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Mapping Weak Signals

Inspired by: scientists/researchers » Increased use of cognitive enhancers- Students take smart drugs to improve alertness and attention

version: 19 / updated: 2013-01-29
id: #1953 / version id: #1949
mode: VIEW

Originally submitted by: Charlotte Bilo
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Last changed by: Charlotte Bilo
WI-WE status:

Source of inspiration

Scientists/researchers (incl. reports, plans and statements)

The source of the Weak Signal is

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/21/smart-drugs-students-universities V Cakic- Smart drugs for cognitive enhancement: ethical and pragmatic considerations in the era of cosmetic neurology

Uploaded reports, images or pictures related to the Weak Signal

File name File type File size
Smart drugs for cognitive enhancement.pdf document 129157 open

Signal's headline

(max. 9 words)
Increased use of cognitive enhancers- Students take smart drugs to improve alertness and attention

Signal's description

(approx. 150 words)
Please describe the Weak Signal (approx. 150 words)
In recent years so called smart drugs or nootropics such as methylphenidate, modafinil and piracetam are increasingly being used by healthy students and academics. Normally prescribed for disorders auch as Alzheimer or ADHD cognitive enhancers boost acetylcholine in the brain, leading to an improvement of alertness and attention. Scholars believe that the use and effectiveness of smart drugs will increase even further in the next decade. The use of nootropics has several ethical implications, some universities even suggested dope test to preclude unfair advantages. Although there is little data on the long-term effects on healthy users, some propose that the use of smart drugs will become socially more acceptable resulting from an increased pressure to perform and an agening population where people have to work longer before they get retired and thus might want to take smart drugs to enhance their alertness once they get older. Moreover, smart drugs could lead to a shorter working week, as one could work more efficiently in a shorter period of time.


smart drugs, cognitive enhancement, academic doping, nootropics, cheating


(max. 250 characters)
The use of so called smart drugs has decreased in recent years, as a result of pressure to perform. Implications for body and health are still unknown.

Signal's first apperance

before 2000

Signal's potential evolution

It could lead to...
issue type of issue/development potential impact on society timeframe for the issue to become at least 50% probable
#1 Increased smart drug abuse, including neg. onsequences for health continuation
#2 "smarter" society as degree of efficiency increases new/emerging


please specify
please select
Level 2: important for a particular world region Industrialized countries

Filters preventing the signal's monitoring

cultural/religious filters (values, traditions, faith, spiritual beliefs)
social filters (class, status, education level)

Comments on selection:

Scientists and academics might be reluctant to admit use of smart drugs.

Key driving forces of this signal

Please use these boxes to provide up to 2 drivers of HIGH importance. Click on HELP to see examples:
Driver 1 Driver 2
Technological/Scientific Students of elite universities Scholars
Economic Companies, managers

Major risks & opportunities associated to the signal

Please choose the most appropriate timeframe option(s) to which you would like to provide inputs.
Risks Opportunities
before 2015 enhanced concentration among scholars and students
between 2015-2025 negative effects on health, unfair advantages in universities, increasing illegal market
between 2025-2050 legalization for healthy users making smart drugs easily accessibile not only in academia but also in other professions, increased effectivness, shorter working week, use by elderly
beyond 2050 complete reliance on smart drugs, common use, personality change more efficient society

Potential stakeholders' actions

short-term actions
(after 2015)
Policy actors (at the international, European and national levels) observe and investigate drug-taking behavior of students eventually introduce smart drug tests in universities
Academic/Research sector research effects on health
Media inform public about risks of taking smart drugs

Signal's relevance for European Grand Challenges

where? please justify:
particularly relevant Europe world
Ageing and other demographic tensions People will hve to work longer and more efficient
Behavioural change Acceptance of smart drugs might increase over time
Crime and terrorism Illegal market for smart drugs
Diseases, health and well-being Unknown effects for healthy people
Education dynamics is becoming more use of smart drugscommon among students and researchers
Ethics and abuse of S&T unfair advantage
Social exclusion & poverty Exclusion of those who do nt have access to smart drugs
Work-Life balance and mental health shorter working weeks could be result of more efficient workers
Economic prosperity/dynamics Companies could work more effectively

Signal's relevance for thematic research areas

please justify:
particularly relevant
Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology Future research of neurological drugs
Social Sciences and Humanities Ethical considerations of unfair advantages

Pan-European strategies influencing the signal

please justify:
particularly relevant
Strengthening research institutions and universities by decreasing peer pressure and information campaigns
Increasing the efficiency and impact of public research through Joint Programming (i.e. combining national and pan-European research efforts) or the optimisation of research programmes and priorities, for example. importance of researching effects on health

Research-friendly strategies potentially improving understanding of the signal

For further information about 'research-friendly strategies' click here
please justify:
particularly relevant
Strengthening the actors in the research-friendly ecology
(i.e. Research funding organisations, universities, businesses, Research and Technology Organisations, Researchers and Citizens)

Signal's relevance for future R&D and STI policies

Note: RTD = research and technology development; STI = science, technology and innovation
very relevant for both