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Professionals Use Drugs to Sharpen Their Minds, Survey Finds
Date:4/9/2008

Ritalin, Provigil, beta blockers used to boost focus, concentration, science journal reports

WEDNESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- One in five respondents to a scientific journal survey acknowledges using so-called "cognition-enhancing drugs" -- such as ADHD and heart medications -- to sharpen their focus, concentration or memory.

The most popular drug was Ritalin (methylphenidate), which is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but has emerged in recent years as a campus "study aid." Coming in second was the stimulant Provigil (modafinil), followed by blood-pressure drugs called beta blockers, which can also help to reduce anxiety.

The online survey was open to subscribers of Nature -- who tend to be researchers and scientists -- and the results are published in the journal's April 10 issue. The survey found that people of all ages are using these drugs for cognitive enhancement.

"That people of all ages are taking the stimulant medications was somewhat of a surprise. We didn't expect the number to be so high," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Eighteen- to 25-year-olds are where you have the highest rates of substance abuse, including prescription medications."

Volkow was also surprised that the use of cognitive enhancers was so high among Nature subscribers.

"These are individuals that are actively participating in science or have a very active interest in science," she said. "These people are more educated about the potential negative consequences of taking a stimulant medication. That's why it's so strikingly surprising. This highlights how prevalent the use of these medications is as potential cognitive enhancers."

According to the survey results, Ritalin was the most popular drug, with 62 percent of respondents reporting having taken it. Forty-four percent of the respondents -- more than 1,400 pe
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