You could argue that an era of cognitive enhancers has already begun; collage students routinely borrow a few pills from a friends Ritalin prescription to pull an all-nighter and drugs such as Adderall and modafinil that are normally prescribed for conditions such as ADHD are widely used to enhance performance in the workplace. In some campuses, up to one quarter of students have reported using the drugs and a national study conducted in 2007 showed that more than 1.6 million people in the U.S. had used prescription stimulants nonmedically during the previous 12 months.
Now lets talk a bit about the history of these drugs and how they work. In 1929 the chemist Gordon Alles introduced amphetamine for medical use, a synthetic drug chemically similar to the Chinese herb ephedrine. During World War II various types of the drug were used by both sides of the conflict. The
Germans and Japanese ingested methamphetamine,
while the British and Americans used
Benzedrine pills which were sometimes called (dubbed) wakey wakeys.
After the war scientist wanted to know if the perceived benefit in mental performance was genuine. Studies found that users (subjects) self-rated their performance very highly on tests that measured reading speed, multiplication and other factors. But their test scores however were no better than those earned by subjects who ingested caffaine. In more complex tasks their performance even declined a bit. This shows that because of its mood-elevating effects amphetamines tend to make us feel we are performing especially
well, when in fact we are not. Over the years new drugs, chemically similar to amphetamine, were developed for the treatment of conditions such as ADHD. Methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Ritalin, is one example of these drugs and it is worth mentioning (that Iceland holds the world record for prescription of Ritalin. Now these drugs are widely used for nonmedical purposes. It is unlikely however that these drugs will...