June 05, 2006
LONDON: Smart drugs to make people think faster, improve their memory and reduce tiredness will be commonplace within 20 years, according to the British Government's chief scientific adviser.
David King told ministers at a presentation in Downing Street that a new generation of "recreational psychoactive substances" could be given to healthy people to enhance their lives.
Sir David said brain-enhancing chemicals could "revolutionise" the treatment of mental disorders and create new medical ways to fight drug addiction.
The King report adds to calls from scientists for the removal of restrictions on cognitive enhancers, which have been dubbed "cosmetic neurology" or nip and tuck for the mind.
It cements Sir David's reputation as an increasingly influential figure in the Government -- a civil servant who is unafraid to speak his mind on topics ranging from climate change to drought and drugs.
Ritalin and Modafinil, the first generation of mind-enhancing drugs, were intended to treat disorders but have been adopted by people from across the social spectrum because of their ability to enhance performance.
Ritalin was originally intended as a treatment for children and adults with hyperactivity problems, but has since been adopted by students to help them concentrate. A study in the US last year revealed that 20 per cent of healthy American college students use Ritalin before exams.
Modafinil is generally prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, a condition that causes people to fall asleep suddenly. It is now becoming popular for its ability to help people to think clearly and make decisions when tired. Scientists are keen to see restrictions removed on more drugs to make them available without prescription.
Andrea Malizia, a consultant senior lecturer in the Department of Psychopharmacology at Bristol University, is calling for Donepezil, a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, to be more available. Donepezil has a "remarkable impact" on a wide range of functions, including memory, concentration and the ability to learn, she says.