The Monitor's View

Is that your work ... or a pill's?

Brain-booster drugs erode what it means to be human.

By

Legal drugs that are designed to treat the mentally ill are now being used widely by people seeking a "brain boost" to enhance their work or studies.

In many cases, the pills for this Brave New World are being sold over the Internet.

Forget for a second that these neuro-enhancing drugs can be highly addictive or that experts say they may have long-term, adverse side effects. Or that the nonprescribed use of such medicine is illegal and the Food and Drug Administration isn't doing enough to stop it.

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The bigger danger in this new "mind hacking" is that it furthers the idea that people are material machines that can be altered like robots to perform ever-greater mental feats. The notion of life being more than molecules fades like a beautiful sunset behind a storm cloud.

And then there is the unfairness of a student or worker who is "high" on psychostimulants being able to perform better on a test or task than someone who chooses to compete without chemical augmentation.

A society that still runs on merit and the integrity and uniqueness of each individual must not be forced to screen people before every exam, job interview, or work presentation to see if they have used memory-boosters, productivity-enhancers, or other such "cosmetic neurology."

Just look at how Major League Baseball and many other sports must now screen for steroids as body enhancers. These sports are no longer seen as level playing fields for athletes whose records are often suspect.

Or consider the possibility of employers someday demanding that workers enhance their capabilities with mind-altering drugs.

The "new normal" of relying on brain boosters is eroding many of the qualities that define human beings.

At some point this drug taking may no longer be a matter of free will.

Who's in charge then?

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