It doesn’t seem like that long ago when folks needed a little bit of a pick-me-up at work or at school, one or two cups of some good ol’ joe (that’s coffee for those of you who aren’t caffeine junkies), would be plenty. However, as scientific research and the availability of pharmaceuticals continues to advance, some individuals may find that caffeine no longer meets their needs.
Defining the term “smart pills”
Smart pills would typically (but not always) be prescribed medications that were intended to treat other disorders, most of which were psychological. On the other hand, in contrast to other drugs that are used for recreational purposes and can lead to addiction, smart pills are typically used to improve one’s ability to concentrate and mental performance. Smart pills are natural or synthetic chemicals that can be consumed to boost mental performance in healthy persons. Despite the fact that they are normally medications that require a prescription, which means that pharmacies will not give them out to customers who do not have a written order from a physician, they are readily available from a variety of dealers online.
Variety of smart pills
It is possible that the fact that there are a number of so-called “smart medications” available on the market today will come as a surprise to you. All of these are used off-label as stimulants for studying or working in high-pressure jobs.
- Adderall. These pills are only approved as a medicine available by prescription for those who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, sometimes known as ADHD. Users who go beyond the recommendations on the label take this substance so that they can concentrate better in school and maintain their level of mental acuity. Adderall is used by a significant number of people who work in high-pressure environments. However, there are also a lot of negative effects, some of which include anxiety, decreased appetite, perspiration, inability to sleep, lack of interest in sexual activity, and nausea.
- Modafinil. One of the most common brand names for smart medications is modafinil. The purported benefits that it affords users, which include improved alertness, better reaction time, stronger brain function, and more motivation, contribute to its widespread use among those who consume smart drugs. However, research has shown that excessive usage can result in reduced plasticity in brains and can harm memory.
- Aniracetam. Users have reported feeling less worried and having more creative ideas when under the influence of the substance. Adults with moderate cognitive impairment (MCI) reported higher cognitive performance after taking the medication.
Smart pills: ethical considerations
Obviously, using such medications has a cost, and that cost isn’t limited to the users’ health. According to an article published by the Financial Times, a guideline at Duke University considers the use of smart pills to be a kind of academic dishonesty. There are also moral concerns, such as the unfair advantage that users have over their rivals, which is analogous to the use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances in athletic competition. This particular argument is widespread in technological businesses, where a large number of professionals feel the need for an additional edge in order to succeed in an environment that is high-pressure and fast-paced.
According to research, many users who do not consider the use of smart pills to be dishonest or cheating have resorted to pretending to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in order to have access to the pills. This creates problems not only for them, but also for doctors, who are not only required to be more vigilant in screening patients, but also for patients who actually have ADHD – as they would be much more at risk of being suspected of faking their symptoms, or of being denied proper care.
On the other hand, the phenomenon of smart drugs is seen by some specialists as being more hype than reality. According to the journal, Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, was quoted as claiming that “there is a considerable demand; nonetheless, the hype about efficacy much outweighs available proof.“
In general, the use of smart pills is associated with a wide range of difficult and complicated concerns and problems. Private organisations have a responsibility to monitor the drug use of their own members, but regulators also have a role to play in this regard. Regulators need to play catch up and learn more about the alternative applications of these medications before they can issue appropriate rules regarding their use.
Smart pills as tech-enabled electronic devices
Although the concept of smart pills originally came into use as drugs that can boost cognitive abilities, they quickly took on a digital connotation and began to be applied to miniature electronic devices that are fashioned and manufactured in the form of pharmaceutical capsules. This is a naturally born device in the world of healthcare solutions development, a sector that enjoys multi-billion investments and stays at stake from virtually any clinic, hospital and other healthcare institution.
These kinds of smart pills conduct extremely advanced functions such as sensing, imaging, and drug delivery. Among them are biosensors, image sensors, pH sensors, and chemical sensors. After being swallowed, they move through the gastrointestinal tract, where they gather the information that would be impossible to collect in any other way, and then they are able to be quickly expelled from the system. In contrast to implanted and wearable sensors, ingestible sensors are designed to be swallowed rather than attached to the body.
Interestingly, a nearly 15-year-old precedent exists for the usage of pills with built-in sensors. The NASA-developed pill-shaped sensor has been used to aid sportsmen in monitoring their body temperature.
It is probable that the use of smart pills for the purpose of monitoring vital signs and ensuring medication compliance will expand as the healthcare system becomes more digitized and connected with cloud computing and wireless communication platforms. In the long run, it is anticipated that remote patient monitoring and telemedicine would incorporate the use of smart pills as an essential component. The demand for non-invasive point-of-care testing is expected to increase, which will hasten the widespread use of smart pills.
Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.