Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Brain-Boosting Drugs FAQ: What You Must Know

7 Scientists Assert Brain-Boosting Drugs Are OK: Are They Wrong?
WebMD Health News

Dec. 11, 2008 - What's wrong with healthy people taking brain-boosting drugs? Nothing, seven leading scientists and ethicists announced this week.

Polls suggest that as many as one in five scientists already take brain-boosting drugs -- usually the stimulants Ritalin, Adderall, or Provigil.

And there's nothing wrong with that, suggest the authors of a provocative editorial in this week's issue of the science journal Nature.

"We call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs," they write. The editorial also calls for further research into the risks and benefits of using drugs in this way.

It's a prominent list of authors:

  • Henry T. Greely, JD, professor of law at Stanford University; co-director of the Stanford program in genomics, ethics, and society; and co-director of the Stanford program in law, science, and technology.
  • Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, PhD, FMedSci, professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, England.
  • John Harris, DPhil, FmedSci, research director at the University of Manchester Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, and research director at the university's Center for social Ethics and Policy in England.
  • Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
  • Michael Gazzaniga, PhD, professor of psychology and director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara.
  • Martha J. Farah, PhD, professor of natural sciences and director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Philip Campbell, PhD, editor-in-chief of Nature.

Sahakian and Kessler consult for a number of pharmaceutical companies, but the other authors declare no such ties.

The issue, they say, isn't for drug companies to make money. They suggest that responsible use of drugs for brain enhancement can be good for society as well as for individuals.

Controversial? You bet. Here's WebMD's guide to the issues.

What is brain boosting?

Brain boosting -- or, as scientists like to say, cognitive enhancement -- means making your brain work better.

There are lots of ways to do this without taking drugs: by reading, for example, getting plenty of sleep, or learning something new, such as a new language.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix