Performance Enhancing Drugs for the Workplace

July 25 2008 / by AJ0111
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

In the past we have consumed certain drugs because they keep us awake or make us feel good, even if they had dangerous side effects; but soon we will come across powerful drugs and techniques to boost our cognitive capabilities.

As an example, a recently developed drug has caught some attention. In the healthy human being, Provigil fatigue and suppresses sleep. That sounds great when you walk into your office exhausted and you can’t imagine going through the rest of the day without it; but it was originally used in the treatment of narcolepsy. (The off-label use of this drug resulted in a $425 million penalty for Cephalon), the producer.) Provigil is known to boost working memory, executive function and attention and has attracted a variety of fans ranging from athletes to the French military.

In comparison, tobacco was promoted in 1560 for their medicinal uses, and as early as the Stone Age humans chewed plants containing caffeine to stimulate awareness, ease fatigue, and elevate mood. We’ve seen how both the caffeine and nicotine industries have shaped today. Provigil, our contemporary counterpart, is newer to the game but its effects are stronger and safety is still debated. Might they be even safer than caffeine and nicotine? How will Provigil and other developing enhancers shape the future?

From an ethical dimension, humans have been taking drugs for a while, including the aforementioned, and in a way we have co-evolved together with them. They were useful to us, and so we helped them to reproduce and scale. We might try to imagine how the world would be without coffee and cigarettes – might that lead to lower productivity or other negatives? It’s certainly difficult to quantify. Jumping forward, what if we increased productivity by 10% by using new drugs such as Provigil? How would/will this transform our economy? How intrusive are we willing to get?

Similarly, brain implants have entered the market for people with mental illness. It is possible we will live to see them applied commercially-). They could possibly change the way we think, interact with each other, and work. People may opt to stay awake for days in a row, or cram a week’s worth of work into several days. Thus, yet another ethical question rises: how much chemical control do we want to assume over our bodies? Enough to change our emotions, ease our sadness, or live in a state of euphoria?

As we have been making technology around us smarter and smarter, we’re now being offered the choice to upgrade ourselves. How might attaining higher levels of hyper-consciousness change the shape of humanity?

Comment Thread (5 Responses)

  1. I think that caffine alone has had a huge effect on productivity, our economy and the pace of our lives—and it is a simple, natural stimulant. If an intelligently engineered, effective, cognitive-enhancing drug was widely used I think it would transform our lives.

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   July 28, 2008
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  2. This is also a question of culture. I feel like Americans, along with a handful of nations’ people pride themselves in being fast-paced and productive. I visited my friend in Madrid last year and was shocked to find the style, even in big business, significantly more relaxed. The entire day is pushed back (compared to ours) to make room for after lunch siestas (naps). I ate dinner at 10pm and “went out” at 2am..bizarre! The Spanish are in no hurry. So it seems this drug’s popularity may be limited to certain countries and even certain types within those countries..since unlike coffee and cigarettes it isn’t really a social outlet. (Or I don’t see it becoming one?)

    Hmm.. this article also reminded me of my friend telling me about how students at his school regularly used drugs normally used to treat ADHD/ADD such as Ritalin and Adderall to stay focused when writing papers or studying for exams..Its misuse was clear when my friend heard his friends talking about feeling inadequate and basically, incapable of doing work without the drugs.

    If I can help it I’d prefer to stay away from anything that would force me to form a dependency…even if that means I am less productive or attentive. I’d like to think everything I do is natural.

    Posted by: justinelee   July 28, 2008
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  3. America isn’t the only face-paced country in the world but I do agree with justinelee’s point. This drug does sound helpful for those who need it but I do hope that it doesn’t become a mainstream thing. If everyone’s work is enhanced, some may be pressured to work even harder to appear productive.

    Posted by: jvarden   July 29, 2008
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  4. It’s unfortunate that competitiveness in the economy is coming to this. It isn’t just the usual suspects like Ritalin, Adderall, and Caffeine. People are also taking drugs like Prozac and Paxil, not because of any serious depression, but to ensure they don’t have any ups or downs that might set their productivity back.

    The future of the working class?

    Posted by: dunskwerk   July 29, 2008
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  5. justinelee, your comment about culture made me think about what productivity really means. Does getting work done faster means its better, or does the relaxed style of business like you mentioned get more quality work done? Do we really want to be hyper conscious in the future? I have no idea…

    Posted by: AJ0111   July 30, 2008
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