Non-Medical Use of Cognitive Enhancing Drugs

The non-medical use of cognitive enhancing drugs, such as Ritalin ® and Adderall ®, is a common occurrence amongst college students. Heavy class loads and demanding schedules lead many to take amphetamine based drugs to gain an extra edge, allowing users to have more focus for longer periods of time. While these types of drug have been prescribed for years in order to treat people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, little is known about the long term effects of using cognitive enhancing drugs for non-medical purposes.

At the University of Cambridge, neuroscientists Professor Barbara Sahakian and Dr Sharon Morein-Zamir are calling on governments, the pharmaceutical industry, and national medical organizations to assess long-term use of cognitive-enhancing drugs for non-medical reasons, Science Daily reports. As more and more students and professionals use so-called “smart drugs,” the need for more research is great.

“We simply do not know enough about how many healthy people are using cognitive-enhancing drugs, in what ways and why,” explains Professor Sahakian.

They warn that the current numbers on non-medical use may only be scratching the surface of those taking these types of drugs. In the US, the majority of research has focused on students taking stimulants without prescriptions, with estimates between 5 and 35 percent, according to the article. However, there is increasing evidence that professional and/or older populations have taken to these types of drugs to improve concentration, memory, and other aspects of cognitive performance.

“Present cognitive-enhancing drugs have wide ranging effects and side effects and are not predictable. We also know next to nothing about their long-terms effects in healthy people,” says Dr Morein-Zamir.

Cognitive enhancing drugs have a high potential for abuse, many will use these types of drugs in order to have more energy for extended partying. Naturally, mixing any prescription drug with alcohol can lead to a whole host of problems.

Sahakian and Morein-Zamir wrote their Personal View in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

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