An Ethical Look At Cognitive Stimulants, Part 2, Guest Post by Dr. Sean Hatt

Prescription PillsWho decides what’s right, what is socially appropriate, and what is societally acceptable when it comes to the use of things that alter your brain function?

It’s interesting to consider how we decide what the rules are about which drugs are deemed socially acceptable and which ones are not.  We condone (not only condone, but actively rely on) certain substances like caffeine, guzzling down cups of coffee and cans of Red Bull without a second thought about their “ethical implications.”  We condemn marijuana as illegal but allow a much more dangerous drug – alcohol – to be consumed at will after the age of 21.  We think it’s permissible to use coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes to pull an all nighter to complete work but would gape at someone snorting a line of cocaine for the same reason.  How are these lines we draw–the ones that call a certain brain-altering substance taboo and another one completely embraceable– determined?  Do they involve a careful assessment of their effects on the brain?   A standardized measure of risks?  Do they come from some subjective evaluation grandfathered in by socially determined forces?

1338142402_f762a6b8b1

I raise this point because this post is a response to an article from the scientific journal Nature published in 2008 called “Towards The Responsible Use Of Cognitive Stimulants In The Healthy,” an article which gathered together reputable academics from elite institutions across the country and declared that cognitive stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin should not only be permissible to use in the normal, healthy population, but that their use should be encouraged.  A society of individuals taking these cognitive stimulants would be more smarter, more efficient, and more productive, they said, and therefore we shouldn’t shy away from these drugs, but should embrace them.  The article states:

“Cognitive enhancement has much to offer individuals and society…We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function.  In a world in which human work-spans and life spans are increasing, cognitive enhancement tools – including the pharmacological—will be increasingly useful for improved quality of life and extended work productivity, as well as to stave off normal and pathological age-related cognitive declines.”

Hank Greely, a law professor who directs the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences and spearheaded this article, makes the point firmly: If we can manage the risks of these medications, he writes, why wouldn’t we pursue a future of widespread “cognitive enhancement”? A future where we could be smarter, more focused, and more alert?  And admittedly, when put this way, Greely’s argument sounds pretty convincing: no one can deny that being smarter and thinking faster would be a net-net gain for our society.

But maybe that’s a faulty assumption.  As with any ethical issue, there is a powerful counter-side to consider to this “faster = smarter = better” paradigm.  In his guest post below, Santa Clara Graduate Psychology adjunct lecturer Dr. Sean Hatt challenges Greely and his colleagues conclusions, outlining a number of reasons why the encouragement of these drugs is a worrisome path to head down.  Indeed, these so-called “smart drugs” are not a panacea for our wandering minds; they come at a real cost, a cost that Greely’s article, one could say, blithely glazes over and ignores.  The risks and effects of these medications can be substantial, particularly for the young populations who take them (some have even been found to cause death in children); and in ‘focusing’ our minds, the use of these drugs can stifle more creative types of thinking.

Dr. Hatt also raises an important question about what promoting these medications says about the types of values we are fostering as a culture.  Is advocating for drugs that enable people to do everything faster and more efficiently really cultivating the type of human beings we want to be? Read his post and consider the idea: what is the symbolic meaning of the pursuit of cognitive stimulants?  What does it say about who we are as human beings, about what we want, and what we value?  Why do we consider these types of drugs – which Margaret Talbot described as facilitating “a pinched, unromantic, grindingly efficient form of productivity,” cognitive enhancement?

Picture 6Dr. Sean Patrick Hatt is an adjunct lecturer in the Graduate School of Education, Counseling Pyschology, and Pastoral Ministries at Santa Clara University.  He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the social construction of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Poor African American And Affluent White American Families, which can be read on his website, www.seanpatrickhatt.com.

Cognition Enhancing Drug Use: Sacrificing Depth for Speed

Guest Blog Post by Sean Patrick Hatt, Ph.D.,

Department of Counseling Psychology
Santa Clara University

As a scholar and clinician interested in the social construction of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as well as other mental illnesses more generally, I was asked to render a brief opinion regarding the use of prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall by otherwise healthy people simply for the purpose of getting better grades, or working faster or more efficiently.

Child with learning difficultiesAt the surface, it seems fairly benign. After all, we have been giving these drugs to our young school-aged children for decades to help stem disruptive behaviors or address difficulties in focusing attention in the classroom. In fact, the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) recently published research touting the possible efficacy of stimulant medication in children as young as three years of age (Greenhill, et al., 2006).

That all makes it understandably easy for people to wonder how dangerous these drugs could possibly be. And, if they do promise to help healthy, responsible, intelligent people get far more work done, more quickly and with fewer distractions, what’s the harm? How different is this from drinking coffee or an energy drink?

If you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read, you have company in some very reputable places. In a recent issue ofNature, which is widely recognized the world over as one of our more prestigious scholarly publications, clinicians and scholars from Harvard Medical School, Stanford University Law School, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester, UC Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania collaborated on an article advocating the “responsible use of cognitive enhancing drugs by the healthy” (Greely, et al., 2008).

Greely's Article, From Nature

Greely's Article, From Nature

While exploring the question is almost certainly a worthwhile endeavor, this article, and the idea it seeks to advance, concerns me for a number of reasons, particularly given its rather authoritative status. Acknowledging the brevity of this forum, allow me to elaborate upon three of them, and then offer another way of thinking about this issue.

First, the article frames the subject in terms that scarcely anyone would take issue with. Who wouldn’t support “cognitive enhancement?” After all, isn’t that why people attend a University in the first place? I believe special care should be taken to employ more neutral language to frame a debate like this so as not to unduly bias the conversation, or even marginalize dissenting voices before they can be heard. As a community of teachers and researchers, let us respect the power inherent in our positions as constructors of new knowledge, and take particular care not to unintentionally cloak what may be a wolf in a sheep’s clothing.

This brings me to my second point: The article barely acknowledges the potential health risks of taking the drugs in question, and only touches upon the topic in rather general terms. In my opinion, this only serves to further support the apparently innocuous nature of this proposal.

These are powerful pharmaceuticals that carry a long list of potentially serious risks, particularly in young people with still-developing brains

020906_adhd_black_boxAllow me to fill in the blanks on this latter point with a few specifics. In spite of their seemingly ubiquitous presence, drugs used to treat ADHD are not at all similar to the caffeine in coffee or energy drinks. These are powerful pharmaceuticals that carry a long list of potentially serious risks, particularly in young people with still-developing brains. Adverse drug reactions in stimulant formulas include impaired growth (Swanson, et al., 2007), insomnia, agitation, hypomania, mania, seizures, physical withdrawal, rebound effects, dependence (Breggin, 1999a, 1999b), and even psychosis (Breggin, 2000). Non-stimulant formulas also present safety problems, and their manufacturers were recently ordered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include a “black box” warning regarding the potential for increased suicidal ideation in adolescents (Carey, 2005). The black box was also subsequently ordered by the FDA for some popular stimulant formulas given an increased risk of sudden death (Pettypiece & Blum, 2006).

Third, the article focuses upon only one family of “enhancements” as if they are all that might be possible or desirable—speed, memory and attention. It makes this idea sound every bit as simple as upgrading to a new computer with a faster microprocessor, more RAM and a bigger hard drive. A growing minority in the scholarly community who have been studying the legitimate therapeutic uses of a variety of other psychoactive substances—like MDMA (Parrott, 2007) for example—would have much to say about this limited definition of enhancement. If the scholarly community at large wishes to open the question of the legitimacy of “cognitive enhancement through drug use” for a comprehensive hearing, why not include these substances and what they may offer as well?

I raise that potentially controversial point as a way of leading into what for me is the heart of the matter. It’s not about advocating for all drugs equally. It’s about questioning what this says about our culture. Should we allow the pharmaceutical industry, corporate-owned media, allopathic medicine, the academy, and the Law decide for us what is worthy of enhancing and the means by which we should seek to do so?

3db7q846Allow me to explain further. Greely and colleagues (2009) talk briefly about the issue of fairness, which I think is salient here, but mainly as a means of focusing in upon this deeper thread of the conversation. Specifically, they compare the use of cognitive enhancing drugs by some students and not others with the notion of some being allowed to use calculators on a math exam while others are limited to pencils and scratch paper. Further, they wonder how this divide might show up as a function of access given socio-economic status. Whatever the case, the authors imply that allowing the use of cognitive enhancing drugs by some may amount to a form of indirect coercion whereby students feel they have no choice but to take the drugs in order to compete. While those are all worthy points from both sociological and psychological perspectives, this begs an even more fundamental question the authors fail to address: Compete for what, and to what ends?

Paul Tillich (1999) framed a convincing case that our culture increasingly tends to overemphasize what he called  “the horizontal dimension” of life. I see this showing up in how we relate to our world as a place filled with objects that are separate from us—including, ironically enough in this case, our own brains. These detached objects exist only to be exploited, acquired, shaped, produced, controlled or manipulated, with ever more efficiency, and for ever increasing personal gain.

The result of unconsciously proliferating such cultural practices is a loss of the dimension of “depth” in our discourse and in our lives

The result of unconsciously proliferating such cultural practices is, sadly, a loss of the dimension of “depth” in our discourse and in our lives. Tillich (1999) maintains that losing depth amounts to a disconnection from Spirit at the most universal level: namely, “the ability of man to ask passionately the question of the meaning of our existence.” To my mind, that’s where an education at a place like Santa Clara University strives to set itself apart, and often does. So the question for me becomes, “Do we want to risk losing that?”

I’m not suggesting that we ought to ignore the acquisition of skills and excellence in academic performance in the “horizontal” sense of their meaning in the world. What I am suggesting is that we needn’t emphasize or “enhance” them at the expense of students’ concerns for their own Being, or the state of Human Being more broadly.

In my opinion, that is the hidden price tag attached to “cognitive enhancement” as long as it’s all about speed—both literally and more symbolically.

6a00d83451b64669e200e55209c0b88833-800wiIn closing, the awe inspiring opportunity which lies before each of us is to creatively and authentically engage the tension between the horizontal and the deep, to the best of our God-given abilities, as professors and students and staff alike. When we do, we will co-create an education that develops heart and mind, body and soul, cognitive power and depth of feeling, efficiency and creativity. Best of all, such an education will en-courage us all to embody as a whole community what I have come to understand as foundational values of the Jesuit tradition: the sacred union of intellect, wisdom, skillful means, and love, as expressed in service to all of Humankind.

Now that is the sort of enhancement I can fully support.

References
Breggin, P. R. (1999a). Psychostimulants in the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD: Part 1–Acute risks and psychological effects. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 1(1), 13-33.
Breggin, P. R. (1999b). Psychostimulants in the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD: Part II–Adverse effects on brain and behavior. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 1(3), 213-242.
Breggin, P. R. (2000). Confirming the hazards of stimulant drug treatment. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 2(3), 203-204.
Carey, B. (2005). F.D.A. orders new warning on Attention-Deficit drug. The New York Times.com. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/30/health/30drug.html?ex=1157169600&en=a11a780cbe726cd4&ei=5070
Greely, H., Campbell, P., Sahakian, B., Harris, J., Kessler, R. C., Gazzaniga, M., et al. (2008). Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. Nature (December 2008), 702-705.
Greenhill, L. L., Kollins, S., Abikoff, H. B., McCracken, J. T., Riddle, M., Swanson, J. M., et al. (2006). Efficacy and safety of immediate-release methylphenidate treatment for preschoolers with ADHD. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(11), 1284-1293.
Parrott, A. C. (2007). The psychotherapeutic potential of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): an evidence-based review. Psychopharmacology, 191, 181-193.
Pettypiece, S., & Blum, J. (2006). Glaxo, Shire stengthen risk warnings on ADHD drugs. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=alBMR22v6xpI&refer=europe
Swanson, J. M., Elliott, G., Greenhill, L. L., Wigal, T., Arnold, L. E., Vitiello, B., et al. (2007). Effects of stimulant medication on growth rates across three years in the MTA follow-up. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(8), 1015-1027.
Tillich, P. (1999). The essential Tillich: an anthology of the writings of Paul Tillich. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Questions:

Professor Hatt raises important critiques about Greely’s article, highlighting the oft-downplayed risks of the medications, and asking a more fundamental question about what the pursuit of these drugs says about our culture, in which we are emphasizing competition and speed while not promoting other parts of being.  Do you agree with him that these medications promote one type of ‘being’ at the expense of others?  What types of thinking — of being — are de-emphasized as a result of these medications?

Considering both Greely’s and Dr. Hatt’s arguments, do you think the use of cognitive stimulants by the general public would benefit or detract from society?

8 Responses to “An Ethical Look At Cognitive Stimulants, Part 2, Guest Post by Dr. Sean Hatt”

  1. Alec says:

    I agree that preservation of “ourselves” is completely a desirable and necessary rule. As someone from who already sent through 4 years of Jesuit education, the self is one of the most important thing and its devaluation is a terrible loss.

    How might this carry over to other aspects of “enhancement?” There are also numerous anti-aging processes, both psychological, topical, and surgical that manipulate our appearance so that we are more appealing/attractive/whatever to others which also increases our belief in ourself.

    I think there is basically a cost analysis in all of these, and as long as it has no major drawback, both seen and unseen (unseen is the hardest part), it is acceptable.

    There is yet another issue. Once we start down one path, the step that is seen as extreme becomes closer and closer until it is no longer extreme. There will be no reaction in society as long as the cost remain in check at we are able to justify/validate/rationalize it. Unfortunately, rationalization is something we are notoriously good at, and it has never worked as a reliable safety valve. There’s really no way to say for sure.

    Either way, I think all of it furthers an attitude that does devalue the individual in whatever form it is done. Once someone believes that there is something external from them that they need, it takes away from their personal value because without it they are lesser. Whatever it is controls them to some extent. That happens way more than just in regards to this topic though. Sometimes it is bad, sometimes it is absolutely negligible. To extent with which Adderall does it, I see it as bad (the alternatives are a separate discussion).

  2. Loren M says:

    I find Dr. Hatt’s point that encouraging the use of prescription stimulants endangers “the ability of man to ask passionately the question of the meaning of our existence” quite compelling. This is not because I see anything immediately morally problematic with the use of Adderall or Ritalin for ‘cognitive enhancement’—certainly there are health risks, but these are no greater than those associated with other prescription or recreational drugs. Outside of that, I’m not entirely convinced that Adderall conveys that much of an advantage. Admittedly, I’ve never taken it, so I can’t exactly attest to its effects. However, as I understand, while it may help you stay focused on what you’re trying to learn, it can’t learn it or understand it for you. It can’t make you think creatively or critically, which is far more important than simple memorization.

    The “meaning of existence” question is, I think, one of the most fundamental philosophical and ethical questions we face as human beings. Yet, it’s increasingly ignored. And while this potential “loss of depth” in our lives doesn’t stem from drugs like Adderall per se, it does stem from the drugs and technologies that come after; the ones that WILL enhance our ability to learn and understand, that WILL alter what our brains are capable of, that WILL be able to do our thinking for us.

    As a society I think we’ve come to underestimate the power of experience. Having someone explain happiness to you is not at all the same as feeling it. In our obsession with the quick and easy—microwavable meals, text messaging,
    Wikipedia—we’re forgetting what’s valuable about expending time and effort. No matter what the grade, there’s something infinitely more rewarding about investing a week to carefully write and revise a paper than dashing it off hurriedly the day before it’s due, but we all fall into that trap of just “getting things done”. I’m not sure where to put the blame for that, but surely Hatt is right to claim that a drug that simply allows us to work quicker and study longer doesn’t enhance us. Indeed, it limits us and, to borrow a concept from Heidegger, enframes us as reserves of power used to get things done. What bothers me about the off-label use of Adderall is that it shifts the focus of our education. No longer are we concerned with our development as human beings, with bettering ourselves through knowledge and understanding. We care simply about the grades we get and our efficiency in getting them. That doesn’t enhance us; it makes us machines.

  3. Jorge Castrillo says:

    Professor Hatt raises important critiques about Greely’s article, highlighting the oft-downplayed risks of the medications, and asking a more fundamental question about what the pursuit of these drugs says about our culture, in which we are emphasizing competition and speed while not promoting other parts of being.  Do you agree with him that these medications promote one type of ‘being’ at the expense of others?  What types of thinking — of being — are de-emphasized as a result of these medications?
    Considering both Greely’s and Dr. Hatt’s arguments, do you think the use of cognitive stimulants by the general public would benefit or detract from society?
    Cognition Enhancing Drugs

    There is a drug somewhere that can make me stronger and faster. To me, and most people, this insinuates that the drug will make me better. My productivity will increase because I can now read faster and concentrate harder; I am now “better”. This pressure of being “better” is not isolated to the West or East coat of the United States, nor is it limited to any particular sub-culture. Throughout the U.S. there is this pressure that if you are not on the cutting edge its because someone else is, and that someone is “better” then you. This someone can read faster, comprehend more, and because of that they can do more.
    In 2004 University of Michigan had an incoming class of 600 students, roughly 10% of the total incoming class, that had started a business in high school (Zernike). In 2009 78% of UCLA incoming freshmen to say that it was essential or very important to be “very well-off financially” and only 48% to say the same about developing a meaningful philosophy on life (Zernike). The University of Louisiana is eliminating its philosophy major because so few students are declaring philosophy as their major (Zernike). This is the decline of higher thinking. Students just don’t care about philosophy the way they use to because its not what can lead them to being “better”. A philosophy class, arguable, wont help a student retain more information or stay awake longer, but a pill will.
    The all magical cognition enhancing drugs will help students read faster, retain more information, and focus for longer periods of time. Yes, these drugs are they key to making a “better” student. Its obvious that students already don’t care about philosophy so why not take a pill that will further eliminate creative thinking? Just one pill can help a student fit into the mold laid out for them that emphasizes speed over freedom.
    Sure, there are some students that still care about free thinking. However, wide use of cognition enhancing drugs will force students to give up on ideas of freedom. Classes entitled business ethics already allow students to firmly grasp the concept of ethics. Why not get ride of philosophy as UM did, take the pill, and focus on acting within the limits of a box? There is no way that a lack of free thinking, that a lack of ethics, will lead to the downfall of a society. Taking pills that make students think faster and less free is a good thing. There is a brave new world that needs exploring and free thinking is only preventing people from embarking on such a journey.
    Cognition enhancing drugs can have some negative effects, such as harming brain development, but its all worth it. If all of us take these pills we can all be “better”, because its so clear we are “broken”. People no longer have to think outside of the box. All students have to do is make sure they take their pills, hurt their bodies to get ahead, limit their scope of thinking, and then we can have a happy tomorrow.
    (In short I think that cognition enhancing drugs will harm society. I believe that they do effect free thinking and have other harmful side effects, but that people will take them if it helps them fit in and stay ahead. There is this idea that if I can do it faster it means I can do it better, but that isn’t the case. The faster you go the more mistakes you can make. One of those mistakes can be not thinking for yourself. It scares me that philosophy is no longer a major at UM not because of budget cuts, but because not enough students are enrolling as philosophy majors. There is seriously something wrong with society when people are putting efficiency over freedom.)
    Zernike, Kate. “Making College ‘Relevant’.” New York Times 3 January 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Mar 2010.

    • Danny W says:

      The view put forth in your post, Jorge, to me is extremely bleak and hopeless. I agree that our society has its problems and I agree that there is little the individual can do to change things. But I disagree that taking amphetamines is any way to cope with society’s placement of efficiency over freedom. By taking the stance that these pills are beneficial and necessary for success in the competitive world we live in, you seem to be abandoning your true beliefs that Ritalin and Adderall are dangerous and blindly following those who endorse their use.

      A world where everyone took Ritalin or Adderall is not a world many people would enjoy living in. The side effects of these drugs are primarily mental, and are difficult to notice until it’s too late. While an essay can be written quite a bit faster with a couple pills, is this small achievement really worth the insomnia, mania and psychosis that could possibly result? The “Nature” article that encouraged everyone to use cognitive enhancing drugs obviously didn’t take into account the insanity many would be plagued with for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, society’s progress would be stalled by many people’s reliance on these drugs because they limit the individual’s ability to think creatively.

      On the surface, Ritalin and Adderall make students better at learning and accomplishing set tasks, but this effect is only skin deep. As students, we need to think outside the box to really do well and amphetamines make this difficult. Although our society is incredibly competitive, I think I can achieve my goals without the help of cognitive enhancing drugs, and I believe that relying on these pills will only hinder my progress. When someone invents a drug that truly makes the user “better” I will reevaluate my viewpoint, but in my mind amphetamines are not this drug.

    • Julia says:

      I take issue with the sweeping statements you assign to students who chose to use Adderall, and other cognitive enhancing drugs. It is flawed thinking to put philosophy majors and Adderall-users at opposite sides of the spectrum. I myself am a philosophy major, and an adderall user. I find that the right amount of adderall (a low 10mg-15mg dose) does enhance my creativity and concentration on my philosophical work. I know many other philosophy majors who use stimulants as well. Adderall should not be equated with not caring about the depth of one’s academic work. In my experience, it is the opposite. I don’t use Adderall to rush through my work and just get something on the paper. It is a way for me to immerse myself in it, organize my thoughts, and produce the best work I am capable of producing.

      I too am concerned that philosophy programs are being cut. But it is inaccurate to implicate Adderall in that.

  4. kevin Laymoun says:

    I feel that Professor Hatt is correct in his assertions that modern society de-emphasizes the holistic cultivation of the individual and instead emphasizes the ideals of speed and efficiency. Humanity has become obsessed with these ideals and the reason is competition. If life is a competition then those who succeed are those who have produced more in less time than their competitors. And it is our Darwinist nature to use whatever means necessary to gain an advantage. It is clear that those who are powerful are the people who set the precedent for the competition for resources. For instance, most people would take a fancy to a proposed economic system devoid of interest. This utopian image could be made possible by the honesty of man: the fact that one would pay back a loan merely to retain a clear conscience. However, economists would argue that interest is necessary to ensure that a loan will be paid back, yet interest seems to be used in excess as it is a key actor in the structural violence that exploits the poor around the world. In countries like Colombia, NGOs levy harsh interest rates, which leave the debtor unable to make the regular payments. It is safe to say that interest is used as a competitive tool in a capitalist economic world. The appalling use of cognitive stimulants really is a comment on the competitive level our society has reached and the sad direction we are heading towards.
    The advent of cognitive stimulants seems to indicate that at some point individuals will be forced to choose either to use them or risk loosing opportunities of achieving success. And as Alec points out, the use of such stimulants starts society on a path to devaluing the sanctity of the human being. But this is brought about by our decisions made in urgent competition with one another and the result is that morality is altogether forgotten; consequently, humanity is powerless to technological advancement. Returning back to the example of Columbia, US NGOs knowingly sold goods to drug lords needing to convert their dollars, earned through cocaine sales in the US, into pesos. Companies like Phillip Morris would sell cigarettes to the drug lords in order for the drug lords to then sell the cigarettes in Colombia for pesos. The reason a company like Philip Morris would broker such a deplorable deal is purely to remain competitive. Such actions devoid of morality make the issue of cognitive stimulants very clear: a competitive edge needs to be attained regardless of its moral implications.
    I recognize that throughout history oppressed individuals have risen up against a subjugating force in order to restore justice, as was the case in early eighteenth century Russia, where the proletariat rose out of abject poverty to overthrow the corrupt ruling monarchy. However, I believe that the differences existing between modern technology and pre-modern technology are too vast to make comparisons between the past and present. Jacques Ellul addresses this argument writing, “Today we are dealing with an utterly different phenomenon. Those who claim to deduce from man’s technical situation in past centuries his situation in this one show that they have grasped nothing of the technical phenomenon” (pg. 74-75, Technology and Values). Ellul makes the claim that modern technology and pre-modern technology are so vastly different that no connections can be made between the two eras, and that is to say modern technology insulates the rich and powerful from revolution by the lower class. It does so in the manner that modern technology’s impact is so grand that its effects cause the entire system to conform to its alterations. In example, there is a proposed pill coming out in the future that will allow humans to require less than 5 hours of sleep a night. The cognitive advancement will undoubtedly be met with opposition, however the powerful drug companies will use their resources to lobby hard on Capitol Hill to get the stimulant approved for sale. If not allowed here it will be allowed elsewhere and will travel here via globalization and international market competition. By whatever means it arrives it will be allowed for sale with what critics will feel as a fair protection against massive cultural change: a bill prohibiting employment based upon the usage of the pill. Although the ideal that individuals will have the ‘freedom’ to use the cognitive advancement will be replaced by cultural insistence on using the pill and to sleep less because of the pressures to increase productivity. The societal competition will encourage drug companies to create even more drastic cognitive enhancers, because in the end results are everything.

  5. Anisha says:

    I think that Professor Hatt brings up very important points about this new era of “cognitive enhancement.” Competition in not only school but life is always going to be an issue, and it will drive people to always strive for the upper hand in the situation. But how far are we willing to go to be the best? I’m not willing to put not only my health at risk but my character in order to just get a short term gain. When healthy people use these drugs to try to “better” themselves they are losing the whole point to what it means to accomplish something. It’s true that it is the hard work that you put into something and the struggles you go through that makes you a better person. I know I would rather work to the best of my ability to accomplish a goal I’ve been striving for than to take an easier path. The fact that I went through so much would make me accomplishing it that much greater.

    These drugs are often compared to caffeine, but should be held on a different level than it. I’m curious if a person started taking these drugs if they could ever stop. I know people who have caffeine withdrawals when they don’t have their daily cups of coffee, but these drugs would take it to a new extreme. I feel like another problem would be pushing people’s limits too far. Yes I would like to be efficient throughout my day and get my work done, but I want my focus to be on only a couple projects at one time. I think by upping the efficiency of society we would lose any sense of down time. Everyone would be working to complete a million tasks because they have the drugs to relieve their fatigue or lack of focus.

    Everything has a trade off. If we take the drugs to get ahead then we lose some of our character. If we reject this peer pressure and stick to our natural process then we could lose out to the competition. If it were available to everyone in society I think that the competition would only get worse. If we brought everyone to somewhat of the same playing field, people would only find new ways to separate themselves. It’s a never ending process that will continue to grow as long as the market is there. And let’s face it we’re never going to stop comparing ourselves to our peers and are always going to want to be ahead.

  6. Chloe Wilson says:

    I think that Dr. Sean Hatt’s initial comments regarding the double standard we carry for cognitive substances are extremely insightful, and accurate. Why prohibit marijuana when the laws regulating alcohol consumption are much more lenient, and the laws that exist are nearly impossible to enforce on places like college campuses? Nearly everyone I know “goes out” on the weekends, and all the research I’ve done regarding alcohol’s effects on the young adult’s brain is absolutely horrifying. Equally awful are the effects of any product that contains caffeine, or legal drugs like salvia. To be perfectly honest, I agree with Dr. Hatt—we have extremely unequal ethical standards that we apply to these substances. A beer (or five) in college is regarded as normal, even if the drinker is under 21, but marijuana has such a stigma attached to it that we think it is a much bigger ethical dilemma. Frankly, I don’t see the difference. Is salvia legal simply because the effects don’t last as long? Is alcohol permitted at such a young age because it is assumed that young adults will not be drinking to get drunk? I believe a lot more negative long-term effects come from underage drinking and the use of legal stimulants such as caffeine, salvia, and cigarettes to “get through” the day than the rare occurrences of marijuana and cocaine, to name a few. I would assume that this correlation comes from the amount each of these is regulated, and how strictly those regulations are enforced… If that’s the case, that correlation is very telling. We have a tendency to overuse what is available, and what is a “quick fix.” Something needs to be done, and I believe it’s in the form of stricter legislature. Americans, young and old, use what is easy and available to excess. This should be recognized in cognitive substance control, before we damage ourselves more than we realize.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

WordPress Themes