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.