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Dublin Opinion >>
Brain Awarenes Week: Brain Doping in Academia
Wednesday March 01, 2017 12:50 by Dublin Business School
How prevalent are Cognitive Enhancers?
We are a collaborative group of Ms C students in Applied Psychology at Dublin Business School.
We are an advocacy project raising public awareness around Cognitive Enhancers and Doping in Academia
We have attached an article surrounding this important issue hopefully to be published during National Brain Awareness Week commencing March 6th 2017.
Cognitive Enhancers: Doping in Academia
In Ireland the number of young people availing of third level education has increased exponentially, since previous decades. Moreover, increased university numbers are driving competition for higher academic qualifications. As a result, anecdotal evidence suggests some university students are turning to chemical cognitive enhancers to gain advantages in academic performance. Dubbed 'smart pills', pharmacological cognitive enhancement drugs (yes, you read that right!) improve the student’s attention, memory and academic performance. Many of the popular smart pills are amphetamine based and have the potential for dependency and abuse. Recent research in animal trials indicate cognitive enhancers mimic cocaine and can alter reward pathways, increasing the chance of mental illnesses and addiction. In the United States statistics vary, with some American Universities indicating around 50% of students take or knew someone who took a smart pill. Online marketing of cognitive enhancers provides an accessible quick fix for stressed out students. The allure and promise of increased brain power, cognitive acuity and heightened alertness is an enticing inducement for ambitious students.
Cognitive Enhancers: Doping in Academia
Brain Awareness week (BAW) is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the benefits and progression of brain research. This campaign aims to encourage a debate surrounding the moral implications of essentially "doping" in academia or a working environment during BAW on the 6-12th of March. The aim of cognitive enhancers is to achieve something without effort which diminishes the value of achievement. Is this fair competition? Should there be similar outcomes for those who engage in...
Interestingly, in surveys most students agree that doping in sports is cheating, although many admit to smart pill use occasionally.
Is it ethically fair that some students gain an advantage in academic attainment through cognitive enhancers? Moreover, who set’s the legal threshold for cognitive enhancement substances? Ethical dilemmas arise for other “cognitive enhancements” such as caffeine drinks. If “smart pills” are cheating, are Americanos and caffeine drinks cheating also? Are we now facing the same ethical issues in academia around clean competition and drug safety that beset Olympic sports? The lack of academic regulation means that consumption of cognitive enhancers has the potential to increase among students. The grey area of pharmacological substances cognitive enhancers poses potential health and safety concerns to the mental health and wellbeing of the consumer. Online availability of cognitive enhancers is a recent phenomenon and research is scant as to the long term effect for users. In the meantime, we call for further research surrounding the effects of pharmacological cognitive enhancement drugs on brain health.
Article by Fiona Kelly