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nikipedia's avatar

When are performance enhancing drugs ok, and why?

Asked by nikipedia (27343 points ) August 11th, 2011

Usually, when people talk about performance enhancing drugs, they’re talking about anabolic steroids and sports. I don’t really play sports, so I’m not as concerned with those, but I think the same arguments apply.

I’m wondering more about performance enhancing drugs for cognition. We have drugs that can significantly help performance in academic and work settings, for instance, Adderall, Ritalin, and the non-stimulant Strattera. Normally, these are prescribed when people have a condition that causes them to have attention problems.

But people who don’t have problems can benefit from their use too. So, my question is: should they? Is it immoral, or unfair somehow for healthy people to use these? Are there circumstances in which it would be ok (e.g., fighter pilots are sometimes prescribed amphetamines) or is it never acceptable for people who don’t have some kind of condition? Suppose we someday live in a society where 99% of people are using cognitive enhancing drugs on a regular basis, putting you at a disadvantage if you don’t use them—would you, then? Why, why not?

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11 Answers

gavdawg262cv's avatar

I feel like it’s okay for someone to use performance enhancers if they have a good reason and aren’t doing it for selfish reasons (like sports players or anybody like that). If the use of the drug will help society in some way, then it should be allowed. However, they should not be readily available to the general public without a prescription, or else there could be very negative effects. Just my opinion…I’m not an expert of any kind :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My gut says no they shouldn’t. But I know people do. I never have though I had access.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think they should be used. It then creates an unlevel playing field.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t see a problem with it. To some, linear education is just about making the grade. Who is going to care if you’re pumping out As and Bs? Isn’t that the point of college anyway? Or at least what matters?

Aethelflaed's avatar

I’m fine with it in college. College isn’t a level playing field, and we don’t try to make it one. We don’t tell the students with higher IQs and great memories that they have to take a harder test than those that aren’t that smart and have to study like hell just to remember it for the test. In sports, the whole system revolves around who can do that just by themselves. The rest of the time, it’s always about getting a leg up, and if it isn’t drugs, then it’s knowing someone or having more money.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Using performance-enhancing drugs is against the rules in most sports competitions not because there is something objectively wrong with using them, but because the people in charge of regulating those sports have decided they want the game to proceed a certain way. That’s really all there is to it. Who knows what things might be like in 1000 years?

Do we have the same feelings about education? Do we want it to proceed a certain way? On the assumption that the goal is learning, and not merely grades, do cognitive enhancers actually work? If so, it seems that it is up to the individual to assess the health risks and choose whether or not to use them.

It’s easy for me to say I wouldn’t—I never needed them. But I’ve had students with no diagnosed condition who still couldn’t keep all the new information from their classes straight. Is that just the punishment they get for having different genes? As a teacher, I’m not sure I could be comfortable saying that. I want learning to be for everyone, though I’d be wary of whether the risks of some drugs were really worth the rewards.

@Blackberry The teacher in me cries a little every time someone says grades are what matters or that passing exams is what school is all about. If school was about exams, it would all be nonsense. There is no real value in merely passing an exam—which can theoretically be done by luck in some instances. School is about learning, which is often—but not always—reflected by one’s grades.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SavoirFaire And the part of me that’s paying several thousand dollars a year says I can learn for much, much cheaper; I’m paying that much for the degree at the end.

Blackberry's avatar

@SavoirFaire I agree, it just seems that way sometimes.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Aethelflaed Degrees are definitely part of higher education. But very few employers care (or even ask) if you graduated at the top or bottom of your class. High grades in college are most useful for getting into graduate school, just like high grades in high school are most useful for getting into college. College gets you a credential, but it gets you one even if you are a C-average student.

@Blackberry Sure. A lot of people—politicians especially—have started making education all about grades. It’s a sad state of affairs, I think.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SavoirFaire Ah, but you need good grades to get into grad school. Or transfer from a crappy college to a good one.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Aethelflaed Exactly what I said.

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