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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.
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Many Scientists Using Performance Enhancing Drugs

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  • 5-HTP (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:59AM (#23025564)
    I find that 5-HTP helps me a great deal. It's a precursor of serotonin.

    When I'm on it, I not only feel sharper, more alert, and better able to remember fine details, but I'm also better able to read social cues and interact with people. 5-HTP is perfectly legal, and can be purchased at general online or brick-and-mortar health stores.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2008 @11:59AM (#23025576)
    Actually, lots of people use beta-blockers as a performance enhancer. The most common use is for musicians who have to do an audition. Beta-blockers really reduce any shakes that may ruin a performance.

    I had a prescription for years to treat familial tremors. The drug worked well but tended to make me drowsy so I quit. As I get older, the shakes get worse and I may have to go back on them. C'est la vie. (shrugs)
  • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:19PM (#23025872)

    That sort of report usually relates to any of the amphetamine relatives or methylphenidate (ritalin) relatives (the two are related but not the same). By amphetamine relatives, I include amphetamine, methamphetamine, dexedrine, Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts), and some others. Methylphenidates include Ritalin and Focalin and some others. Brand names vary, especially by country.

    All the amphetamine derivatives have the same mode of action in the brain, but they aren't all "the same." Delivery route (oral, injected, insufflated, smoked) matters, as does the specific salt (eg amphetamine sulfate vs amphetamine hydrochloride). These have an impact on how rapidly your body absorbs the drug, and therefore the response vs time curve. Extended release versions also exist (Adderall XR, Concerta (methylphenidate)), which has a similar effect -- the duration is extended, and the response vs time curve flattened (generally considered a good thing -- the response varying with time is generally not what you want).

    As always... don't take without a prescription. If you must take it without a prescription, you're much safer buying illicit Adderall than street meth, and you'll probably like the results better too (especially for functional, rather than recreational, purposes). Use an appropriate dosage (aka do your research), realize that the effect will be stronger in someone who doesn't take it regularly, and be aware of what drugs it reacts badly with. (Most notably, avoid mixing stimulants to excess, though the results of mixing with weak ones like caffeine won't surprise you. Do not, under any circumstances, mix stimulants with MAOIs (some antidepressants, possibly other uses) -- that can be fatal.)

    I'm not a doctor, this is not medical advice. Don't take drugs you haven't researched. Taking them without a prescription is likely illegal. In general: do your research before taking them, and be really sure you know what you're taking!

    Erowid [] is a great place to start said research, though it's more geared toward recreational / spiritual / exploratory drug use. Wikipedia has a lot of good info. In any case, beware of inaccuracies.

  • 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 [] (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.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) * on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:17PM (#23026688) Homepage

    If taxpayer money is being used for treatment, then why is it that emergency rooms are shoving patients out on the street when they don't have health insurance. I mean if they are getting money from the taxpayers, then why not just keep them there until they are positive there is no risk of medical liability.

    A couple of issues (in the US at least, I have no idea how it works Everywhere Else).

    According to US law, any emergency room that accepts payment from Medicare or Medicaid (ie, every one of them) MUST admit and stabilize patients in an emergency situation. No questions asked. OK, well and good - not an unreasonable concept. But it gets complicated when you actually have to figure out the details.

    Let's start with an emergency. What does that mean? A gunshot wound to the abdomen? OK, most of us will go with that one. Chronic Back pain? Hmm, that can be pretty bad indeed, but often isn't life threatening. Weak and Dizzy All Over (I don't feel good) - could be most anything. So what has evolved is a set of guidelines that are vague, conflicting and have spawned a cottage industry amongst lawyers and persons of similar enthusiasms. Well, that wasn't very helpful, was it?

    OK, so our Taxpayer Supported Emergency Room has decided to treat this poor "Medically indigent" (the current buzzword) fellow. So we should keep this guy with chronic back pain in the ER until he gets bored enough to walk out or there is "no risk of medical liability (which would occur approximately 7 years after their death, assuming they aren't minors)? Right. Not in my busy 4 bed ER you don't.

    Current US law and policy (which is widely, if not uniformly applied) is to:

    1) Evaluate the ER patient for the presence of a (legally, not medically defined) emergency condition,
    2) If such a condition is warranted to be occurring, treat it until the patient is "stabilized" (again a legal rather than strictly medical definition),
    3) Then discharge the patient. The ER has the option of treating a Non-Emergent patient at it's discretion.
    4) Then everybody (including Mr. Homeless Drunk) gets billed. We just don't expect very many checks from "General Delivery" addresses.

    So in the US, access to truly emergency care is pretty good. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of the treating facility and quality medical care is a longitudinal affair and ERs are simply not appropriate places for them. So the system gets an "Epic Fail" for the chronic issues.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:19PM (#23026716) Journal
    Libertarians generally reject the idea that there is a moral responsibility to help those in need. They aren't 'more or less' saying that people should be left to die on their own: they are flat out stating that barring any contract to the contrary, you are on your own.

    The problem with communicating with libertarians is that they tend to think any attempt at discussion of these issues is an attempt to force them into helping others. They think their only moral responsibility is to themselves.

    Libertarians find the idea of being 'forced' into helping others as repugnant as most people find the idea of refusing to help others. But they are curiously blind to the ways we all help them everyday, and even when this is pointed out, they claim they never asked for it, so they feel no reciprocal responsibility.

    The thing is, they aren't being forced. They could drop out of society. But they want the benefits of living in a society with none of the responsibilities.
  • by Dada Vinci ( 1222822 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:32PM (#23026922)
    With that plan, a lot of people are going to tell you, perhaps in a few more words, "you can pry my cigarette out of my cold, dead hands." Good luck getting Americans (or any culture, for that matter) to give up unhealthy habits. The Americans get mocked for obseity, but Europeans smoke far more, and Chinese more still []. (~70% of Chinese men smoke, comepared to ~38% of German men and ~24% of US men.)
  • by asdfghjklqwertyuiop ( 649296 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:57PM (#23027308)

    They aren't 'more or less' saying that people should be left to die on their own: they are flat out stating that barring any contract to the contrary, you are on your own., not none of them.

    Not quite. They're saying the decision of wether or not someone should be left to die on their own is up to the individuals who can help him. In a libertarian society you CAN help drug addicts in failing health by donating your money/time to a charity that helps them if you want to.

    They think their only moral responsibility is to themselves.

    Not quite. As a libertarian I feel responsibilities to help my daughter and my parents if they were in need, regardless of need, for instance. A random drug addict... not so much. You obviously feel differently but I'm all about letting you help who you want to help.

    But they are curiously blind to the ways we all help them everyday, and even when this is pointed out, they claim they never asked for it, so they feel no reciprocal responsibility.

    I can't speak for "they", but this is not the case for myself.

    The thing is, they aren't being forced. They could drop out of society.

    We aren't? There is a place in our country we can go where we can put whatever substances in our bodies that we chose and live with the consequences of that?

    But they want the benefits of living in a society with none of the responsibilities.

    You don't seem to know what a libertarian is. The whole freedom accompanies responsibility concept is libertarianism 101. Any real libertarian wants ALL of the responsibilities for himself, not none of them.

  • by NIckGorton ( 974753 ) * on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:32PM (#23027834)

    There are two reasons why ER care is financially backed by the government. The first is a moral, no one should be allowed to die just because they are down on their luck. In that sense, your distinction is valid.
    Um, emergency care (in the US) is not financially backed by the government. It is mandated but paying for it isn't. The EMTALA law says if you come to the ER and have an emergency medical condition, I have to provide you with a medical screening exam and any emergent and necessary care. However if you don't have money, are uninsured, and you can't get retroactive Medicaid, I don't get paid.

    EMTALA is an unfunded mandate that says that the nurses who work in an ER, the hospital who runs the ER, and ER physicians like me have to pay for uninsured emergency care. It takes a segment of the US economy and says we have to take responsibility for and subsidize what everyone else doesn't. That cheap McDonalds hamburger you ate today that is less expensive because McDonalds doesn't offer health insurance? I paid for a part of that.

    Of course I am thankful for EMTALA every time that I use it to force a surgeon to take the appendix out of an uninsured teenager. I also feel that I am paid quite well enough even though about 30% of the ER care and 50% of the overall care I provide is uncompensated (I volunteer two days a week at a low income clinic that sees a lot of uninsured patients so that bumps the % up.) However overall I hate EMTALA precisely because its used as a crutch: I'm sure Bush slept very well at night after vetoing SCHIP because he thinks that every American gets health care since even if we are uninsured we can go to the ER (where most of the care people need - like prevention and treatment of chronic disease can't be done).
  • Re:I'm not surprised (Score:3, Informative)

    by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:52PM (#23028056)
    Provigil is useful, but its effects are heavily-exaggerated (thanks, Wired.) It is basically a slightly-better-than-caffeine stimulant with fewer side effects.

    It will not allow you to go for days at a time without sleep, unless your reason for needing to do so is that your friend is shooting a zombie movie and needs extras.

    It's useful when you need to pull an all-nighter, and only then if you take it before you actually get sleepy. That's about it.
  • microsoft (Score:2, Informative)

    by fsiefken ( 912606 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:28PM (#23028480)
    I remember that Bob Wallace (ninth Microsoft employee) posted in alt.drugs.psychedelics years ago that Microsoft experimented with I believe 2C-* phenethylamines as enhancers for creativity and concentration for programming. Unfortunately most of his posts got deleted from the google groups archive after or shortly before his untimely death a few years ago. I did copy most of his posts before they went offline, but they are on some lost harddisk/zipdrive somewhere... which would take longer to find then this topic will stay alive and read on slashdot.
  • by Jerry Beasters ( 783525 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @04:15PM (#23029110)
    Are you fucking serious? They NSGWP was in no way socialist. They used the term to gain supporters.

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