brain-doping razidrug

What is brain enhancement?

So called “smart” drugs that can improve mental function have become popular in recent years. A number of substances have been developed that can improve concentration, attention, memory and cognition.

Methylphenidate: Known by the brand names Ritalin and Concerta among others. It is a psychostimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Prescriptions for these drugs increased by 50% in the six years from 2007.

Modafinil: This medicine is used to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy. The drug helps people stay awake and improves alertness and the ability to concentrate.

Aking substances to enhance the brain is more popular among amateur athletes than taking drugs to boost the body.

Researchers in Germany found that 15% of recreational triathletes admitted to brain doping, using prescription medicines that increase attention.

Some 13% of competitors reported using physical enhancers like steroids or human growth hormone.

Brain doping is more popular say the scientists, because many of the substances aren’t banned.

 

The research has been published in the journal Plos One.

Previous studies have shown that, among amateur competitors, the use of performance-enhancing substances is widespread.

This new work used the responses of almost 3,000 triathletes taking part in events in Germany, to analyse the broader picture of physical and cognitive doping.

Researchers believe that many so-called “smart drugs” are being widely used to enhance mental functions outside the patients groups they have been designed to help.

They are also concerned that competitors in a variety of sports may be using these substances to gain an edge.

 

Previous studies have shown that, among amateur competitors, the use of performance-enhancing substances is widespread.

This new work used the responses of almost 3,000 triathletes taking part in events in Germany, to analyse the broader picture of physical and cognitive doping.

Researchers believe that many so-called “smart drugs” are being widely used to enhance mental functions outside the patients groups they have been designed to help.

They are also concerned that competitors in a variety of sports may be using these substances to gain an edge.

 

“There is some searching for additional help, we found a strong connection between those taking legal cognitive enhancers and those taking illicit ones,” said Prof Simon.

“There seems to be a certain proportion of our society that is willing to take a bit more of a risk to gain an advantage.”

 

The authors believe that the sporting status of cognitive enhancement may be affecting the attitudes of some of these amateur sports participants.

Athletes are aware that physical doping is forbidden and drug testing is common in triathlon competitions, including amateur ones.

However the use of cognitive substances is not associated with sanctions and therefore abusing them may seem a lesser infringement.

The researchers believe this reflects attitudes in society where the taking of ADHD medicine doesn’t carry the same stigma as using steroids.

The authors say their research leaves many unanswered questions about brain doping.

Prof Simon said: “On the cognitive level, we don’t know enough about these substances. Is there is a hyper performance effect?”

“What we know is that if you are a patient you are going to perform better than before, but if you are already a high-level performer we don’t know if there is an effect. That’s the big question.”

The researchers warn that, regardless of the enhancement, abusing brain doping substances can have damaging impacts in the long run.

 

A question of substance

The authors accept that getting to a precise definition of what constitutes doping is difficult. They tried to be as clear as possible in their questions on the different types of enhancement.

Physical doping: Have you used substances which can only be prescribed by a doctor, are available in a pharmacy, or can be bought on the black market (such as anabolic steroids, erythropoietin, stimulants, growth hormones) to enhance your physical performance during the last 12 months?

Cognitive doping: Have you used substances which can only be prescribed by a doctor, are available in a pharmacy, or can be bought on the black market (such as caffeine tablets, stimulants, cocaine, methylphenidate, modafinil, beta-blockers) to enhance your cognitive performance during the last 12 months?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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