There is an interesting article in the New Yorker about the phenomenon of students and type-A personalities using — without “need” — attention deficit drugs such as Adderal and Ritalin to improve their study skills and concentration. It’s a chilling look at the future of neurological therapies for gaining a performance edge, a glimpse at a Gattaca-style world where we’ll start mental doping to stay competitive.
Quoting Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, the writer, Margaret Talbot, writes:
As he notes in a 2007 paper, “Many sectors of society have winner-take-all conditions in which small advantages produce disproportionate rewards.” At school and at work, the usefulness of being “smarter,” needing less sleep, and learning more quickly are all “abundantly clear.” In the near future, he predicts, some neurologists will refashion themselves as “quality-of-life consultants,” whose role will be “to provide information while abrogating final responsibility for these decisions to patients.” The demand is certainly there: from an aging population that won’t put up with memory loss; from overwrought parents bent on giving their children every possible edge; from anxious employees in an efficiency-obsessed, BlackBerry-equipped office culture, where work never really ends.
Basically this is a case of people taking speed to focus. Add in the benefit of losing some weight in the process, and one can see why this is a trend that won’t go away.
It reminds me of the Bruce Sterling short story where a hacker takes his girlfriend’s study drugs so he can win an online game. Anyway, it is a thought-provoking piece that is sure to drive demand for bogus ADHD medication prescriptions, not warn people away.