You've led the same team for the past five years - and one day you find that your most successful employee uses cognitive stimulants at work.
Although it may seem hypothetical, but be aware that it really is possible. The unauthorized use of prescription medications such as Ritalin and the narcolepsy drug Modafinil is now common among Dutch students. They do not use these resources to escape work and avoid responsibility, but to study more and better.
Up to 20% of students have tried “smart drugs”, so we can almost expect these pills to play a prominent role in many companies and organizations (if they don't already). After all, it is unlikely that the pressure to perform will disappear once students graduate. And older workers in demanding jobs might find these resources even more useful than a 19-year-old college student.
Despite the anecdotal evidence, we know very little about the use of these drugs in professional settings. Newspapers claim they are "popular with city attorneys, bankers and other professionals eager to gain a competitive advantage over their peers." In 2008, the narcolepsy drug Modafinil was named the “entrepreneurial drug of choice” by TechCrunch. That same year, the journal Nature asked its readers if they use cognitive stimulants; of the 1400 respondents, one in five responded positively.
Meanwhile, the world of management remains astonishingly silent. But sooner or later, executives will have to face the issue. And before making a decision, we need to understand how these drugs work (or not) and start asking ourselves some serious questions about what their use means.
First, overwhelming evidence suggests that "smart drugs" actually work. A meta-analysis by researchers at Harvard Medical School in Oxford showed that Modafinil has significant cognitive benefits for those who do not suffer from sleep deprivation. This medicine improves their decision-making ability and has a positive effect on learning and creativity. Another study, by researchers at Imperial College London, showed that Modafinil helped surgeons curb sleep deprivation, get better at planning, and be less impulsive when making decisions.
We know that at least some of these drugs are medically safe. According to Anna-Katharine Brem, a co-author of the Harvard-Oxford study, Modafinil has "few side effects" when used in a controlled environment. After the study was published, the media began referring to Modafinil as the world's first safe “smart drug”.
And the drugs are not very difficult to get, depending on where you are. Modafinil has an annual worldwide share of $ 700 million. While these resources can be purchased over the Internet, their legal status varies from country to country. Buy Modafinil Without Prescription, owning and using is completely legal in the United Kingdom
Sales of ADHD drugs are growing rapidly, with annual sales of $ 12,9 billion in 2018. These drugs can be legally obtained by those who have a prescription, including those who have intentionally falsified the symptoms to obtain the desired medication . (According to an experiment published in 2010, it is difficult for doctors to separate those who feign the symptoms from those who actually have them.) That said, if a doctor knows your desired productivity level or your stress levels, faking them may not be necessary. around a major project as reason enough to prescribe these medications for you.
The key questions
Because these drugs are - for the most part - safe, effective, and readily available, they pose a number of ethical dilemmas among employees and organizations alike.
Is it morally wrong to use these drugs? Should we compare “smart drugs” with doping - in other words, with deception?
Should the use of “smart drugs” be encouraged at work? As a manager in a hospital, would you want your surgeon to be under the influence of these drugs, provided there is clear evidence that they are improving his or her work? As an airline CEO, would you prefer a pilot who uses these resources if it would reduce the risk of accidents?
Can these resources make for a better life outside of work? Perhaps the strongest argument against the use of “smart drugs” is that it could lead to an increasingly intense rat race within the company. Obviously, we are currently unable to draw a clear line between work and private life.
In summary, it is difficult to say how leaders will respond to these questions. The issue of using these drugs is rife with ethical and business dilemmas. In any case, we can conclude that these resources are a common problem, both in and out of work.