View Full Version : Drugs to build up that mental muscle

12-20-07, 08:09 AM
Drugs to build up that mental muscle

Academics, musicians, even poker champs use pills to sharpen their minds, legally. Labs race to develop even more.
By Karen Kaplan and Denise Gellene
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

December 20, 2007

Forget sports doping. The next frontier is brain doping.

As Major League Baseball struggles to rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs, people in a range of other fields are reaching for a variety of prescription pills to enhance what counts most in modern life.

Despite the potential side effects, academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions.

"There isn't any question about it -- they made me a much better player," said Paul Phillips, 35, who credited the attention deficit drug Adderall and the narcolepsy pill Provigil with helping him earn more than $2.3 million as a poker player.

The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.

The drugs haven't been tested extensively in healthy people, but their physiological effects in the brain are well understood.

They are all just precursors to the blockbuster drug that labs are racing to develop.

"Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe. [more] (,1,6470014,print.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage&ctrack=2&cset=true)

12-20-07, 06:55 PM
So, "embracing drugs" to "enhance" "what counts most in modern life" ?? Sounds so.. spiritual or something.
And performing extensive testing "in healthy people" ?? Yikes.

Turns out the millionaire poker guy actually has ADHD, and that's why he's doping his brain - guess it's not just for schoolchildren then?

And it's awfully reassuring that drugs' "physiological effects in the brain are well understood".. oh wait: "ADHD drugs work by increasing the level of the brain chemical dopamine, which is thought to improve attention. Provigil's mechanism of action is not well understood, but boosting the effect of dopamine is thought to be part of it. Guess "understanding" is kind of a relative term?

We do get some highly scientific evidence of "peak mental performance" from an academe (presumably, a healthy one) who "said her interest in the medications was largely academic. But when someone she knew who had been taking Provigil for a neurological condition offered her some pills, her curiosity was piqued. 'I knew the literature and wondered what it felt like,' she said. The drug helped her focus as she worked at her computer for hours straight. But she wondered if it was a placebo effect. 'Maybe I would have gotten it done anyway,' [she said]."

Oh good. So you can take your friends' drugs, just as long as you know the literature.. and you might find end up working for hours straight.. unless it's all in your head and these wonder drugs are just a load of crap. Just in case your friends are all healthy, though, don't worry:

"Prescriptions for Inderal and other beta blockers can be readily obtained from physicians." Good to know. But can anything bad come from embracing these drugs?

"Martha J. Farah, a bioethicist who teaches undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, said she was beginning to detect resentment toward students who used the drugs from classmates who did not. She has wondered whether improving productivity through artificial means also might undermine the value of hard work."

So, it's kind of frowned upon, like cheating. But just look at the company you'll be keeping: "academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students".. you too could be a star! Hey, wonder where the resentment comes from?? Could it be fed by irresponsible sensationalist journalism that fetishizes "cognitive-enhancing" drugs until every desperate college kid is dying to get his paws on some pills? I mean, who wouldn't want to be a millionaire poker champ instead of an underachieving schlub.. and the worst thing that can happen is some social stigma. Oh, and some headaches and anxiety. No biggie. Still, doping your brain is a bit of a faux pas:

"The growth of the brain drugs bears a striking resemblance to the post-World War I evolution of plastic surgery -- developed to rehabilitate badly disfigured soldiers but later embraced by healthy people who wanted larger breasts and fewer wrinkles."

So I guess you're a hero if you abstain, but a sucker if you don't. Welcome to the "next frontier"!

Reminds me of this lady: