A poll of 1,400 people done by Nature journal showed that up to a fifth of adults, including college students and shift workers, may be using prescription drugs like Ritalin to boost alertness and brain power.
This finding suggests that safety evidence is urgently needed since these prescription drugs may lead to abuse problems and affect developing brains in children.

Ritalin, Provigil and other cognitive enhancers are used to alleviate daytime tiredness in people suffering from narcolepsy and to maximize learning power in children suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Seventeen percent of students in some US universities admitted using the stimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate). Besides Ritalin, there has also been seen an increase of non-medical use of drugs such as Provigil (modafinil) or beta-blockers to stimulate focus, concentration and memory.

These drugs can only be obtained via prescriptions but they are also available over the internet. The users find ways to get the prescriptions or they buy drugs from their friends or online.

The biggest problem with this growing incidence of prescription drugs abuse is that long-term efficacy and safety data in healthy people are not known. There is an urgent need for the safety trials especially because the abuse is spreading to younger and younger people.

Professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester John Harris believes that people should be left to make their own minds up about the use of these drugs. He reckons that it is a good thing if these cognitive enhancing drugs would be making our lives better and enabling better concentrate and performance.

Experts will gather to debate this topic at the meeting at Kings Place, London.