Last week the British science journal Nature reported the results of an online reader poll that sought to measure the number of scientists who used “cognitive enhancing drug” and readers’ attitude to the drugs themselves. The poll, which was supposed to be part of an April Fools’ feature, revealed some unexpected results. Twenty percent of the 1427 responders (most of them Americans) said they used cognitive enhancing drugs for “non-medical purposes.” Of course, an online poll hardly constitutes a reliable scientific study. Nonetheless, we’re not talking about Mad magazine or The Onion here.
Ritalin was by far the most popular drug of choice (at 60% reported use). Responders said they turned to the drug mostly for extra concentration on tasks. The next most commonly used drug (at 50% use) was Provigil, which promotes wakefulness and is commonly prescribed for narcolepsy. Coming in third were beta-blockers (at 15% use), which are prescribed for high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia but were used in these cases for anti-anxiety effects.