Home > Health, World of the Strange – Weird Science > The drugs do work: my life on brain enhancers.

The drugs do work: my life on brain enhancers.

By MJ Hyland  Friday 3rd May 2013.        Find Full Article Here:-

Could an unlicensed mind pill restore the energy lost to multiple sclerosis? For a novelist who feared her working life was over, it was worth the risk…

noma bar brain pill illustration

Illustration: Noma Bar

At a dinner party in the winter of 2011, a famous novelist, who’s in his mid-50s and whom I’ll call Paul, told me he’d used the neuroenhancer modafinil to help him get through a long, gruelling book tour. He also told me it was another novelist, of equal fame, intelligence and reputation, who had given him his first sample of the drug.

Paul and I had met many times before, and he was among the few people who knew that, in 2008, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And so, when Paul had finished his bowl of soup, I mentioned Margaret Talbot’s New Yorker article about neuroenhancers, and asked what he thought about them.

That’s when Paul told me he’d used the drug, and changed my life.

Talbot’s article, like many published since the mid-1990s, turned, in part, on the fuzzy ethics of the use of neuroenhancers. These controversial drugs, strictly licensed for the treatment of narcolepsy, sleep apnoea and ADHD, have become immensely popular among users without prescription because they promote a keen sense of wakefulness and sharper cognitive focus.

As is the case for many people with multiple sclerosis, the effects of weakened limbs, spasticity and fatigue had cut my working life in half. Yet not a single GP, neurologist or nurse, and none of the MS websites, had mentioned the use of neuroenhancers for the treatment of neurological fatigue. Although I knew that surgeons regularly use modafinil as a substitute for the ratty and short-lived perks of caffeine, and so, too, do hundreds of sleep-deprived domestic airline pilots, Ivy League students (both average and brilliant), many of the brightest minds in academe and hundreds of women and men in the US military, until that night, I’d never met anybody who’d used the drug – and I wanted to know as much as Paul was willing to tell me.

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