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Psychoactive Drugs for the Future
July 15, 2005 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Psychoactive Drugs for the Future Could brain-boosting drugs become as common as coffee?
UK government group Foresight have just released their 'Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs Project' in which the aim was to evaluate:
"How can we manage the use of psychoactive substances in the future to best advantage for the individual, the community and society?"
The report can be viewed in its entirety from here. Direct link to the Executive Summary (.pdf) via
posted by peacay (31 comments total)

 
I'm nervous about where this is going to go after today's earlier thread. I'd better get my pills ready.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:28 AM on July 15, 2005


Could brain-boosting drugs become as common as coffee?

Some people consider caffeine to be a brain-boosting drug. They are mistaken.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:40 AM on July 15, 2005


"The pretense of the drug war is that, if we could just get rid of all these crazy chemicals, people wouldn’t be faced with the choice of whether to take strong psychoactives. In fact, today I can buy all manner of antidepressants, anxiolytics and stimulants. From a very early age, we are faced with caffeine, which our society only pretends isn’t a powerful psychoactive." ( LA Weekly interview with Erowid.)
posted by ori at 10:49 AM on July 15, 2005


Well, caffine for example, and other drugs don't get you "high". If you can be happy without working for it, you undermine capitalist society.

I would have loved to get my hands on some Modafinil in collage. :P
posted by delmoi at 10:55 AM on July 15, 2005


I for one welcome our pill popping overlords.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on July 15, 2005


From a very early age, we are faced with caffeine, which our society only pretends isn’t a powerful psychoactive

Slightly OT, but I remember an interview with a former FDA official who said that if caffiene were a newly discovered artificial compound it probably wouldn't be allowed in the food supply.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:57 AM on July 15, 2005


Can someone tell me how the numbers are calculated in the chart on drug harms on page 35 of the Overview? It's not clear, but it seems like a summation.
posted by Gyan at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2005


Gyan that chart was based on this report and I'll let you wade through for your answer. It may be related to the public perception - just from some of what I skimmed in Chapter 2.
And oh damn...didn't do the .pdf direct link properly. Oh well.
posted by peacay at 11:30 AM on July 15, 2005


[edited fpp formatting a wee bit, fixed pdf link]
posted by jessamyn at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2005


peacay, I "found" it in Chap 3 #23 : "We consulted the members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Faculty of Substance Misuse about the relative harmfulness of controlled drugs. We received replies from 29 out of 77 of them. Although we did not ask them specifically how they would classify the drugs concerned, their replies showed a high degree of consensus over the ranking of drugs by harmfulness. No-one disputes the position of heroin and cocaine at the top of the list. Methadone, amphetamines, barbiturates and temazepam when used intravenously are, in the consensus view of those whom we consulted, in the top seven (as is alcohol). Ecstasy, LSD and cannabis come in the last five (below tobacco). Buprenorphine, codeine and benzodiazepines other than temazepam are in-between."

Although this new report has a visual chart with numbers and a scale. I'm trying to figure what the scale means, especially given the confusing 'legend' at the bottom.
posted by Gyan at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2005


Ecstasy is in the last five? That's surprising, considering how much evidence there is that it kills neurons dead.
posted by lbergstr at 12:00 PM on July 15, 2005


Wait, is it 1996 again? where's my copy of MONDO2000?
posted by hulette at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2005


Interesting article about modafinil here.

Anyone know of a way to get my hands on some of the stuff without scamming my doctor into thinking I am a narcoleptic?
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:20 PM on July 15, 2005


lbergstr: You might want to do a few searches on more recent research. I can't think of any references off the top of my head, but a lot of the "accepted" findings on ecstacy seem to be getting challenged. It seems dosing various critters four times a day every day for a week doesn't have much to do with reality after all...

If you've already read up on the newer findings, feel free to correct me.
posted by hototogisu at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2005


lbergstr: Yeah, cause the guy who did the neurotoxicity studies didn't actually use ecstasy in his research, but methamphetamine.

Retracted article on neurotoxicity of ecstasy
posted by karson at 12:30 PM on July 15, 2005


In the interest of fairness, that was just the study that claimed a single dose of MDMA could induce Parkinson's. There were, supposedly, a couple of other MDMA studies which used the same source, and should have been retracted, but I'm not aware of that happening.

The original studies that showed MDMA "neurotoxicity" were conducted in the late 80s. Ricaurte, author of the retracted study, is the chief provider of the earlier studies showing neurotoxicity. The controversy arises from the fact that detecting neurotoxicity is a guessing game. You can't actually count individual neurons before and after consumption, so you use proxy indicators. I believe, Ricuarte, used levels of serotonin transporter and also 5-HIAA. Since these dropped after consumption and remained so*, Ricuarte declared MDMA neurotoxic. In the early 90s, the EPA wanted to develop a valid and accurate assay for neurotoxicity. The proxy they chose, was Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP) levels. Using that, MDMA was shown to be not neurotoxic. There are also other discrepancies. Using SERT/5-HIAA, rats show neurotoxicity, but mice don't. Finally, there's context, as always. Rhesus Monkeys, who are given leeway to voluntaryily consume MDMA over a course of 1.5 years, also didn't show neurotoxicity. White noise, higher ambient temperature, physical exertion, combination of drugs, and dosage, all potentiate the (putative) neurotoxicity. So, it's not a case of just popping the pill and expecting your cells to die.

*The levels remain low when checked 2 weeks after, but not 2 months after. There are also some demonstrated ways to reduce, if not eliminate, neurotoxicity.
posted by Gyan at 12:52 PM on July 15, 2005


Could brain-boosting drugs become as common as coffee?

I hope so. Better living through chemistry, yeah.

I would also like to know the answer to gagglezoomer's question; how can I get some?
posted by darkness at 1:16 PM on July 15, 2005


Interesting that they recognize that some beneficial substances have come about in the course of chemists trying to find ways to get high, and that they suggest considering "open-source" pharm info so backyard chemists can put in their two cents!
posted by kozad at 1:22 PM on July 15, 2005


gagglezoomer : "Anyone know of a way to get my hands on some of the stuff without scamming my doctor into thinking I am a narcoleptic?"

Doctors are allowed to prescribe off-label use. Ask nicely.

Alternatively, the metabolic precursor to modafinil is adrafinil, which is uncontrolled in the US, and available without a scrip in Britain. It's about 1/4th as potent. Order from overseas. For some unknown* reason, modafinil is scheduled (IV) in the US.

*My guess is that the DEA does not want to encourage a pro-drug culture (well, duh), where using modafinil as an enhancer is accepted as OK. They can't, presumably, limit off-label scrips, so they control it higher up in the chain, where they can.
posted by Gyan at 1:24 PM on July 15, 2005


Ecstasy is in the last five? That's surprising, considering how much evidence there is that it kills neurons dead.

There is, in fact, very little evidence of this.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on July 15, 2005


Temazepam? I used to have an open prescription for that stuff.

Mind, it would never, ever have occurred to me to inject it. Injection drugs give me the heebie-jeebies.

I'm surprised meth isn't topping the list. That shit seems to be causing endless harm over here in N.A.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2005


hototogisu and karson, I hadn't heard about that. Thanks, I'll check it out.
posted by lbergstr at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2005


(& Gyan & delmoi)
posted by lbergstr at 2:24 PM on July 15, 2005


I would also like to know the answer to gagglezoomer's question; how can I get some?

There are a variety of Euro-based pharmacies that seem willing to ship to the US without a prescription. It's tougher now that Modafinil is scheduled, but they can be found.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:16 PM on July 15, 2005


my question is will we be 'forced' to take these drugs if we choose to continue to engage in behaviors that 'society' now deems repugnant like smoking cigarettes or pot or drinking alcohol or eating fatty foods? and what if we refuse to partake in this new form of social engineering perpetrated by BigPharma? also, i am concerned about coffee being the next regulated substance. tell me i'm crazy!
posted by brandz at 5:32 PM on July 15, 2005


brandz : "my question is will we be 'forced' to take these drugs if we choose to continue to engage in behaviors that 'society' now deems repugnant like smoking cigarettes or pot or drinking alcohol or eating fatty foods?"

Not so, according to this report. Such treatments are reserved for those "actually addicted". What constitutes addiction, is, err.. never mind.
posted by Gyan at 6:56 PM on July 15, 2005


This is all just an arguement to get Rush Limaugh off the hook, isn't it?
posted by Balisong at 8:15 PM on July 15, 2005


gagglezoomer, thanks for your article, the one where the journalist breaks his test off after two days.

I have a gripe with it though - the message seems to be something like "don't take it, you'll get addicted to work and then it'll all just be worse". I can't shake off the impression that this depends on how you want to fill your hours of alertness. I'd enjoy doing all the work I should, plus sort out the mess in my bookcase, plus do 3 hours of in-line skating, plus read a book etc...

Obviously, this lifestyle would require very strict sleep management which would had previously been dictated by the natural chemical processes in the brain. It would basically go like - work hard, play hard, sleep hard.

thedevildancedlightly: There are a variety of Euro-based pharmacies that seem willing to ship to the US without a prescription.

So that means that we Europeans should be able to obtain some more easily? If that's true, I'll keep you posted about the effects.
posted by Laotic at 1:46 AM on July 16, 2005


It'll happen soonish for two reasons:
1) Genes impacting intelligence are being identified, leeding to drug ideas.
2) Stemcells an now turn into nerve cells, leeding to better methods of testing a drugs impact on nerve cells.

But I hope they start selling genetic enhancments (of your kids) directly too.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:24 AM on July 16, 2005


The scary part is thinking the new line of drugs could be used (like ritalin) "to best advantage for the individual, the community and society". It will simply give more power to people in control positions to move the pawns around the board.
posted by lightweight at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2005


yeah, like they already don't have enough power already.
posted by brandz at 3:13 PM on July 16, 2005


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