Should Doctors Prescribe “Smart Drugs”?

A new report warns that doctors should not prescribe psychiatric medication to healthy people who use them as “cognitive enhancers.” On the PsychCentral website, Rick Nauert writes:

“Researchers from the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) led by Dr. Eric Racine base their recommendation on the professional integrity of physicians, the drugs’ uncertain benefits and harms, and limited health care resources.

The study report is found in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Currently, prescription stimulants and other pharmaceuticals are often used by healthy people to enhance concentration, memory, alertness and mood, a phenomenon described as cognitive enhancement. However, they are generally only approved for use to treat actual mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Individuals take prescription stimulants to perform better in school or at work,” said  Racine, a Montréal neuroethics specialist.

Experts say the prevalence of cognitive enhancers used by students on university campuses ranges from 1 per cent to 11 per cent. Authorities warn that taking such stimulants is associated with risks of dependence, cardiovascular problems, and psychosis.

‘Current evidence has not shown that the desired benefits of enhanced mental performance are achieved with these substances,’ explains Cynthia Forlini, first author of the study and doctoral student in Racine’s research unit. ‘With uncertain benefits and clear harms, it is difficult to support the notion that physicians should prescribe a medication to a healthy individual for enhancement purposes.’” (Read more here.)

What do you think? Should “smart drugs” be prescribed to people who don’t suffer from a psychiatric condition?

If you’re interested in learning more about “neuroenhancing” drugs, read Margaret Talbot’s excellent article in the New Yorker, here.

4 Responses to “Should Doctors Prescribe “Smart Drugs”?”

  1. John says:

    If it’s not broke, do not fix it. The emotionally healthy should not use meds to “enhance” their abilities. There are other tools, including training the mind and the body.

  2. Tyler says:

    I think the main issue is that Canada has to pay for these pills for people who do not “need” them. No way should the government have to pay for someone wanting to get a high of some kind (unless it is for a real treatment). It’s even worse if they cause harm and therefore could cost Canada more. I’m not sure what the “clear harms” are since it is not mentioned. If the harms are minimal, then allow them to be sold over-the-counter.

  3. Rick says:

    The question we should all be asking is, “Why do students feel compelled to take them?” The world is competitive and the school system (college) is even more competitive. I myself have been diagnosed with ADHD and have struggled with retention. I have at one time or another taken medicine to help me focus and no longer take them. I struggle more than the average and seem to work three or four times as hard to focus, learn, and retain. We are our own worst enemy and have created a very competitive world. We should focus on teaching people how to think and not just memorize. These are just my thoughts and opinion and do not claim to know or understand everything, thank you for listening to my rant.

  4. edd says:

    The drugs industry is shoving a lot drugs down our throats. Things have to change. “Enhancers” HAHA! Maybe profit enhancers.

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