Smart Drugs, Moral Implications
Nootropic, or smart drug, use is becoming very common, especially in highly competitive, fast paced environments. These substances have been a quietly used secret to help entrepreneurs and University students gain a competitive edge, but is their use moral?
The fact that these drugs help improve cognition raises many interesting moral questions. Many of these questions are the focus of studies by psychiatrists and sociologists worldwide. In fact, entire journals have been established on the subject. A recent article in the journal Neuroethics presents interesting views on nootropic use from British students.
British Views on Cognitive Enhancement
Ilina Singh, Professor of Neuroscience and Society, at Oxford university recently published a paper examining views on cognitive enhancement. In the study, Professor Singh’s group interviewed 8 focus groups (66 total students) of UK university students. The goal of the exercise was to determine the attitudes and practices of pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement among UK university students.
The authors identified several interesting points. Of particular interest (at least to me), were comments around what are seen as American values. In general, the students thought that the use of nootropics is something that is an American phenomenon. They see Americans as highly competitive, and more willing to do anything to get a competitive edge.
In the words of one student:
“I think it’s because it’s quite a quick solution and that’s what you kind of associate America with is speed and everything going really fast.”
The British students seemed to have a more pragmatic approach in their views on the use of nootropics. They seemed more likely to balance the potential risks and benefits of use, and were more skeptical of America’s “prescription drug culture”.
Cultural Implications of Nootropic Use?
Professor Singh and her co-authors bring up several interesting insights into how collective values, social dynamics, and individual factors shape the views of nootropic use.
Please share your thoughts on the subject in the comments below. In particular:
- What moral issues do you see related to cognitive enhancement?
- Is the competitive nature of American culture pushing students to use these substances more often?
- For those of you outside the United States, why do you support (or oppose) the use of nootropics?
I am looking forward to hearing your opinions!