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Brain drugs won't go away, so best give them some thought

April 20, 2009 |  1:05 pm

Ritalin If pills can make us better mentally -- and it seems clear they can -- it's time to answer the question of whether we should let them. 

For some people, the question is already moot. In the April 27 issue of the New Yorker, writer Margaret Talbot explores the issue of brain medications in "Brain Gain: The underground world of 'neuroenhancing' drugs."

She writes: "In recent years Adderall and Ritalin, another stimulant, have been adopted as cognitive enhancers: drugs that high-functioning, overcommitted people take to become higher-functioning and more overcommitted."

She tells her story in some part through a recent Harvard graduate named Alex. He makes a compelling case for what can be accomplished with a little help.

Some neuroscientists and ethicists have already answered the bigger question among themselves. Says a recent blog post from Times staff writer Melissa Healy: "Pop a smart pill? Why not, says a group of neuroethicists"

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Ritalin -- the little helper for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and overworked, over-stressed students -- is going mainstream.

Credit: Keith Beaty/Toronto Star/ZUMA Press