Take a pill and be more intelligent, faster, or stronger. Take the blue pill and you will master your next exam. Take the red one and you will soon receive the career promotion that you desire. Really? After having watched the first episode of the new series Limitless (Limitless, 2015) I researched whether wonder pills actually exist. The next few paragraphs are the result of my research.
Definition of smart drugs
Smart drugs are pharmacological cognitive enhancers (PCE) or simply drugs that increase the cognitive performance and abilities of healthy people and improve, for instance, concentration or memory. Often the medicaments Adderall, Modafinil, or Ritalin are cited as the best smart drugs, however, some people experienced only negative side effects without positive changes (BBC Worldwide, 2014). Short term side effects include insomnia, anxiety, sleeping disorders, headaches, restlessness, cardiac arrhythmia, irritability, aggressive behavior, psychosis, and some studies even report a risk of dependency (Petrounin, 2014). You perhaps read different opinions or testimonials on the internet but be aware that online reviews could be either faked by agencies specialized in writing designed reviews or actors sponsored by companies that produce smart drugs. Consult your doctor and never buy medicaments from oversea countries where it is not clear whether the production is up to health and safety standards.
One the one hand, people argue that taking smart drugs is necessary because the competition does it as well, however, a study from King’s College London found out that only about three percent of respondents had used cognitive enhancers (King’s College London, n.d.). On the other hand, people take smart drugs because of the social pressure to achieve and excel at something.
According to Clauco Garofalo, founder of Sattva Land, feeling to take a pill to be part of the system is a warning signal and indicates a misalignment of the current system. Taking smart drugs without full consent and only because of social pressure is an act of obedience to the current system. It is the role of the citizens and the government to bring back balance to society when misalignment is present. Instead of taking pills and subordinating to an exhaustive system, one should act or demonstrate against it. However, the root causes of social pressure should not only be boiled down to capitalism. Capitalism brought more wealth to society than any other economic system combined, it is just that capitalism has to be used in a different and more conscious way. Most things are neither good nor bad, their interpretation often depend on the implementation.
If one wishes to excel at something, then there are great alternatives to smart drugs. One should consider deep diving into time management and personal development. Furthermore, setting priorities can change life as well.
Morality of smart drugs
While discussing the morality of smart drugs one can look at a similar case: DNA change. Genetical modification is an intrinsic change of the person similar to taking smart drugs. Whereas genetical modification is permanent, the effect of smart drugs is temporarily – at least regarding the positive changes. Many people argue that changing DNA is like playing God, but sometimes people are born with genetical errors reducing the life quality. Should they suffer with their genetical errors even if there is a potential solution? I believe the answer in this case is clear. DNA changes that move people out of misery is morally correct as the alternative is not humane. However, should healthy people change their DNA to enhance themselves even if no life-threatening issue is apparent? I believe that in this case the answer should be no. Instead, one should practice gratitude for what one has. I accomplished all my achievements without smart drugs and have no plan for trying them out in the future unless it would be for experimental purposes under medical observation. Achieving everything without little helpers makes me feel proud and I believe others feel similar.
Movies and series similar to Limitless showcase drug usage and glorify drug taking. Media plays a powerful influence on its audience. Criticizing the screenwriters of Limitless would have little effect and then one would have to criticize all television shows. Is Two and a Half Men, which glorifies sexism, better than Limitless? Instead of spending too much energy on criticizing, one should be simply aware that most movies and series are based on fictional ideas.
Ethics of smart drugs
Taking smart drugs is not yet a topic that can be discussed at work. Nevertheless, this topic is relevant to business ethics and business ethics departments have to find possibilities to discuss smart drugs and raise awareness about their side effects. I am not judging anyone who takes smart drugs, but my research showed me that it does more harm than good. Perhaps, there is a need to check whether students and workers only use their natural abilities. That would be in the spirit of the Olympics.
If human limits are reached and one cannot be more productive after having mastered time management and personal development, than one has to accept this fact. Nobody is perfect. It is acceptable when taking natural substances such as chamomile tea to calm the mind but the prolonged usage of any external substance should be a warning signal. In some cases one has to accept its limits. Otherwise one could start changing everything. Nowadays one can change its nose, cheeks, chins, and even be transformed into a full Kardashian. The question is whether one would be still oneself? Sometimes I practice what I call the Jungle Test. Imagine there would be no other human on this earth and you would be completely alone. Nobody could help you and you would need to do everything for yourself. You would end up with your natural self and you could still read, go to the gym, practice yoga, and become your very best version that is naturally possible. Stay as close to this natural state as possible. Unless you are a scientist specialized in creating smart drugs, smart drugs would not be available to your natural self.
BBC Worldwide. (2014, February 18). What Are Smart Drugs? – Dara O Briain’s Science Club. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHfsFzB_Z84
King’s College London. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2014/October/UK-smart-drug-survey-reveals-student-use-is-not-as-prevalent-as-claimed-.aspx
Limitless. (2015). Retrieved February 4, 2017, from http://www.cbs.com/shows/limitless/
Petrounin, D. (2014, July 06). European Students’ Use of ‘Smart Drugs’ Is Said to Rise. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/world/europe/european-students-use-of-smart-drugs-is-said-to-rise.html?_r=0