A few decades ago, the international community published guidelines for athletes, trying to ban performance enhancing drugs in order to guarantee the safety of sportsmen and -women and ensure fair competitions. The phenomenon of enhancing an individual’s performance in sports is also known as doping. Although these guidelines exist for high performance athletes in many countries, many people still take many drugs, which can be dangerous or are illegal in many cases – steroids in the bodybuilding scene being one example.
With the advancement of modern technology, advances in the neurosciences and a vast amount of supplements and drugs available on the market, society now faces similar debates on the front of smart thinking drugs. The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics discusses exactly this issue. It is not surprising that the film industry releases at the same time the new film Limitless, in which the protagonist takes a performance enhancing drug for his brain in order to cope with every day stresses and finish the tasks that otherwise seem to be insurmountable.
The book discusses in particular drugs that have been developed for specialised clinical settings, but have been been widely adopted for a wide range of non-medical purposes. In particular, the psychological and physical effects of drugs taken to enhance mental performance short term disregarding long-term effects, is beautifully discussed in this book. The book is divided into themed chapters and the language has been adapted for the general public, providing a means to bridge the gap between medical jargon and every-day language. This enables to deepen the dialogue between the medical and non-medical world and explains the effects that such drugs have. Society is constantly changing and with the increasing speed of new emerging technology and a change in life styles and massive changes at work environments, stress levels of the average modern human being have increased dramatically over the past decades. It is not surprising, that many of us may seek a quick fix rather than adopting the right coping strategies.
With the advancement of neuro-imaging, there are many novel attempts in combatting neurological cases, such as Alzheimer’s and and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which were were associated with changes in the brain. This has caused a revolution in our thinking and understanding of the human brain, paving the way for the development of many new drugs.
But what happens when people start taking such drugs, which have not been tailored to them and without medical surveillance. Where are the boundaries, also taking into consideration all the supplements available in shops today.
This is an excellent read and will make anyone think, not just about smart thinking drugs, but also about the impact of modern life on the human psyche.
The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics, edited by Judy Illes and Barbara Sahakian, is published by Oxford University Press on 7 April 2011.
Image reproduced from www.amazon.co.uk
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