Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will the huge oversupply of people with college degrees force you to take mind-enhancing drugs in order to compete?

In professional sports, one of the reasons for banning steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is to prevent those drugs from becoming de facto necessities.  In other words, if a large percentage of the players you are competing against for roster spots on professional teams are taking performance enhancing drugs, then you, too, will be forced to take steroids in order to compete.  Honest, ethical people thus have a competitive disadvantage.

According to a report on Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes, college students and professionals in the workplace are now taking prescription drugs (often the ones prescribed for ADD) to enhance focus and mental awareness in the hopes of earning higher grades or being able to produce faster and better work product.  Many of these people do not have prescriptions and are purchasing these drugs in a second-hand manner, presumably illegally.  One of the interviewees mentioned that lawyers have used these drugs (big surprise):

Adams says other drugs are also being used as neuroenhancers. One he has tried is Provigil, first developed to treat the symptoms of the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy.

"People found that it was helpful as a stimulant for, you know, working in law offices and in academics and stuff like this. So I would say it's in the past five to ten years that it's become popular as a performance enhancer," Adams said.  (60 Minutes report: Boosting Brain Power.)
The state of our nation's economy, the Education Arms Race, and the tremendous amount of competition for knowledge-based and professional jobs is one of the primary motivators for this kind of drug abuse.  Otherwise honest, hard-working, presumably ethical people are being driven, perhaps subconsciously, to take prescription mind-enhancing drugs so that they can boost their performance and outdo the competition.  The pressure to use mind enhancing drugs is just one more symptom of Education Overproduction, the Education Arms Race, and our nation's hyper-competitive job market for knowledge-based, college-education-requiring white collar jobs.

Perhaps these neuroenhancers will prove beneficial to society by allowing people to improve their cognitive ability and focus.  I don't have a position on whether or not they are good or bad or beneficial, but until they are completely legal and available over-the-counter, people might still feel compelled to purchase them illegally in order to compete.

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