evolution isn't smart, it just randomly affects things, some things work, some don't it doesn't have a mind to "balance" anything. Saying that there has to be a trade off for getting the mind to operate better, is the same as saying, we shouldn't cure cancer because people will just die of something else. Or even, we shouldn't educate people because we will suppress their own natural intelligence.

          As to the main article, personally I couldn't care less if others are able to make themselves smarter, having more people smarter than me would be a boon. I assume the article is trying to say that norms shouldn't be taking drugs because it gives them an unfair advantage, but I would think the only people that would care about that are those that want to compete with others and probably unfairly. I don't care if John is smarter than me, if he is more productive, doesn't that help me in the long run?

          • by chthon (580889)

            You should read up on control theory. Brains form a whole lot of feedback loops. One of the things in feedback loops is that when the amplification is increased, unstability issues pop up.

        • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:34AM (#41738747)

          Millions of years of evolution have figured out the most efficient way to balance survival, intelligence, and metabolic conservation.

          It's just not the case that evolution always leads to an optimal design. Evolution has a tendency to get stuck on "pretty good" solutions because some random decision early on limited the future solution space.

          It's also not true that evolution is somehow finished with humans, having already figured out how to squeeze every ounce of efficiency from our brains. We are not the end product of evolution. For all we know, future generations may have more efficient brains than we have.

        • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:29AM (#41740647)

          Millions of years of evolution have figured out the most efficient way to balance survival, intelligence, and metabolic conservation

          Except that we do not live in jungles, where we needed to be able to very quickly divert our attention from creating termite-harvesting tools to running away from a predator. In today's world, we need to be able to focus on a single task for extended periods of time; in other words, we need (or we are expected) to do things that we did not evolve to do.

          You start tweaking that on your own, and while you might get something you want, and may not notice a downside right away -- eventually, one will become apparent. And it could be irreversible.

          Amphetamine is a well-studied drug, having been used and observed for many generations now (it was, in fact, first synthesized more than a century ago). In large doses, all drugs in the amphetamine family (including the constituents of Adderall) can cause brain damage. In therapeutic doses (~10mg Adderall), however, brain damage is not known to occur (if this sounds like a shocking concept -- that high doses cause brain damage and low doses are safe -- then perhaps you should think about the different between drinking a single beer and dying of alcohol poisoning).

          So the next time you get the notion in your head that tweaking your brain with chemicals

          You will probably get this notion while walking past Starbucks. Why pretend that pharmaceuticals are the only drugs that can improve your cognitive performance? Caffeine and nicotine are also used to improve productivity, both are available OTC, and both can be home-grown.

          Every evolutionary step is a tradeoff. Every. Single. One.

          People use drugs to overcome those tradeoffs. You feel pain when a scalpel cuts your flesh, because that is what your body evolved to do; that's why anesthetics are used. Do you think that people should just bite down on a piece of wood during surgery?

        • This is plausible sounding nonsense. Evolution does not mean we're at the absolute pinnacle of anything, or on some pareto frontier. It's entirely possible, if not likely, if not darned near certain that we're not considering the evolutionary pressures that created us operated largely on us in an environment that doesn't exist anymore. Bear in mind, evolution doesn't care if you're happy, if you live a long time, or if you're a productive member of society. Evolution cares if you produce more copies of

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        There are two issues with allowing performance enhancing drug use in education.

        Not everyone can afford it. Are we going to help those who can't out by subsidising their medication? The argument could be made that having a poor memory or being a slow learner is a medical condition that merits treatment. Generally speaking we try to make the playing field fair for everyone at school, giving them all an equal opportunity.

        The other problem is that it will create two classes of student: those who dope and those

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by getuid() (1305889)

        Many of us spend our livelihoods trying to enhance human knowledge and experience and abilities through improved software. Hell, half of us would sign up today for an internet implant chip. What's wrong with improving the wetware directly?

        The rules are different, but the problems are the same as in sports with steroids. They start to arise when us others, who for various reasons don't want sign up for "improving the wetware directly", don't have any possibility of leaving normal lives anymore. You want super-powers. That's fine. But first move our society away from competitive living to just living. Take away the "winner takes it all" mentality, so you can have your drugs while I won't have mine.

        Why? Because "winning" defined as who's better

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @06:39AM (#41739313)
        The problem with steroids in sports is not that is gives some people a competitive advantage over those who don't use them. The problem with steroids in sports is that there are negative consequences to using them. The same is true here. There is only a problem with people using these cognitive enhancers if there is a long term negative side effect. Steroids are used in medicine in cases where the short-term benefits to health outweigh the long term negative consequences (which are generally relatively minimal since they are only used for short periods of time).
    • by TBBle (72184)

      The difference presumably being that in sport, you're playing within a specific and arbitrary set of limitations, one of which is currently held to be a limitation on artificial enhancement. Same as you're not allowed to to trip your competitors up in a foot-race.

      If you're actually doing stuff where you're not being measured in some sort of specific playing field or situation, why not be able to do what its necessary (and non-harmful) to do that as well as possible.

      I'm not required to listen to the same mus

      • by plover (150551)

        Why add the "non-harmful" qualifier to your list? Does it really devalue society as a whole if you voluntarily undergo a "Flowers for Algernon" enhancement like Charlie?

        If someone could take a pill that they knew would enable them to develop the cure for breast cancer, but also knew it would kill them in a month, don't you think we'd have had thousands of volunteers already?

        Or what if I cut off my perfectly good left arm and had a titanium cyber-arm implanted instead? Is that harmful or non-harmful?

        • I just assumed he meant not harming 3rd parties.

          That said, it does get tricky with self-harmful things that could potentially become so prevalent that they are essentially required. That sort of situation is what sparked the early labour movements.

    • Sport are pretty much competitive by definition. There are personal goals and improvements, but the core concern is whether one person or group is better or worse than another person or group. Wins and Losses are zero sum. Having more or more capable doctors, engineers, and scientists doesn't entail a loss, so the concerns are very different. If those same people will have shorter lifetimes or careers because of these drugs or other adverse effects, then there is a need for a balancing act. However, th
      • by Artifakt (700173)

        The zero sum vrs positive sum outcome certainly makes a difference ethically. I'd add a few other differences between sports and 'real life' to the list.
        1. It is possible to enforce a rule such as no doping in sports - organizations exist which have legal power to compel testing. What's the organization that could compel testing in all colleges worldwide, or similarly level the playing field? For example, if some organization were created in the US with the goal of testing all college students, is there any

      • by mdfst13 (664665)

        There's also the problem that we may not know all the side effects. For example, amphetamines in general cause an increase in heart rate. For that reason, Adderall is not recommended for someone who has cardiac issues. Could long term use of Adderall (past high school and college) cause cardiac issues? We simply don't know. If you take Adderall for twenty years and then have to stop, is your mental acuity going to be degraded relative to what it would have been if you had never taken Adderall? Again,

    • by i (8254)

      More like money as everywhere else in the society - with the difference that this is availible to more people.

  • in the short term, it gives you superpowers. in the long term, it turns you into a soulless ghoul

    that's right, i just said the lord of the rings is a parable about drug addiction

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:42AM (#41737529) Journal
      Except when they are not. Responsible use of psychotropic is not unheard of. See coffee and see alcohol. Two abusable substances but that can be used responsibly.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Long term studies of children perscribed stimulant medication shows two things
        1. Through their teens, they're less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol compared to their peers
        2. As adults, their rates of drug/alcohol abuse are neither higher nor lower than is normal for their age group.

        /Caffeine might as well be apple juice compared to amphetamines

    • by proca (2678743) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:10AM (#41737739)
      Me take adderall long time. I not soulless ghoul
    • in the short term, it gives you superpowers. in the long term, it turns you into a soulless ghoul

      that's right, i just said the lord of the rings is a parable about drug addiction

      So then you are saying that the drugs will lead to a life in politics?

      • in the short term, it gives you superpowers. in the long term, it turns you into a soulless ghoul

        that's right, i just said the lord of the rings is a parable about drug addiction

        So then you are saying that the drugs will lead to a life in politics?

        So then you are saying that the drugs will lead to a life in politics?

        Only if you don't inhale!

        • So then you are saying that the drugs will lead to a life in politics?

          Only if you don't inhale!

          Maybe if he had taken study drugs, he would have remembered that he did inhale . . . ?

          . . . and better understand what the word sex means . . . ?

  • or, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:19AM (#41737349) Journal
    it's just another way for the pharmaceutical industry to remove money from your wallet. Perhaps ADHD is just a reasonable and rational response to a completely insane world of hyper-focus. Perhaps we should all be chasing buffalo and living in tipis because, it's better. Maybe depression is a correct response to a world gone mad - a civilisation hell bent of murdering the biosphere. Maybe mental health, isn't.
    • by cplusplus (782679)
      Your comment is quite interesting to think about.
    • Re:or, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dasuraga (1147871) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:27AM (#41737839)
      As someone who has had to deal with ADD for his entire life , I can assure you that it is not just a pharmaceutical ploy. I can barely write this sentence , and I have already been distracted three times. When I was in middle school, I was prescribed Adderall to deal with my ADD, and my concentration capabilities shot up immensely (going from 90 minutes to do math homework to 10). In high school I stopped taking it, and forgot mainly about it ( I moved to a different country at the time, and was having problems with the language and culture).

      Now in the "real" world, I realise how handicapping this affliction is, where I'll take an hour to write a 2-sentence e-mail, and where I can't read through a research paper without taking a break every 2 minutes. Unfourtunately I now live in a country where Adderall is illegal, and the country I lived in before doesn't recognize ADD/ADHD in adults. There are people with worse problems, but it's still extremely frustrating to have the attention span of a goldfish.

      As an aside, the best way I've found to deal with the problem is to say things out loud as I do them, I think that somehow the speech centers of the brain help with concentration (though I still tune out quite frequently in conversations). I'm less than comfortable about doing that with my coworkers though.
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @02:20AM (#41738141) Homepage Journal
      I know this is /. where saying "pharma evil!" automatically gets you mod points, but do you seriously have any fucking clue what you are talking about, or are you being self-righteous to be self-righteous? Many of the drugs available for ADD are available in generic form(including the Adderall mentioned in TFA) meaning that the amount of money the pharmaceutical industry makes off of it isn't nearly as big as you make it out to be. The drug I take costs less than $1/day, company that makes it probably only makes 10 cents on it, probably even less. So your big conspiracy is that someone is plotting to steal $30 a year from me?

      Sorry, I forgot, this is /., "EVERYONE IS EVIL BUT ME, I AM THE ONLY ONE THAT MAKES MONEY IN A MORAL FASHION, BOW BEFORE MY SUPERIORITY!"
  • Mandatory drug tests for every single college student in America!
    /sarcasm

    • by Zuriel (1760072) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:34AM (#41737443)

      We employ people for industry. Welders, electricians, mechanics, etc. to build or repair mining machinery, among other things. Some work sites do mandatory drug testing.

      You wouldn't believe the number of people who back right off when they hear about that. "Would you pass a drug test?" "Oh... I think I'll give that job a miss."

      Or, "I don't know, maybe." "Well, are you a regular user?" "Is two or three times a day regular?"

      We once had an employee get drug tested and the testers called the test machine's manufacturer because they thought it was broken.

      He returned positive results to everything.

      Meandering back towards the actual topic: screw smart drugs, it's 2012, where's my neural implants?

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @02:11AM (#41738103)

        "We employ people for industry. Welders, electricians, mechanics, etc. to build or repair mining machinery, among other things. Some work sites do mandatory drug testing."

        I can understand it if you are operating heavy or otherwise dangerous machinery, or you're a bus driver or something. But other jobs? I mean, you have companies out there insisting on pre-employment testing for grocery store boxboys and people who wash and stock produce, or do laundry! And in the computer business? Forget it.

        I vowed long ago that I would never take again take a pre-employment drug screening, or agree to random testing. I am sick and tired of this "guilty until proven innocent" bullshit. If I worked for a company and they had GOOD REASON to suspect that I was taking illegal drugs on the job, that would be one thing. But treat me like I'm guilty without any reason or evidence? Hell, no!

        And yes, I have passed up several jobs because of this.

        I have made one exception since then, but only because the employer convinced me that the parent corporation left them no choice in the matter. Even then I was reluctant.

        There is one other exception I am willing to consider. In an office setting, if ANYBODY is going to screw things up by making a drug-addled decision, it's far more likely to be a manager or corporate officer than some clerk or programmer. So my policy is: if the managers will piss in a cup and show me the results (or show me recent past results), I will do the same.

        I think that's very fair.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by maudface (1313935)

        That's not always why.

        I could pass a drug test easy, nothing I do stays in my system longer than 2-3 days, I don't smoke cannabis and never have. I do however take great issue with any employer wanting access to my urine, it's a step into my personal life I'm unwilling to allow them to take.

        I can see the logic for testing where you'll be responsible for other peoples lives, but it's not like they ban you from drinking is it? It's inconsistent.

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:22AM (#41737365)

    I can't imagine a world where perfectly healthy people feel the need to take addictive stimulants just to help them focus throughout the day.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Starbucks.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      This discussion and your post make me think back to my teen years in the mid-90's. More specifically my memories of talking to sysadmins and developers who were working back then and the levels of stress and pressure they had compared to what these jobs are like today.

      Now, I don't doubt there were plenty of stressful sysadmin jobs back in 1996 or that there weren't a lot of employers keeping track of when their sysadmins arrived for work in the morning back then but it definitely seems to me that back then

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @02:26AM (#41738175)

      I can't imagine a world where perfectly healthy people feel the need to take addictive stimulants just to help them focus throughout the day.

      You joke, but it's a serious problem. We have the fewest number of vacation days of any industrialized country, poor health care, and many of our poorer citizens work north of 50 hour work-weeks, some with two jobs, others balancing college and a full-time job (and still wind up hundreds of thousands in debt from student loans). We are literally working ourselves to death -- obesity rates are skyrocketing, and the average person consumes 2.25 cans of soda per day. Frankly, it's worse for you than smoking -- each of those cans is 130 calories, and then it amps your metabolism and simultaniously acts as a dieretic so your appetite increases. I read something about how the average American consumes something like 2,800 calories per day. My weight and build puts my daily consumption at around 1,500 calories a day... which means the average person consumes 86% more food than I do. And we pack in the stimulants, along with the pounds. Then to top it off, we don't get enough sleep because of our LCD screens, 26 hours of TV a week... our lifestyles are killing us.

      Now, I have severe ADHD. I've been tested repeatedly by neuropsychologists, and there is no question I have it. I have to take it just to keep pace with this "Type A with rabies" culture I live in, and it isn't easy. The side effects aren't terribly pleasant either -- shaking, insomnia, anxiety... I can't understand why someone would want to deal with these effects unless they had to. People, strong stimulants aren't fun. They will give you energy, but at a cost -- the candle that burns twice as fast burns half as long. I have to take it, and it's expensive. And I don't take it on the weekends, or vacation, etc. I take as little as I can functionally get away with.

      Please guys, I'm telling this to you as someone with the attention span of -- oh look, a kitty -- life is too short. Don't take medication you don't need. Please. It isn't worth it. You're young, and stupid, and your body can tolerate it now... but you're wearing it out faster, and it's for stupid silly shit that twenty years from now, you won't care about. Stop being obedient slaves and putting in 60 hour work weeks. Stop working yourself into an early grave. Go out, see friends, see family. Leave work in the office... don't take it home.

      Drugs without side effects are like unicorns -- they don't exist. They all have risks. I have a cousin right now who's a pain pill junkie. They were prescribed by her doctor. She was told they were safe, and the addiction crept up on her slowly. Now, she's on parole for five years after getting so doped up she didn't know her head from her ass -- all on legally prescribed drugs at the doses prescribed by competent physicians -- and she did something stupid. And the thing is, she got out and went right back to doing it. Stimulants do the same thing to some people -- everyone has their drug of choice. Everyone. Not everyone has found it yet.

      Now I'm not against recreational drugs; It's your choice. And if tomorrow they decided to hand out bottles of Adderall and Ritalin next to the aspirin, I wouldn't complain. It's your life, it's your body, it's your choice. But please people, think. Think long and hard about whether finishing that TPS report is really worth the extra minutes off your life, the high blood pressure, the sleepless nights, and the cold sweat when you're so amped you feel like there's a strange presence in the room with you, watching. Just ask yourself that. Choose well.

  • If an ADHD drug is used to enhance studying abilities, but is managed by a competent physician, then that can be acceptable. On the other hand, if someone is purchasing it off the street - possibly depriving someone of their needed prescription or purchasing a questionable product - then the danger is significant.
    • by slew (2918)

      So, according to you somehow purchasing adderall off the street is "possibly depriving someone of their needed prescription"...
      Q: When has purchasing prescription drugs off the street ever made this statement true?

      Also, your plan seems to only make it available for people rich enough to afford to buy off a physician to manage it. Basically if you are too poor to afford it, you get left in the dust. A modern day quaint extension of the idea that only rich kids get to go to college...

  • The Measure of a Man (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:27AM (#41737401)

    Lt. Commander Data: Sir, Lieutenant La Forge's eyes are far superior to human biological eyes, true?
    Capt. Picard: M-hm.
    Lt. Commander Data: Then why are not all human officers required to have their eyes replaced with cybernetic implants?

  • Addictive and dangerous substances such as those found in more powerful ADHD medicines should not be ethically given out to those who do not require it. It is dangerous and may contribute to widespread misuse and abuse.

    Safer forms of mind-enhancing chemicals, like caffeine, may be ethically used. Additional therapies like electrostimulation may also be used to increase brain performance. Learning to make our minds work better is not a bad thing, but creating a society where one is forced to play with a d

  • Of course (Score:3, Interesting)

    by guises (2423402) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:38AM (#41737487)
    The only way you could see these drugs as unethical is if you look at life and learning as a game - if someone learns more than you on the down-low that's cheating, life should be a struggle, etc. Obviously people with rich parents should be banned from the competition.

    For those who haven't tried it: adderall is a much smoother stimulant than caffeine. The effect is similar, but without the crash. Hands down better for productivity, just more expensive thanks to prohibition.
    • by slew (2918)

      Hopefully, for you and many other folks, we won't discover some day that Adderall has an unforseen side effect (say like that miracle diet drug Fen-Phen)... As I understand it, Adderall basically a stimulant that works similarly to meth and coke in the body and (like Fen-Phen) has a potential for causing cardiac problems.

      • by guises (2423402)
        Adderall is an amphetamine just like meth (methamphetamine). I wrote a whole thing about how the methyl group doesn't change the way the drug functions, just the rate at which it's absorbed, but Wikipedia says I'm wrong. Oh well. The short is: of course there are some negative side effects, all stimulants have the potential to cause cardiac problems, but it's pretty unlikely that new ones are going to show up. Unlike Fen-Phen, amphetamines have been around for a long time and very thoroughly studied.
  • Although, it is a roundabout thing, I use coffee to focus.

  • If we are truly capable of "better" or "super" abilities but with the aid of some kind of drug, stimulant or other substance... basically aren't we just harnessing something we already "have" but is not finely tuned or inaccessible? In the mechanical world this is done all the time - engineers scour all the possible ways to make a race car, an airplane, a piece of factory machinery more efficient. Humanity is looking for solutions to LOTS of complicated things. Why can't we make OURSELVES more efficient?

    The

    • by kryzx (178628) *

      Exactly. We try to improve ourselves in countless other ways. Diet, exercise, sunscreen, makeup, plastic surgery, moisturizer, viagra, propecia, yoga, and on and on. To me that's not even a question. We can and should improve ourselves.

      Now the questions that remain are
      What are the benefits? What are the side effects, short and long term? What is the tradeoff?
      Are there broad public health concerns, like addiction?
      What is the cost - and is this going to deepen class inequality?

      From my perspective, the gov

    • by Meeni (1815694)

      You are posing half the questions, so you get the wrong conclusion. I'm not going to propose a conclusion, as there are none that fit all cases.

      Should we do anything to get better ? If it has no adverse consequence, why not? The problem is that it has, more than often, consequences. Those athletes on steroid die young for a reason. L. Armstrong got a specific kind of cancer when he was still very young, he was lucky to survive it, but it is typical of a substance abuse induced cancer. Assuming that he did t

    • "The bigger question to me is why aren't we naturally that well tuned, why do we have to take a drug to make ourselves more focused, better working, harder working?"

      Because evolution is S -- L -- O -- W.

      Humans are already among the hardest working of mammals (bet you didn't know that). A human being can do more work ("work" as defined in physics) over a long period of time, per kilogram of body mass, than almost any other animal known.

      We already probably have among the longest, if not the longest, attention spans.

      I mean really... what do you want? It would take thousand of years, perhaps more, before those things improved significantly, left up to Mother Natur

  • by greywire (78262) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:57AM (#41737641) Homepage

    I, for one, welcome our Non-Prescription ADHD Medication User overlords.

    But seriously. If I can ingest something that's going to improve my mind in some way without side effects, or with known side that I can manage, I'm sure as hell going to do it.

    Almost all of us already do it and have been doing it for a very long time. Coffee. Aspirin (its much easier to think without a headache..). Ginseng. And probably a hundred other naturally occurring things. Even vitamins count. I personally feel I've even gotten benefits from LSD and Marijuana. If some current or future compound can improve my memory, my thinking speed, or reduce the amount of sleep I need, I'm all over it.

    Now pardon me while I suck down a still legal monster energy drink and work all night long..

  • If you think Lance Armstrong, Keith Richards and Ben Johnson are forming a super team to take on the alien Chitauri and all they need is a super intellect to round out the team, I can't see it as unethical.
  • See: The Uplift Series [wikipedia.org].

    If drugs and/or surgical modification was both safe and effective? Sign me up. I'd love to sit down with a C++11 book, flip through the pages fast in half an hour and then be an expert programmer. Spare me the - admit it - religiously inspired dogma. I want to be better, stronger, faster, and while I'm at it please remove that bummer of a failure condition called "death" too.
  • by proca (2678743) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:08AM (#41737717)
    In high school, I had my own web development company and was an accomplished, award-winning saxophone player but I struggled getting the grades I should have been able to get for a reason that I couldn't understand. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 10th grade and set upon a journey involving virtually every drug recommended for the disorder. I settled upon Adderall and have been taking it ever since. Reading through the comments on this page, I find it amusing that everyone seems to have such a black and white opinion on the subject. I, on the other hand, really don't know what to think.

    Studies show that nothing is more effective at treating ADHD than stimulants and cognitive therapy does virtually nothing without drugs. Furthermore, people who control their ADHD with medication are FAR more likely to avoid substance abuse than if they leave their condition untreated. I'm sure everyone knows a really smart kid in high school who smoked their life away on weed and never made anything of themselves. I know that I personally would have probably gone this route, as I was already heading in that direction. Finally, stimulants like Adderall haven't been shown to have any real long term health consequences and (contrary to popular belief) are not particularly addictive if taken as directed.

    Anyone who has been to college in the past decade can tell you that Adderall can certainly help you cram for tests. Does that mean it gives them an advantage? I really don't think so. I've crammed for a lot of tests, and unless you're a business or mass communication major, you are not going to get an A by cramming. Try cramming a month's worth of organic chemistry in one night with some Adderall. You'll probably pass, but you definitely aren't getting an A. People get A's on tests by keeping up with the work. Not to mention the horrific day you have after cramming all night on speed. The biggest advantage I saw with Adderall was playing Quake 3, and even then there were people a lot better than me that used nothing but Mountain Dew.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I think that people are overestimating the power of stimulants. Their biggest advantage is that you can stay up later, but if you don't take the drug regularly, you will also not be able to get to sleep. You'll also not eat enough and will probably have issues with sexual dysfunction. If that sounds like an unfair advantage to you, I don't know what to tell you.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:13AM (#41737753)

    Was anyone harmed or endangered? Assuming the answer is no, then the question is: if self-improvement is unethical, then what are ethics good for?

    If ethics are good, then harmless self-improvement can't be unethical. If ethics are neither good nor bad, but just a set of valueless rules or tenets, then the question can only answered by the ethical standard's author. And there's no evident reason anyone else should care one way or the other.

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:43AM (#41737937) Homepage

    What's the definition of "impaired"? I have always had a terrible memory. In college, I would study the material when it was taught. When the tests came around, I had to basically re-learn the material from scratch. And re-learn it again for the final exam. While I was a top student, I looked on with amazement when other students could retain stuff after learning it the first time. Is a lousy memory an impairment? I don't know, but I would certainly have been ecstatic to be able to swallow a safe, non-addictive pill and get a decent memory.

    Let's set any PC idiocy aside. If one can avoid addiction and side-effects, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enhancing people's cognitive abilities. Why should there be?

  • by drolli (522659)

    career and success are about etics? Sounds funny, given the amount of books out there which advise you how to do things close to lying and selling youself as somebody who you arent, books how manipulate your co-workers, etc.

    No career and success are always about what you are willing to do, and what personal consequences you are willing to accept

  • Hey, sometimes I'm asked to teach ethics at a largish public university. I wouldn't call myself an ethicist, but can smell the bullshit on this from a mile away. First of all, every ethicist, along with every moderately educated person, should be aware of the genetic fallacy - which is that the origin or original purpose of something is irrelevant to what ought to be done with it. So what if these drugs were made to treat impairments? What relevance does that have to what should be done with them? Second, t

    • by macraig (621737)

      A small nitpick... my recollection of informal research is that caffeine is only safe to a certain point. Too much caffeine, like too much testosterone or steroidals, can be dangerous.

      There is a rough observational way to tell if someone truly "needs" a stimulant to compensate for ADD traits (to achieve the mean behavior): the effect or threshold of the compound will be different for that person than for a neurotypical one. Their brain and body won't metabolize it the same. A more objective test than obs

  • by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @01:55AM (#41738017)

    ... and I'll show you a misleading marketing campaign worthy of a Presidential election.

    Ain't no such thing yet. Possibly never will be. Prescribing neuroactive drugs now is like playing darts blindfolded.

  • Of course non-prescription use is ethical - if it is used for its intended purpose. Just because a drug doesn't require a prescription doesn't make it ineffective. And abuse is abuse, whether or not the drug requires a prescription. The summary (and presumably the article) isn't really about whether a drug happens to require a prescription or whether a drug is actually prescribed (I suppose physicians can still subscribe drugs that don't require a prescription), but whether use of a drug outside of its spec

  • God forbid this be treated as anything other than a zero sum game, or that we focus more on the detrimental effects than some weird standards of biological fairness.
  • what an adult chooses to put into their own body. Period.

    Except maybe the smallpox virus.

  • Slate did an excellent writeup a few years back on experimenting using non-prescription ADHD meds [slate.com]. One of the most interesting tidbits to come out of that article was that authors Jack Kerouac, James Agee, Graham Greene, and Philip K. Dick all apparently took ADHD drugs "recreationally" to help them write, as did Paul Erdos. Whether it really helped them create all that great work is up for debate, but most of those guys swore by the stuff and they all seemed to pump out some pretty good work....
  • In my experience, any head-ache tablet or common cold medicine will improve your mental accuity and test scores. For example Aspirin, Codis and Actifed all helped me pass exams. The best is a combination common cold cure with a coctail of things in it. I figured that out when I noticed that I performed remakably much better in the winter exams when I was sniffeling and feeling totally rotten - so I started to take a dollop of the goop during the summer exams and it worked.
  • Thanks to Non-Prescription use I am not able to get my PRESCRIPTION ADHD meds filled due to the tightening of DEA guidelines on amphetamine salts.

    I need my meds to function. Without them I am pretty much useless. I have been on Dexedrine for almost 20 years, but my prescription has gone from (no-insurance prices) $50 to over $400 a month.

    I can't afford it, and unless I can get a decent job I can't get prescription coverage to get my meds, but I can't get my meds without a prescription.

    Mostly thanks to recreational users and college age drug seekers who want to party all night and still carry a 3.5.

    Enjoy your parties, and higher scores... just know that it might not be YOU that is paying the price. It might be someone else who is paying the price for your cheating your way through school on speed.
    • Thanks to Non-Prescription use I am not able to get my PRESCRIPTION ADHD meds filled due to the tightening of DEA guidelines on amphetamine salts. ...
      I can't afford it, and unless I can get a decent job I can't get prescription coverage to get my meds, but I can't get my meds without a prescription. Mostly thanks to recreational users and college age drug seekers who want to party all night and still carry a 3.5.

      The problem isn't the users of the drugs, it's the way that society is obsesses with keeping them out of their hands, which is to deny them to everyone, including those that need them.

      I had an excruciating episode of IBS, was out of pain killers because I had just moved between states, and went to the hospital emergency room for some relief. I told them through clenched teeth that I have IBS, and that the only thing I have found that relieves the pain and symptoms in the past (my previous two emergency room visits) was morphine. They gave me the evil eye, and told me to sit down. After an hour or begging to see a doctor, and watching minor cases go before me, they finally put me in a room. After waiting another hour, I went to the door and yelled at the nurse "look, if I don't see a doctor soon, I'm going to have my wife drive me to the local park and buy some Vicodin off the local dealer." The nurse finally gave me some attention, and said , "now we are going to take a blood sample you know." WTF? After 15 minutes a doctor came in and I got my Morphine, and the episode was over in a half hour.

      Turns out that IBS is one of the classic ploys by addicts to get drugs from emergency rooms. They expected to find drugs in my blood, but I hadn't had an episode in months, so I was completely clean of opiates. Reading some nursing blogs, the standard procedure for suspected drug addicts is to make them sit for an hour. Addicts will usually just leave and try to get their drugs somewhere else. People in real pain have to sit and endure their pain.

      Do I blame the addicts? To some degree. But the real blame has to be on the so-called health care community, that is denying pain killers to people who need them, just in case they might be giving them to someone who doesn't. This obsession with denying drugs is insane.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @03:30AM (#41738451)
    Is it acceptable if you are just taking it to counteract the other non-prescription drugs you took the night before?
  • Nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maudib (223520) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:24AM (#41738701)

    Of course its not unethical. Its your body, you have the right to do what you want to it.

    Steroids in sports aren't unethical either. Lying about using them in order to game the system is what makes steroids an ethical issue, not their consumption. People need to stop telling other people what to do with their own bodies and mind their own fucking business.

  • If smart = fit and fit = more kids, any gene that makes you smart will propagate exponentially. Changes giving a 1% boost will become dominant in a population after a few hundred generations.

    "Cognition-enhancing" drugs have rather simple effects on the brain. It's almost certain that there's some genetic diversity that twiddles with the concentration of or sensitivity to any specific neurochemical - essentially you can be pretty sure that evolution has the tools to be able to mimic anything that a simple neurochemical intervention could also do.

    Thus performance-enhancing drugs probably won't increase the overall evolutionary fitness of typical humans, because if improvement were that easy then evolution would already have made the same change the drugs make.

    These drugs probably can increase your ability to focus, and that might be a good thing to be able to do now that we're not preyed upon so often. However, the idea that a simple drug could make average humans smarter in every way doesn't stand up to our knowledge about how evolution propagates good genetics. We can modify our moods, and the best mood for a hunter-gatherer might be different than for a PHP programmer, but that's it - there's no across-the-board upgrade to be had from a simple drug.

  • by cheros (223479) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @07:47AM (#41739595)

    I actually worked on some of this myself.

    There are other ways to address ADHD that do not lead to a life long dependency on speed, sorry, Ritalin and that resolve the issue permanently . If I had any money right now I'd set it up as an organisation, as it also helps with those so-called "difficult" kids who are basically undiagnosed and get kicked into a corner - this can be done at a sensible price but still make good money.

    The problem is that it takes someone with cojones to fund it, because despite being based on solid research you'll still have a fight on your hands as the revenue from Ritalin is MASSIVE and pharma is not going to take it lying down that you nuke 70% of their income - and they fight *dirty*.

  • by neminem (561346) <`neminem' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:07AM (#41740355) Homepage

    Why the frack would it -not- be ethical? Let people ingest whatever the frack they want, if it's not hurting anyone else? Now, what wouldn't be ethical is for anyone to -force- people to take drugs of pretty much any sort, including these (i.e. take them if you want to graduate college, take them if you want to keep your job, etc.), but if you want to take them of your own free will, how the frell would that possibly be considered not "ethical"? Where does ethics even freaking factor in? (Other than perhaps if they got them from a doctor, rather than on the black market, and the doctor didn't disclose side effects...)

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