Nature online has a curious commentary (in a Brave New World sort of way) making the case for legalization of cognitive enhancing drugs. The authors are a group of heavy hitters from top law, medical, neuroscience and psychology programs. The groups’ call to action contains several components, as follows:
We call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs.
We call for an evidence-based approach to the evaluation of the risks and benefits of cognitive enhancement.
We call for enforceable policies concerning the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs to support fairness, protect individuals from coercion and minimize enhancement-related socioeconomic disparities.
We call for a programme of research into the use and impacts of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals.
We call for physicians, educators, regulators and others to collaborate in developing policies that address the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals.
We call for information to be broadly disseminated concerning the risks, benefits and alternatives to pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement.
We call for careful and limited legislative action to channel cognitive-enhancement technologies into useful paths.
These strike me as reasonable statements to launch what will no doubt be a controversy rife and contentious debate. Kudos to the authors for stepping into the breach. Though, evidently use of the drugs in question is already growing among adults — Wired reports that 20% of scientists admit to using them, particularly Ritalin, originally used for treating attention deficit disorder. And the ever drug-ready population of college students is beginning to sample the goods, with seven percent admitting to using them now.
This article in Wired Science contains interesting commentary on the issue.