BikeMonkey GuestPostI had comments in the past on the topic of cognitive performance doping. You know, taking drugs to artificially improve how smart you are so as to gain a competitive advantage over your non-drug-taking peers. Doping. Just like sports doping. My prior comments on the WP blog were in these two posts.
Doping is A-Okay According to Nature.
November 14, 2007
Ha. Of course this is a considerable misrepresentation and minimization. Caffeine (prescribed by BM for "falling asleep in 4pm seminars") and nicotine (ditto by a colleague) are also good for focusing of attention, improving memory and other GoodThings for complex brain function. Considerably more than 15% of students and "anecdotes" of "postdocs and academics" use these cognitive enhancers I can tell you. Sucks that they are addictive drugs, but them's the breaks. I mean, we gotta function in our jobs, right?
But let's get right down to the point in the Nature editorial, eh? Wouldn't you become addicted to crack if it would cure "tumor development"? I mean surely if Nature believes a little chronic Ritalin (methylphenidate) is called for just for "memoriz(ing) a postulated signalling pathway" relevant to cancer they can get behind addiction for a cure, right?
Performance Doping in Academia, Take 2
December 19, 2007
The original commentary then asks, in essence if it is "cheating" for otherwise normal people to use cognitive enhancers. The central consideration is that we've already crossed that Rubicon. Caffeine and nicotine being the primary examples. It is completely acceptable, particularly in the case of caffeine, to brag on use of this stimulant to confer unnatural and unfair advantage over the competition in academic performance. From undergrad, to grad to professordom. Any argument that tries to overlook or minimize this reality is completely bogus. "I wrote my last grant on Modafinil", "I wrote my last grant at the local coffeeshop" and "I wrote my last grant on Adderall" should have precisely the same ethical implications. The legal status, common acceptance, route of administration of the compound, specificity of the compound, etc have nothing to do with the ethical question of "cheating" by taking a cognitive enhancing compound.
* George Koob, professor in the Department of Neuropharmacology at The Scripps Research Institute.
- Tricia Bertram Gallant, academic integrity coordinator for UC San Diego.
TBG: "There's nothing in our rules or code of conduct that says you can't take cognitive enhancers"
GK: "...if these drugs are going to be used as cognitive enhancers than there needs to be some rules about who will prescribe them....what about the SAT? "
Caller "Dakota": "...from my experience being college student...Adderall and Ritalin is used everywhere...I kinda see Adderall as the steroids of college...I feel like I'm at an unfair disadvantage to not use these superhuman study drugs"
If you are interested, here's some additional blog commentary from the prior go-round: