April 24, 2024

Let students use mind-sharpening drugs without prescriptions, says bioethicist

John Harris says that the risks are proportional to the benefits

Students should be allowed to use drugs such as Ritalin without a prescription to boost their mental sharpness and memory, says the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics. Professor John Harris, of the University of Manchester, wrote in the Times Higher Education that "If, as seems probable, they continue to prove safe to use and they have advantageous effects in terms of cognitive enhancement, it would make sense to try to maximise their benefits."

His views follow a recent article in the journal Nature, which was jointly written by Harris and the editor of Nature, amongst others. He argues that many other drugs are freely available for non-therapeutic purposes, such as contraceptives or sleeping tablets for international travellers. "Viagra has a medical use, but it is well know that the sales figures are far in excess of the level of dysfunction in society," he said.

The use of drugs like Ritalin, Provigil, Adderall and Modafinil are becoming increasingly popular on university campuses in the UK. They are said to improve concentration and exam scores and although there may be some side effects, these are proportional to the benefits, Professor Harris argues. He says that he does not take such drugs himself because he would not find them helpful. "I’m also towards the end of my career and am perhaps less competitive than I used to be." ~ London Times, Jan 1; London Telegraph, Jan 1