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2019-07-19

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Potentials and Risks of Psychopharmaceutical Enhancement

“Neuroenhancement” refers to the improvement of cognitive performance and emotional well-being beyond what is considered “normal” or “natural” in healthy individuals. Especially the consumption of psychopharmaceutical prescription drugs by healthy people seeking to enhance their memory, attention or mood gives rise to heated debate. Certain antidepressants are said to help people without any mood disorder to feel “better than well”, and stimulant drugs used therapeutically in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder seem to gain popularity among students who try to achieve a competitive edge in exams.

This emerging trend toward non-therapeutic use of psychopharmaceutical drugs has been explored by an interdisciplinary project group. Its members deliberately decided to make their research results accessible to the wider public by publishing a memorandum on the possible benefits and risks of neuroenhancement in the popular scientific magazine Gehirn&Geist. According to the authors, currently the best reason not to use prescription drugs like Ritalin or Prozac for enhancement purposes is the lack of evidence both for their effectiveness and their long-term safety in healthy people. This has been established by the medical experts of the working group in a systematic review of the research literature. Provided, however, safe and effective neuroenhancement drugs were to become available in the future, there would be no sufficient reason to prohibit their usage. Adequate regulation is nevertheless required in order to counteract undesirable social consequences, like for instance an exacerbation of inequality, which may conceivably result from the widespread consumption of such drugs. In sum, the expert group pleads for a liberal but by no means uncritical attitude towards the evolving possibilities of pharmaceutical neuroenhancement.

 

Project Group (Co-Project Supervisors)

  • Dr. phil. Thorsten Galert, M.A., Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
  • Professor Dr. med. Isabella Heuser, Berlin
  • Professor Dr. iur. Reinhard Merkel, Hamburg
  • Professor Dr. med. Bettina Schöne-Seifert, Münster

Project Associates

  • Christoph Bublitz, LL.B., Hamburg
  • Dimitris Repantis, M.D., Berlin
  • Davinia Talbot, M.A., Münster

 

Project Co-ordinator: Dr. phil. Thorsten Galert, M.A.

 

Contact:

Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Felix Thiele, M.Sc.

Tel./e-mail: +49 (0) 2641 973-304 • felix.thiele ea-aw.de

Further publications by the project group

J. C. Bublitz, R. Merkel: “Autonomy and authenticity of enhanced personality traits”, in: Bioethics 23/6 (2009), 360–374.

J. C. Bublitz: “Doping-Kontrollen im Staatsexamen? Über leistungssteigernde Substanzen und Chancengleichheit in Prüfungen”, in: Zeitschrift für das Juristische Studium 3/2010, 306–317.

T. Galert: “‘Das optimierte Gehirn’ – Potenziale und Risiken des pharmazeutischen Enhancements psychischer Eigenschaften”, in: Technikfolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis 19/1 (2010), 67–70.

T. Galert, J. C. Bublitz, I. Heuser, R. Merkel, D. Repantis, B. Schöne-Seifert, D. Talbot: “Das optimierte Gehirn. Ein Memorandum zu Chancen und Risiken des Neuroenhancements”, in: Gehirn&Geist 11/2009: 40–48.

I. Heuser: “Psychopharmaka zur Leistungsverbesserung”, in: Deutscher Ethikrat (eds.), Der steuerbare Mensch? Über Einblicke und Eingriffe in unser Gehirn, Vorträge der Jahrestagung des Deutschen Ethikrates 2009, Berlin 2009, 49–55.

R. Merkel: “Mind Doping? Eingriffe ins Gehirn zur Verbesserung des Menschen: Normative Grundlagen und Grenzen”, in: N. Knoepffler, J. Savulescu (eds.), Der neue Mensch? Enhancement und Genetik, Alber, Freiburg 2009, 177–212.

R. Merkel: “Neuartige Eingriffe ins Gehirn – Verbesserung der mentalen condicio humana und strafrechtliche Grenzen”, in: Zeitschrift für die gesamte Strafrechtswissenschaft 121 (2009), 919–953.

D. Repantis, P. Schlattmann, O. Laisney, I. Heuser: “Antidepressants for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals: A systematic review”, in: Poiesis & Praxis 6/3–4 (2009), 139–174.

D. Repantis, O. Laisney, I. Heuser: “Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and memantine for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals: A systematic review”, in: Pharmacological Research 61/6 (2010), 473–481.

D. Repantis, P. Schlattmann, O. Laisney, I. Heuser: “Modafinil and methylphenidate for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals: A systematic review”, in: Pharmacological Research 62/3 (2010), 187–210.

D. Repantis: “Die Wirkung von Psychopharmaka bei Gesunden“, in: A. Wienke, W. H. Eberbach, H.-J. Kramer, K. Janke (eds.), Die Verbesserung des Menschen: Tatsächliche und rechtliche Aspekte der wunscherfüllenden Medizin, Springer, Heidelberg/New York 2009, 63–68.

B. Schöne-Seifert, D. Talbot: “Einleitung”, in Schöne-Seifert/Talbot (eds.), Enhancement. Die ethische Debatte, Mentis, Paderborn 2009, 9–21.

B. Schöne-Seifert, D. Talbot: “(Neuro-)Enhancement”, in: H. Helmchen, N. Sartorius (eds.), Ethics in Psychiatry. European Contributions, Springer, Heidelberg/New York 2010, 509–531.

B. Schöne-Seifert, D. Talbot: “The debate on neuroenhancement: What can bioethics learn from the history of amphetamine use?”, in: BioSocieties (in press).

D. Talbot: “Pharmakologisches Enhancement – Eine Einführung in nichtmedizinische Anwendungen von Arzneimitteln zu Verbesserungszwecken”, in: A. Wienke, W. H. Eberbach, H.-J. Kramer, K. Janke (eds.), Die Verbesserung des Menschen: Tatsächliche und rechtliche Aspekte der wunscherfüllenden Medizin, Springer, Heidelberg/New York 2009, 69–78.