Adderall for an A-Plus?
Op-Heads: a virtual chat on the issues that matter
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While all-nighters and study groups are still the path to better grades for most students, more than a few are willing to pop a pill in search of an academic edge. The study drugs of choice are mild stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, prescribed mainly for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When taken “off label,” they can improve the ability to focus and retain information. One recent survey found that nearly 7 percent of university students in the United States have used prescription drugs for a mental boost.
Critics of such cognitive enhancement say it’s cheating — and dangerous. Defenders say it’s no different from downing a cup of coffee. As it stands, it’s a crime. But last month, in a Nature commentary, seven academics and scientists argue for new approaches to regulation that “avoid making felons out of those who seek to use safe cognitive enhancements.”
These drugs, “along with newer technologies such as brain stimulation and prosthetic brain chips, should be viewed in the same general category as education, good health habits, and information technology — ways that our uniquely innovative species tries to improve itself,” the authors write.
The article also discusses concerns about safety and fairness and urges further debate on all these issues.
BU Today asked George Annas, Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights and chair of the School of Public Health’s department of health law, bioethics, and human rights (left), and David Farb, chairman and professor in the department of pharmacology in the School of Medicine, to discuss whether enhancement through drugs is progress or a Pandora’s box.
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Robin Berghaus and Edward A. Brown assisted on this piece.12 Comments