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Ethical Use of Cognitive Enhancement Drugs

By Jayashree Dasgupta

This post is based off of a presentation given by the author at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society.
Wide-eyed and battling jet-lag at 2 a.m., following a 16-hour flight into the US from India, I decided to turn on the TV in the hope that it would help me sleep. Immediately I was struck by the number of advertisements on drugs claiming they could help improve my memory, make me feel more alert and enhance my cognitive abilities. I must admit, at that hour and with all the fogginess in my brain, they definitely held an uncanny appeal.
Cognitive enhancement drugs, or ‘smart drugs’ as they are commonly known, include drugs, supplements and other substances that may improve cognitive functions like memory, mental alertness and creativity in healthy individuals. These drugs cover a wide range of substances from prescription medications like methylphenidate (used for treatment of ADHD) and modafinil (commonly used for treatment of sleep dis…

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