December 11th, 2008
02:13 PM ET

Prescribing a clearer mind?

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

As things stand now, it is illegal for a healthy person to take prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall without a prescription. It is happening, though. In surveys of college students, some places reported use as high as 25 percent! They say they use it to boost memory, concentration and focus. And, who wouldn’t want that?

Seven scientists are asking the question aloud in a commentary that caught my eye. I have been doing stories about brain cognition for some time, and they are always some of our most popular stories. That’s because you would be hard pressed to find someone who says their memory, focus and concentration is as good as it can be. I know mine certainly isn’t. And, therein lies the problem. Should I be taking a drug to solve the problem or is our society way too over medicated already?

In case you are curious, the authors were no slouches. The group of scientists includes ethics experts and the editor in chief of the journal Nature. They all call for more research into the risk of the drugs including addiction and long term effects of amphetamines, which are an important ingredient in these brain enhancing drugs. They also want policies to ensure people are not coerced or forced into taking them. For example, you wouldn’t want your employer requiring  you to alter your brain chemistry because they thought it made you more productive or focused.

I guess the real question is would you take these medications? Let’s say they went over the counter tomorrow, would you start taking them or recommending them for your family members even if you or they had never been diagnosed an with attention disorder?

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.