A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has suggested that ADD and ADHD drugs could be potentially harmful to healthy individuals. The study was titled, “Should physicians prescribe cognitive enhancers to healthy individuals?” and was authored by Cynthia Forlini, Serge Gauthier, and Eric Racine. The research comes from the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal, which is affiliated with the Universite de Montreal.
The drugs prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder are stimulants and other neuropharmaceuticals. On healthy people they are thought to, “enhance concentration, memory, alertness and mood, a phenomenon described as cognitive enhancement.” However, the effects cannot be accurately predicted. The side effects range from addiction, psychosis, and cardiovascular problems.
It is estimated that the inappropriate use of neuropharmaceuticals ranges from 1-11% on university campuses in Canada. Co-author Dr. Eric Racine, Montréal neuroethics specialist and Director of the Neuroethics research unit at the IRCM, commented on the study. “Individuals take prescription stimulants to perform better in school or at work. However, because these drugs are available in Canada by prescription only, people must request them from their doctors. Physicians are thus important stakeholders in this debate, given the risks and regulations of prescription drugs and the potential for requests from patients for such cognitive enhancers.”
Another co-author Cynthia Forlini added, “Current evidence has not shown that the desired benefits of enhanced mental performance are achieved with these substances. With uncertain benefits and clear harms, it is difficult to support the notion that physicians should prescribe a medication to a healthy individual for enhancement purposes.”
She added, “Physicians in Canada provide prescriptions through a publicly-funded health care system with expanding demands for care. Prescribing cognitive enhancers may therefore not be an appropriate use of resources. The concern is that those who need the medication for health reasons but cannot afford it will be at a disadvantage.”
The study suggests that the danger of dependency and side effects of the drugs outweigh the potential benefits for healthy individuals. Racine concluded that, “We hope that our analysis prompts reflection in the Canadian medical community about these cognitive enhancers.”