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Is Non-Prescription ADHD Medication Use Ever Ethical? 487

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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  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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 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 antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @02:30AM (#41738181) Homepage Journal
    Slate did an excellent writeup a few years back on experimenting using non-prescription ADHD meds []. 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....
  • 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.
  • by maudface ( 1313935 ) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @03:29AM (#41738441)

    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 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 jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @08:08AM (#41739687)

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

    Instead, you're posting on Slashdot.

    I submit that this indeed is the crux of the issue. One road leads to productive citizenship, the other to a wasted, debauched life. You are the poster child for the evils of drug use.

    If I had points left I'd mod you up as Funny! I have no idea why you were modded 'Troll' - I guess a few people here forgot to take their humour pills...

  • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @12:23PM (#41741547)

    Using a calculator or a computer to perform complex tasks is a lot more analogous to using a stepladder to reach high stuff. Making these drugs mainstream is more like taking growth hormones (with possible unforeseen side-effects) to become taller in order to reach taller things.

    Additionally, making these drugs more accessible to people who don't actually have a "problem", but want a an artificial advantage to be more competitive creates additional incentive for people who already are gifted to also seek a boost of their own abilities. This leads to "smart drugs" becoming the norm.

    Outside of the pharmaceutical industry, who really wants this as a society?

    Is it fair that some people are more gifted than others? Perhaps not, but that's life.

    The problem isn't that people have unfair advantages, the problem is when people who are gifted (or more often, lucky) see the rest as being inferiors and exploit and leverage their status. Differing abilities wouldn't be such a big deal if man was more compassionate and less greedy.

  • 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.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn