Bioethics Blogs

Adderall as a motivational enhancer

Prescription stimulant use is on the rise at college campuses, especially at elite schools where the pressure and demands can be overwhelming. Students have a variety of methods to handle the stresses of their studies, but the consumption of prescription stimulants, such as Adderall or Ritalin, has become more popular among healthy individuals. While this trend raises multiple important ethical issues, the interesting idea that prescription stimulants may be masking authentic versions of ourselves was the topic of the most recent Neuroethics in the News discussion. Facilitated by AJOB Neuroscience editorial intern Ryan Purcell and AJOB Neuroscience Editor John Banja, the discussion centered around a recently published article by Torben Kjaersgaard entitled “Enhancing Motivation by Use of Prescription Stimulants: The Ethics of Motivation Enhancement.”1

                                                                from Smart Drug Smarts

The cognitive enhancement debate is not new; scholars have been considering the ethical dilemmas, such as equal access, safety, coercion, and cheating, of healthy individuals seeking enhancement via prescription drugs for almost a decade.2,3 There is also a debate surrounding whether or not current stimulants are even cognitive enhancers at all, which would render the discussion irrelevant.4,5 Kjaesrgaard doesn’t focus on any of these issues though, and instead presents the ethical dilemmas associated with motivational enhancement of drugs such as Adderall and modafinil. He argues that these stimulants are not eliciting performance enhancement, but instead performance maintenance and sometimes increased motivation for a task, and this can often be ethically problematic. While the future may hold cognitive enhancers that have the ability to increase a person’s capability to solve a task or make an individual “smarter,” current stimulants promote wakefulness, arousal, and stimulation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.