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Biotech Medicine

Cosmetic Neurology 369

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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  • Re:For years... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:18PM (#27724215)

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

  • 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) [] 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:Less Creative? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:24PM (#27724267)

    My insults are much move clever when I take my Blackadderall.

  • by soundguy ( 415780 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:26PM (#27724289) Homepage

    Acid is not a toy. As a "bathtub" drug there is no consistency of dosage or quality. There are tens of thousands of people in mental hospitals because of the permanent psychological damage it can cause in certain individuals, most notably those who already walk the fine line between creative genius and insanity.

    The music industry is littered with high-profile examples of people who ended up with permanently damaged psyches; Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), and one of the more horrifying examples (whom I knew personally), Kurt Struebing, guitarist for the Seattle death-metal band NME. Under the influence of repeated dosages, Kurt developed the idea that his mother was a robot and gutted her with a kitchen knife. A number of years later, after being released from prison, he drove his vehicle off the end of an open drawbridge in Seattle under unknown curcumstances and ended his tragic life.

    If any brand of crazy or a high degree of creativity runs in your family, you are well advised to avoid recreational usage of lysergic acid, mescaline, psylocybin, MDMA, and all other psychotropic/psychoactive substances.

  • by rickyb ( 898092 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:37PM (#27724379)
    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: []), be causing the potential for more harm than good.
  • Re:For years... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @06:45PM (#27724449)

    It dates back to the first time a human found something to put in his body to alter his perception.

    The Bible says in Psalm 104: []
    14 He[God] causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

    15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

  • 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 way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe