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Going mental

It’s time to establish rules for the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy people

Who could object to drugs that help people affected by mental disorders such as schizophrenia? Such treatments, known as pharmacological cognitive enhancers (PCEs) can improve memory, attention and motivation. Methylphenidate (Ritalin), for example, helps children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus better in school, often making an important difference to their lives. Modafinil (Provigil) helps people stay awake and is licensed for the treatment of narcolepsy, a condition that causes sufferers to fall asleep involuntarily.

So far, so good. But the past few years have seen an unprecedented rise in the use of PCEs by healthy people. For…

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