Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Biotech Science

Many Scientists Using Performance Enhancing Drugs 955

docinthemachine is one of several readers to send word of a new poll published in Nature showing unprecedented levels of cognitive performance-enhancing drug abuse by top academic scientists. The poll, conducted among subscribers to Nature, surveyed 1,400 scientists from 60 nations (70% from the US). 20% reported using performance-enhancing drugs. Among the drug-using population, 62% used Ritalin, 44% used Provigil, and 15% used beta-blockers like Inderal. Frequency of use was evenly divided among those who used drugs daily, weekly, monthly, and once a year. All such use without a prescription is illegal.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Many Scientists Using Performance Enhancing Drugs

Comments Filter:
  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:47AM (#23025376) Homepage Journal

    ...poll published in Nature showing unprecedented levels of cognitive performance-enhancing drug abuse by top academic scientists...

    It is "drug abuse" when drugs are used without the informed consent of an individual; it is simply "illegal drug use" (and very likely legislative abuse of personal liberties at the same time) when an adult makes an informed choice about drug use that doesn't comply with the current law.

    People need to move away from the mindset where media pompously and wrongly attributes polar positions such as "right and wrong" and "use and abuse" to be a 100% lexical replacement for "legal and illegal." Anyone with any sense at all knows better than that. A significant number of the laws on the books in the country I live in (the USA) are inherently wrong, outright un- or anti-constitutional, or something even worse. Using them to define what is "right" leads directly to behaviors that are despicable — or worse.

    One can be cynical and simply say that this is because our legislators aren't very good at their jobs. Both from the standpoint of making good law in the first place, and also in the sense that they seem to be almost incapable of admitting they made a mistake and taking bad law off the books. Personally, I think it's because they're not very good at liberty — and very good indeed at lawmaking.

    There's an old saw that goes, "never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence", but I think in the case of bad law, we are indeed looking at malice aforethought. It seems to me that these people have agendas that can only be construed to be "for the people" if you slept through history class and have never read any of the founding documents with any interest. Like most Americans. :(

    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:11PM (#23025762) Journal

      It is "drug abuse" when drugs are used without the informed consent of an individual; it is simply "illegal drug use" (and very likely legislative abuse of personal liberties at the same time) when an adult makes an informed choice about drug use that doesn't comply with the current law.
      Are you an idiot?
      Drug abuse, by any definition of "abuse" has nothing to do with (informed) consent.

      There is a range of usage patterns [wikimedia.org].
      Some might say it's perscription drug abuse if used other than as perscribed.
      But generally speaking, drug use becomes abuse when there are negative health/social consequences.

      Under your idiotic definition, a fully informed heroin junkie isn't abusing drugs.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:00PM (#23026464)

        Under your idiotic definition, a fully informed heroin junkie isn't abusing drugs.
        He's not. According to the federal courts, addiction is not a disease. Many experts on addiction agree that it is not a disease [wikipedia.org]. He is choosing to use the drugs. The effect they have on him as well as the effect withdrawing from them weigh into this choice, but it is, at its root, a choice.

        I used to be a heroin user. Wasted so much of my time and money on the stuff. Alienated close friends, irreparably destroyed relationships with family member, dragged my girlfriend and daughter through hell, but deep down, the choice was mine to do so. I've been clean three years now. It's a constant struggle, but it was my choice to get clean, and it is my choice to continue to be clean.

        I didn't need a twelve step program or a jail sentence or witnessing a friend overdosing to stop (though I have been through all of those things and more). All I needed to do was sit down and rationally weigh my choices, which, I'll admit was hard because all I could do was think about getting high. I came to the conclusion one night as the haze cleared that there was no mystical heroin demon forcing me down and making me do it. It was me.

        My opinion as a former drug user: so long as they're not infringing on the rights of others and as long as they are made to pay for their own health care, (I am for a system that excludes drug users from coverage if the illness can be attributed to their drug use) let them do what they want. The moment they run afoul of the law or become a drain on society, feel free to bitchslap them back into line.

        You'll be surprised at the resources that will be available. Instead of chasing John McPothead that just wants to get high, eat some Doritos, and watch MXC, your police force will be able to patrol your neighborhood and stop real crime like robbery, rape, and murder and will have the resources needed to effectively investigate those crimes that they don't stop.
      • by 4e617474 ( 945414 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:03PM (#23026512)

        Are you an idiot? Drug abuse, by any definition of "abuse" has nothing to do with (informed) consent.

        Um, actually, there are definitions of "abuse" that deal with exactly that. There are better definitions for gp to refute - the ones that deal with the expectation that one lives up to an obligation to behave properly. The term "drug abuse" implies that any substance that can chemically interact with your body - even if naturally occurring and/or readily available without outside assistance - defaults to a state where society has a list of uses that are acceptable for you to engage in. This list starts blank and you are obligated to pay for the expense of satisfying society that there are acceptable uses, and you cannot ever demonstrate to society that you are up to the task of deciding the matter entirely for yourself. Even if you're a qualified scientist.

        Under your idiotic definition, a fully informed heroin junkie isn't abusing drugs.

        Under his definition a heroin junkie may be abusing many things - the charity of people who will preserve him from the full range of consequences of his decisions, treatment programs that he has no intention of actually making full use of but must attend to avoid penalties of one form or another. Then again, he may not be abusing any damn thing at all [wikipedia.org]. But heroin? How can you "abuse heroin"? Society doesn't spell out a set of obligations to you in exchange for its efforts to keep it available for you, or acknowledge a right way and a wrong way to use it. It's like accusing someone of "abusing serial killing" or "abusing date rape". If you're against the use of certain drugs by anyone anywhere, then the charge is "heroin use" or "cocaine use". Calling it "abuse" is a way of stifling debate - "Are you for or against permitting abuse? Are you saying you're in favor of legalizing abuse?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta ( 162192 )
        But generally speaking, drug use becomes abuse when there are negative health/social consequences.

        Under your idiotic definition, a fully informed heroin junkie isn't abusing drugs.

        By your definition a fully informed heroin junkie might not be abusing drugs either. If someone on a heroin maintenance program can manage their jobs, friends, and family, because they're not forced to spend all their time and money drug seeking, where are the negative health/social consequences?
      • by ccguy ( 1116865 ) * on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:45PM (#23027134) Homepage

        Are you an idiot?
        Ah, the beauty and power of words combined with typical slashdot manners :-)
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:49AM (#23025390)

    We prescribe these drugs to millions of kids who most likely have nothing "wrong" with them, and people have a problem when some adults do the same thing?

    This isn't athletics. The point isn't fairness. The point is advancing the science. I have serious doubts that these drugs are actually helping anybody do research who didn't already have some kind of problem, but it's none of our damn business, either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      These drugs aren't making Rhodes Scholars out of an imbeciles, they're simply being used to enhance existing skills. And as the parent poster mentioned, we're all benefiting in some form or another by this.

      It is also possible that the sciences are a more attractive field for people who truly do need to take these types of medications, so the disproportionately high percentage of users in that area may actually be closer to reality than the article would have you believe.

      As a learning tool this is a
    • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:19PM (#23025860) Homepage Journal

      This isn't athletics. The point isn't fairness.
      Alright, predictions folks. How long until the Math team / Debate team / Model UN have to pee in a cup to prove they aren't taking "Brain Enhancing" Drugs? I set the over under at 5 years.
  • And what about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EricR86 ( 1144023 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:50AM (#23025410)
    Caffeine anyone?
  • Caffeine? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:50AM (#23025420) Journal
    Strangely absent from the list. I've known few scientists that didn't consume lots of caffeine.
  • Off-label (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <johnsonmx&gmail,com> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:51AM (#23025430) Homepage Journal
    The blurb makes it sound as if all this use is illegal. I would imagine most isn't: most of these people will have prescriptions but are using them for off-label purposes. Which is legal.
  • Punishment (Score:5, Funny)

    by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:52AM (#23025448)
    So, will they take away your Nobel if you've been found to use science-enhancing drugs?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      They took my Nobel just because I used my newly discovered intelligence enhancing drug!? That's NO excuse! Science sometimes requires sacrifices!

      Those damn underevolved monkeys... they laughed at me, scolded me, but I will be the one who laughs last... they will see!


      HA HA HA HA!!!
  • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. ( 142215 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:53AM (#23025458) Homepage
    It isn't necessarily illegal to possess or use prescription medicine without a prescription unless it is a controlled substance or there are state or other laws that come into play. It is illegal to dispense it without a presecription.

    Inderal is not a controlled substance.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:12PM (#23025774)
      It's really unfortunate when it is. My apartment was raided by the police because my roommates (whom I did not elect to live with, but was placed with) were relatively heavy drug dealers. The police found a single adderall pill stuck in the corner of one of my drawers that I had completely forgotten about. I had tried adderall about three times and, although it helped me study, it wasn't worth the disruption to my sleep habits (it gives you horrible insomnia). I threw the last pill I had in a drawer and forgot about it. The pill had been there for about six months.

      While I won't be serving any jail time, my future as I intended it is more or less over. I'm currently a convicted felon serving three years probation, having to attend an intensive drug rehab course, and worst of all, I lost my federal aid that was helping pay for my grad school. Once you include the legal fees, the loss of my state entitlements, and the loss of my federal aid, I am currently looking at around a $30,000 price tag that I can't afford because of a single pill that was found because of a search that wasn't even my fault. More than likely, I will have to withdraw from grad school after this semester, despite being less than a year away from completing my PhD.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Did your lawyer suck? Proving that you were even aware that that pill was there, let alone that you put it there is nearly impossible. If you had denied everything the DA probably would of dumped the case because it's not worth it to try and win such a stupid case. Worst case they would offer you a deal where you agree to community service and drug counseling. If you aren't trolling then you really got fucked hard.

        I had a friend in college who lived with dealers and had almost a half ounce of weed in his do
  • Beta blockers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <ag-slashdotNO@SPAMexit0.us> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:54AM (#23025474) Homepage
    Most beta blockers [wikipedia.org] are used as a treatment for high blood pressure. Surely the stress levels that these scientists experience would justify that kind of prescription.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by laurier57 ( 1181021 )
      Beta blockers are often used by public speakers or those presenting papers as it prevents many of the physical effects of performance anxiety--red in the face, sweating, clamminess--so they can at least appear and feel composed enough to say whatever they're saying.
  • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:54AM (#23025478) Journal
    By this strange scrawney man with black rimmed glases in a tan trenchcoat wearing sneakers and waving around a metal tool with a blue glowing end.

    The man was apparently muttering about some kind of oil that supposedly made the brain work faster or some such nonsense.

    His accomplices included a blonde bimbo, a middle aged woman resembling a sturng out housewife, her young ethnic lover, and a poorly put together RC dog.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:55AM (#23025504) Homepage

    Performance enhancing means Viagra.... no wonder kids aren't doing science.
  • Oh great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:58AM (#23025554)
    Does this mean there will be mandatory drug testing at the Science Olympiad [soinc.org]?

    Just what was in Albert Einstein's pipe [wayodd.com]?

    And how did Stephen Hawking really end up in that wheelchair?

    My confidence is shattered. :^p
  • by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:02PM (#23025612)
    You say those without a prescription are doing it illegally. Well, how many are legally taking these medications as prescribed by a physician?

    Inderal is a cheap beta blocker ($4 for a month's supply) commonly used for the treatment of hypertension and various heart diseases. It can also be used on an as-needed basis for stage fright.

    Adult ADHD may be treated with Ritalin. If people are prescribed these medicines, then no foul.
  • Adderall XR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by psychicsword ( 1036852 ) * <The.psychicsword@com> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:13PM (#23025794)
    I use Adderall damn that drug is addictive. I can stay up all night then take that and I feel good as new an hour later. Plus it has the benefit for me of allowing me to concentrate better and get more work done. It also stops me from clicking the damn stumbleupon button for hours on end. With it I get twice as much work done and can think twice as well.

    Please note I do have a prescription for it and I dont even need to fake ADD to get it, just he gives me a slightly higher dose than I might need.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jesdynf ( 42915 )
      Nobody trying to convince me how amphetamines help them think more clearly should miss that many punctuation marks.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:17PM (#23025840) Journal
    In today's news, Berry Dexter Bonds was informed that his three Nobel prizes for curing cancer and inventing a practical flying car will be revoked. Drug testing revealed that banned brain-enhancing substances were in his bloodstream just prior the prize ceremony. Testing has been standard procedure for the Nobel ceremonies since it was discovered that the inventor of the brain-enhancing drug, IQtrophine, used it to win a Nobel prize for curing the common cold.

    It has also been revealed that Steven Nash of the Phoenix Suns NBA team has been taking brain enhancing drugs to help him make smarter, more accurate ball passes. One side effect is that it stunted his growth. College photos revealed that he used to be taller than Shaquille O'Neal. "I wasn't making it as a center, so I decided to become the Mother of All Point Guards", he said at a news conference.
  • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:20PM (#23025894) Homepage
    I mean, if you learned something from a professor who was under the influence of performance enhancing drugs, do you have to forget it?
  • I'm not surprised (Score:5, Informative)

    by brady8 ( 956551 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:33PM (#23026030)

    I know at my University for example that there is widespread use of Ritalin for studying purposes once it got out that you can learn entire courses inside and out pulling all-nighters when you're on Ritalin.

    A friend of mine is a regular user of Ritalin, and because I knew the guy (and his marks) before he started using I can tell you with some confidence that Ritalin will add a very significant boost to your GPA.

    I also have anecdotal evidence of many pre-med students using Ritalin when they study for the MCAT, prerequisite courses, etc. since competition for med school here is so fierce.

    If the students are doing it because they're under pressure for higher grades, why wouldn't the professors and scientists be doing it when they're under (arguably greater) pressure to produce research results.

  • by Sara Chan ( 138144 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:33PM (#23026034)
    Ritalin is scary stuff. There are no good-quality long-term studies on the effects of Ritalin. And there is some evidence that ritalin is carcinogenic and can cause permanent changes in the brain. There is a partial summary of potential problems with ritalin here [informath.org] (mostly as it is used to treat ADHD).
  • by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:01PM (#23026478)
    The poll defines "top academic scientist" as a reader of Nature. Obviously this has major issues. For one, very few serious scientists read Nature regularly, since it doesn't speak directly to a given field. In my "top academic" institution, almost all of the people I know who have gone to Nature's website recently are either science undergrads doing low level research for a simple presentation or non-scientists trying to figure out what was meant by article X which they saw referenced in an AP news story. In fact, the poll itself wouldn't be encountered by most scientists looking at Nature, since scientists are almost always entering through an external search portal directly to an article of interest. Scientists with real pressure (say, busy grad students or professors) don't browse Nature. They strategically read an occasional article in Nature, but in most cases the same research will have been published already in greater detail in a more field-specific journal.

    Collectively, all of this means that Nature's pool of respondents was almost certainly not "top scientists." Instead, they were selecting undergrads, non-scientists, and generally people with a lot of extra time on their hands. Yes, we know undergrads use Ritalin to cheat on tests. We have no indication, however, that Ritalin helps one to do the deep creative thinking necessary for involved science.
  • Tainted (Score:4, Funny)

    by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <techstar25 @ g m a i l.com> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:32PM (#23027844) Journal
    Can you stamp an asterisk on a Nobel Prize?

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry