The Rise of the Smart Drug
September 9, 2016
Filed under Health
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In a world where each second matters, and time is truly money, getting the most out of the day can feel taxing and exhausting. Imagine what can be achieved when fatigue and drowsiness are no longer factors. There is a solution; in the form of a single white tablet, one that is FDA approved, and supported by worldwide major research. This is where the smart drug, Modafinil comes in.
What is a smart drug? Think of the study-boosting phenomenon that has taken campuses worldwide by storm. Do the names Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta ring a bell? A smart drug is designed to allow the human mind to focus on an activity for long periods of time, both retaining information and cognitively boosting one’s brain. With access on easy-to-access websites, and sometimes even on school campuses, smart-drugs have evolved from ADHD and attention deficit prescription medication, to now serving students and other individuals looking to take matters off the label, and into their own future prospects.
Recently, Harvard Medical School and Oxford University conducted research studies on the drug. Across twenty-four studies, the resulting synapsis between the focus group and the placebo group was that Modafinil does indeed provide long term boosting effects on the brain. Specifically, according to the study, Modafinil enhances attention, improves learning and memory. Furthermore, according to Oxford University’s study, the drug increases a phenomenon called “fluid intelligence”, which essentially describes the capacity for an individual to solve problems and think clearly.
Whereas other “smart-drugs” have vast recognized side effects, Modafinil does not. In the critically review journal, European Neuropsychopharmacology, writer Anna-Katharine Brem notes that “Modafinil seems to be the first “smart drug” that is reasonably safe for healthy people. However, this does not take into effect the addictive nature of individuals, who will react to the “smart drug” differently. As a result of this reality, such “smart drugs” will never fully be supported, as the dependent variable (humans) will always prove random, unique, and varied. Furthermore, as ethical barriers stand in the way of long-term research and studying, it is currently unclear as to what the effects of Modafinil are over extended periods of time. Thus, without the ethical green flag, Modafinil and other drugs of its nature are only clinically understood in the short term, with the exception of ADHD cases.
However, with the idea of cognitive enhancement in the hands of individuals that are tasked with strenuous work and school schedules, the unknown of the long term does not pose such a risk. It is estimated that as of today, more than three percent of the adult population takes some form of cognitive enhancing drug. This number has only increased exponentially over the last ten years. With college workloads, professional expectations, and independent aspirations increasing rapidly each year, individuals find the benefits of Modafinil’s cognitive boost to vastly outweigh the risks, and for justified reasons.
More so than a health issue, at this point Modafinil has been distinguished as a safe, clean, and proven “smart-drug” by clinical researchers and doctors around the world. The main issue that now stands, however, is the ethical dilemma facing Modafinil and other related medication. As noted by Guy Goodwinn, the president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmalogy, “Previous ethical discussion of such agents has tended to assume extravagant effects before it was clear that there were any.”
With Modafinil being the first drug of its nature to pass the otherwise impenetrable barrier of health risk and rampant side effects relatively unscathed, it is now at the point of ethical discourse. The future of “smart drugs” is unknown, and the adoption of Modafinil and its related medicines is still up in the air. However, with Modafinil’s clean formula and relatively lack of side effects, it does have a good chance of eventually being seen as a cognitive enhancer that can help the everyday individual to stay focused and give their best efforts in all of their tasks.
Regardless, other speed bumps must be overcome before widespread adoption of “smart drugs” can occur. Specifically, college institutions must decide if taking “smart drugs” provides students with an unfair advantage, and if it should be considered cheating or not. Similar to performance enhancing drugs in sports, “smart drugs” fit into the same category of giving individuals an edge in their field. Unless every individual is taking Modafinil, the argument stands that it isn’t fair for other students who will be competing for the same scholarships, grades, and eventually careers in the future. Needless to say, there is still much ground to be covered.
“Smart drugs” have clearly made an impression in the lives of people around the world. Whether a student or a professional, the issue of fatigue and drowsiness proves a great hurdle when it comes to managing the demanding day-by-day lifestyle that has become the norm. Though the future of Modafinil is unknown, the potential for its widespread adoption seems optimistic, when side effects are completely understood and minimized.