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November 16, 2005
Pill Popping Friends Regulate Minds Together
Today's NYTimes had an truthful article on the growth and trade of prescription drugs among friends.
The article "Young, Assured and Playing Pharmacist to Friends" nailed a very real trend stating,
"For a sizable group of people in their 20's and 30's, deciding on their own what drugs to take - in particular stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications - is becoming the norm...The behavior, drug abuse prevention experts say, is notably different from the use of drugs like marijuana or cocaine, or even the abuse of prescription pain killers, which is also on the rise.
The goal of many young adults in not to get high but to feel better - less depressed, less stressed out, more focused, better rested. It is just seems that the easiest route to that end often seems to be medication for which they do not have a prescription. Some seek to regulate every minor mood fluctuation, some want to enhance their performance at school or work, some simply want to find the best drug to treat a genuine illness."
The article goes on to cite some important statistics like prescriptions to treat attention deficit disorder in adults age 20 to 30 nearly tripled from 2000 to 2004 and 14% of students at a Midwestern liberal arts college reported borrowing or buying prescription stimulants from each other, and that 44% knew of someone who did.
My own research suggests the practice is even more widespread. After a recent talk I gave at an ivy league college, I had a chance to speak with some professors who had recently performed their own blind class surveys on the use of "neurocognitive enhancers" (i.e. stimulants) in their undergraduate classes and the number of students that had reported using them at some time was north of 60%, with 80% suggesting that they knew someone who did.
Despite the warnings and potentially life threatening side effects of this practice I expect that it will only grow as treatments with fewer side effects continue to reach the market. Like it or not, cosmetic neurology, or the shaping of one's perception with neurotechnology, is but one of the social issues humans are beginning to grapple with in our emerging neurosociety. So where is the line between therapy and enhancement?
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