Ethical aspects of the abuse of pharmaceutical enhancements by healthy people in the context of improving cognitive functions

Philos Ethics Humanit Med. 2019 Apr 25;14(1):7. doi: 10.1186/s13010-019-0076-5.


Better memory, greater motivation and concentration lead to greater productivity, efficiency and performance, all of which are features that are highly valued in a modern society focused on productivity. In the effort for better cognitive abilities, otherwise healthy individuals use cognitive enhancers (also known as nootropics), medicines for the treatment of cognitive deficits of patients with various disorders and health problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, stroke, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ageing. The use of these is more common in professions with emphasised cognitive abilities, or in occupations that require more attention, focus and alertness. Their use is also associated with the general working population, in that they are supposed to use them to alleviate the effects of sleep deprivation and to cope with increasing workloads.In the paper, we are addressing the ethical issue and the dilemmas of the use of pharmaceutical enhancements by healthy people who have no medical reason for taking such substances, in the context of improving their cognitive functions.

Keywords: Cognitive enhancement; Ethics; Humanities; Nootropics; Society.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Nootropic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Nootropic Agents