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Br J Pharmacol. 2017 Oct;174(19):3257-3267. doi: 10.1111/bph.13813. Epub 2017 May 12.

Lifestyle use of drugs by healthy people for enhancing cognition, creativity, motivation and pleasure.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge, UK.


Today, there is continued, and in some cases growing, availability of not only psychoactive substances, including treatments for mental health disorders such as cognitive enhancers, which can enhance or restore brain function, but also 'recreational' drugs such as novel psychoactive substances (NPS). The use of psychoactive drugs has both benefits and risks: whilst new drugs to treat cognitive symptoms in neuropsychiatric or neurodegenerative disorders could have great benefits for many patient groups, the increasing ease of accessibility to recreational NPS and the increasing lifestyle use of cognitive enhancers by healthy people means that the effective management of psychoactive substances will be an issue of increasing importance. Clearly, the potential benefits of cognitive enhancers are large and increasingly relevant, particularly as the population ages, and for this reason, we should continue to devote resources to the development of cognitive enhancers as treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. However, the increasing use of cognitive enhancers by healthy individuals raises safety, ethical and regulatory concerns, which should not be ignored. Similarly, understanding the short- and long-term consequences of the use of NPS, as well as better understanding the motivations and profiles of users could promote more effective prevention and harm reduction measures. Linked Articles This article is part of a themed section on Pharmacology of Cognition: a Panacea for Neuropsychiatric Disease? To view the other articles in this section visit

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