The essay deals with the critical analysis of the evidence for and against the use of memory enhancing drugs in clinical or non-clinical populations. The essay mainly focuses on the biological and psychological issues.
There is an increased use of the brain enhancement drugs as it has been found useful in boosting cognitive abilities. People tend to experience better memory function, increased retention and alertness and executive functions. In people diagnosed with specific brain or cognitive issue have been benefitted with these smart drugs. For instance, in ADHD and in executive function deficit cases these smart drugs have increased the attention, motivation and other aspects of learning and memory. In patients with Alzheimer’s this drug was found to increase memory, language, orientation, and visual construction (Husain & Mehta, 2011)). Even in the healthy population such as university students these drugs have improved their abilities to focus their attention and flexibly control their responses. It has increased positive attitude in working professionals that led to work life balance, gaining competence, satisfaction in life and good quality of life (Hyman, 2011). These drugs have been found effective in both clinical and non-clinical population. For example, anti-depressants are not only effective in patients diagnosed with depression through DSM criteria but also in healthy population with pessimistic attitude. Overall this constitutes the positive aspect of these drugs in both patients and health populations (Brand et al., 2016).
The negative aspect of the memory enhancing drugs includes safety and efficacy issues particularly in the non-clinical population. In both the clinical and non-clinical population, use of these drugs involves high risk and adverse consequences such as substance abuse and compulsion to excel in life. It might be deemed safe if the cognitive enhancement drugs caused adverse effects in dementia patients but it might be unacceptable risk in case of healthy people. Healthy people using memory enhancer such as AChEIs and methylphenidate have been reported with gastrointestinal upset or nausea (Hyman, 2011). Use of these drugs may lead to unfairness if it is accessible only by upper class of society. Thus, people need to be protected from coercion. Lack of public understanding of cognitive enhancement leads to misuse of drugs. This behaviour is exacerbated by media hype on positive aspects of smart drugs. University students may intend to take these drugs just to be the topper of the class or any other malign lessons. This increases negative behaviour (Greely, 2013). As per Husain & Mehta, (2011), there is a still a mixed results in regards to positive and negative aspect of the cognitive enhancement drugs usage in clinical and non clinical population. In both populations the overall effect was found to be modest and significant effects may be found in people with particular genotype. It means there is no concluding evidence in this regard and suggest need of future research. However, supporting evidence was found from RCTs that non-medical use of smart drugs may be harmful when compared to prescription use (Partridge et al., 2011).
Memory enhancement can be used poorly or well like all other technologies for improved quality of life. These drugs have both positive and negative impact on the biology and psychology of person. In clinical population the effect may be modest despite side effects. However, such use of drugs can cause potential harm particularly in the non-clinical population with risk of malign behaviour, ethical issues and hence they need awareness of responsible use. To reach the concluding evidence there is a need of more RCTs, case control, observational and longitudinal studies.
Brand, R., Wolff, W., & Ziegler, M. (2016). Drugs as instruments: describing and testing a behavioral approach to the study of neuroenhancement. Frontiers in psychology, 7.
Greely, H. T. (2013). Some first steps toward responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(7), 39-41.
Husain, M., & Mehta, M. A. (2011). Cognitive enhancement by drugs in health and disease. Trends in cognitive sciences, 15(1), 28-36.
Hyman, S. E. (2011). Cognitive enhancement: promises and perils. Neuron, 69(4), 595-598.
Partridge, B. J., Bell, S. K., Lucke, J. C., Yeates, S., & Hall, W. D. (2011). Smart drugs “as common as coffee”: media hype about neuroenhancement. PloS one, 6(11), e28416.