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Are Brain Boosters A Good Idea?

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, December 08, 2008 11:17 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Ritalin, Provigil, Psychostimulants, ADHD

Stimulants increasingly commonplace at work and at school, but are they a good idea to increase brain power and productivity?



IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ pencil case & drugs/ author: TACrafts


It may not be surprising in our latte-fueled hyper-fast society to find that many healthy people are turning to stimulants at work or school.

There has been a 300 percent increase in the production and supply of stimulants such as Ritalin in the U.S. between 1995 and 2006. A commentary in Sunday’s journal Nature, argues that drugs in health adults is a legitimate way of obtaining an edge in improving brain power.

The experts don’t all agree. 

“In the United States, stimulant medications are widely abused,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse told Reuters

Volkow said campus surveys show the drugs of choice on campus are Ritalin (Novartis), and Provigil (Cephalon).  Provigil or modafinil is also prescribed for narcolepsy.  It’s estimated anywhere from seven to 25 percent of students on college campuses have used prescription stimulants.

As students and employees are increasingly using drugs to enhance cognitive performance, the consensus is that this is not going to go away. Is it drug abuse? Some feel that if the drugs are proven safe they might actually serve a purpose.

“We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function,” says Henry Greely of Stanford Law to Reuters.

Debating all of these questions will be a gathering of experts and scientists this week in Nashville, Tennessee at a meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Ritalin (methylphenidate), is a medication prescribed commonly to children for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA , characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention or impulsivity.

Stimulants work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. The neurotransmitter is associated with pleasure, movement and attention, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Stimulant use can lead to serious cardiovascular complications including stroke, increased blood pressure, heart rate, and a decrease in sleep and appetite. 

Fatigue, depression, and disturbed sleep pattern can emerge when the drugs are withdrawn.

Parents claim that there have been 186 deaths from Ritalin (methylphenidate) reported to the FDA MedWatch program. 

Teenagers say it’s easier to get prescription drugs than beer, according to the 13th annual survey on attitudes about drug abuse, published by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.  #


Anonymous User
Posted by gjdagis
Monday, December 08, 2008 12:02 PM EST

There is one significant problem with the use of these medications. If one were to employ one to boost performance on a test, unless a person would be under it's influence permanently, the result on such a test would represent a spike rather than a true indication of their capabilities !

Anonymous User
Posted by Tammy
Tuesday, December 09, 2008 11:28 AM EST

This commentary ignores recent studies that show Ritalin to be ineffective in performance enhancement over a three year period and harmful to growth and development in children, yet somehow these drugs are now considered the magic bullet for adults? It should raise alarm bells," states Steve Bordley, President of TrekDesk, a treadmill desk manufacturer. "None of these medications can make the claim that they boost memory and cognitive abilities, increase the amount of small blood vessels in the brain as much as 43%, or reduce the incidence of stroke, dementia or Alzheimer's over the long term. But a daily walking regimen accomplishes this without any potential risks and a long list of additional health benefits as well. You hear very little about this because no one makes any money telling you walking is the answer."

Anonymous User
Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 12:44 PM EST

Bottom Line Personal this month has interesting information on the spice Turmeric, an anti-inflammatory agent and considered a "brain health food." Studies on mice show it reduces the buildup of plaque in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline.

Comments for this article are closed.

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