Tag Archives: new yorker

Ethics of Neuroenhancers

In some professions as well as in many schools, people are turning to using Adderall and Provigil pills in order to be competitive.   This becomes a moral and ethics issue.  Is it acceptable that students and society are turning to pills to improve performance? What is that saying about our society as a whole?

In April’s New Yorker magazine article, it mentioned that some drugs that are used to treat ADHD such as Ritalin, are being used as cognitive enhancers.  These pills are being taken by people in highly competitive environments such as colleges and highly competitive and high-pressure professions such as Management Consulting.

I have a friend who is currently in law school, which is a highly competitive environment because students are vying for the top 10% of their class.  She has told me that it is quite common for students to use Adderall and Ritalin.  She says people would combine these with energy drinks for-all nighters or to improve their concentration.  Since it is such a common practice, pills readily available either through buying these pills from other students or by diagnosing oneself as having ADHD.

This is a quote from one of the students who takes Adderall:

One of the most impressive features of being a student is how aware you are of a twenty-four-hour work cycle. When you conceive of what you have to do for school, it’s not in terms of nine to five but in terms of what you can physically do in a week while still achieving a variety of goals in a variety of realms—social, romantic, sexual, extracurricular, résumé-building, academic commitments.”

Since these pills are a common place, aren’t users afraid of side-effects?  Many students know other students who in their childhood took those drugs, and were diagnosed with ADHD, this minimizes the fear.

The market for neuroenhancers is staggering.  From students to working professionals to aging people who do not want to lose their memory to small children, so they can be placed in the best schools.  Sales of Provigil, a stimulant, known generically as modafinil used to treat narcolepsy, had increased tremendously from $196 million in 2002 to $980 million in 2008.

The New Yorker magazine gave an example of a professional poker player who uses both Provigil and Adderall to stay focussed for fourteen hours at a time for several days.

In 2002, there was a study done at Cambridge University.  60 young male volunteers were split into two groups:  one took placebos before performing some cognitive tests, and the others took modafinil. The test results showed that the subjects that took modafinil excelled in the cognitive tasks.

If one took these pills, then it would give one a competitive advantage over those who do not take these pills.  An argument from the article was taking these pills would extend work productivity, and help people’s memory as they age.  Another point was if other countries were permitting the use of those drugs, wouldn’t this put our country at a disadvantage?

I feel that taking an artificial pill as a neuroenhancer is a poor idea, it is because these pills contain Dopamine, which can lead to the addictions.  I do not want to live in a society where to survive daily, a pill needs to be taken.  If one’s country cannot compete in a given area, then change focus and innovate.  There are many potential areas to be developed.  On the other hand, if a student at school takes these pills, it puts the other students at a disadvantage.  Perhaps if it is so wide-spread, maybe drug testing maybe needed.

I want to know what you think.  Do you think it is ethical to rely on these pills in order for one to compete at school or at work?  Do you think companies that capitalize on this latent demand are ethical?

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Is abstinence working to prevent teenage pregnancies? (Blue States vs Red States)

Up into this point, I have written mainly about business topics.  Today, I will comment on a sociological issue with the adolescence in America.  This morning I came across an interesting article from the New Yorker magazine about teenage pregnancies.   The article quotes a bunch of statistics that seem to indicate that the red states have a higher percentage for teen pregnancies, divorces, and STDs.  I think the danger of statistics is that it can be easily manipulated to favor one point of view over another.  The article does make some very good points from some sociologists for this phenomenon. 

Many social conservatives advocate abstinence until marriage, and they do not believe in teaching contraception and the transmission of STDs.  Social liberals on the other hand, mostly believe in education about prevention and providing enough information for children to make an informed decision.  

Apparently many social conservatives do not attend church regularly, and the temptation to practice abstinence becomes more difficult.  Part of the reasons for the higher incidence of teen pregnancies for social conservatives is because of the lower usage of birth control and abortion.  Since many social conservatives tend to marry younger, financial problems is usually the center of many marital disputes, and thus, the divorce rate is higher.

Abstinence pledges seem to work if there is less than 30% of the peer group has pledged. If the percentage of pledged is greater, abstinence no longer becomes special for the teen.

Here is a quote from the article that mentions that in addition to the differences between social conservatives and liberals, socioeconomic status also plays a role, too.

Some of these differences in sexual behavior come down to class and education. Regnerus and Carbone and Cahn all see a new and distinct “middle-class morality” taking shape among economically and socially advantaged families who are not social conservatives. In Regnerus’s survey, the teen-agers who espouse this new morality are tolerant of premarital sex (and of contraception and abortion) but are themselves cautious about pursuing it. Regnerus writes, “They are interested in remaining free from the burden of teenage pregnancy and the sorrows and embarrassments of sexually transmitted diseases. They perceive a bright future for themselves, one with college, advanced degrees, a career, and a family. Simply put, too much seems at stake. Sexual intercourse is not worth the risks.” These are the kids who tend to score high on measures of “strategic orientation”—how analytical, methodical, and fact-seeking they are when making decisions. Because these teen-agers see abstinence as unrealistic, they are not opposed in principle to sex before marriage—just careful about it.”

As I had mentioned earlier, there is the danger of statistics, but the article presents some persuasive arguments in sexual education for teens.  I think presenting a multitude of view points as well as information for these adolescents can only enable them to make a better decision.