, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 137–158 | Cite as

Exploring Some Challenges of the Pharmaceutical Cognitive Enhancement Discourse: Users and Policy Recommendations

  • Toni PustovrhEmail author
  • Franc Mali
Original Paper


The article explores some of the issues that have arisen in the discourse on pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement (PCE), that is, the use of stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate, amphetamine and modafinil by healthy individuals of various populations with the aim of improving cognitive performance. Specifically, we explore the presumed sizes of existing PCE user populations and the policy actions that have been proposed regarding the trend of PCE. We begin with an introductory examination of the academic stances and philosophical issues involved in defining PCE. We then focus on an examination of the population sizes of presumed current PCE users that have been listed in the academic literature on PCE, on presuppositions, which have been problematized by some authors as based on anecdotal or misinterpreted survey data. We follow this with an empirical examination of a potential PCE user population in a national context (students at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia). We then proceed to examine the regulatory options proposed in the academic literature to address PCE, finally comparing them with an empirical overview of the policy recommendations on PCE produced in the multinational context of several national ethics advisory bodies (EABs) in Europe. Our main conclusion is that there is still little debate among the national EABs on what type of public policy responses, if any, are needed to address PCE in European countries, and that the issues they do address are similar to those discussed and proposed in the academic articles on PCE.


Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement Drug use Students Ethics advisory bodies Neuroenhancement Public policy regulation 



Part of the research presented in this article was conducted with the support of the European Commission FP7 Science in Society funded project, Ethics in Public Policy Making: The Case of Human Enhancement (EPOCH), grant number SIS-CT-2010-266660 ( We warmly thank all our partners and collaborators in the EPOCH project for their constructive cooperation.

We would also like to thank Steve Fuller for his insightful comments, as well as the two reviewers, whose suggestions were invaluable in improving an earlier version of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Social Studies of Science, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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