Saturday, December 27, 2008

To the Max--- Life With a Little Help

I'm back from my White Christmas, back to muddy Maryland. I'm trying to find something stimulating to blog about with my brain on psychiatric vacation. Judith Warner of the New York Times has been kind enough to help with her op-ed piece "Living the Off-Label Life." She talks about a Shrink Rap favorite topic: the line between distress and illness, the use of medication (or in this case, non-meds such as coffee, etc) to help people reach some idealized potential. Ms. Warner writes:

What if you could just take a pill and all of a sudden remember to pay your bills on time? What if, thanks to modern neuroscience, you could, simultaneously, make New Year’s Eve plans, pay the mortgage, call the pediatrician, consolidate credit card debt and do your job — well — without forgetting dentist appointments or neglecting to pick up your children at school?

She goes on to discuss an article in Nature:

That’s why when Henry Greely, director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, published an article, with a host of co-authors, in the science journal Nature earlier this month suggesting that we ought to rethink our gut reactions and “accept the benefits of enhancement,” he was deluged with irate responses from readers.

“There were three kinds of e-mail reactions,” he told me in a phone interview last week. “ ‘How much crack are you smoking? How much money did your friends in pharma give you? How much crack did you get from your friends in pharma?’

But Greely and his Nature co-authors suggest that such arguments are outdated and intellectually dishonest. We enhance our brain function all the time, they say — by drinking coffee, by eating nutritious food, by getting an education, even by getting a good night’s sleep. Taking brain-enhancing drugs should be viewed as just another step along that continuum, one that’s “morally equivalent” to such “other, more familiar, enhancements,” they write.

Seems like something we struggle with over and over....