Medicine is no longer just for the sick or the lower social classes, which have traditionally had a higher level of medicine use. Today, medicine serves as a sign that someone has the resources to improve their sex life, exam performance, memory or mood. There was a time when performance enhancing drugs were something we connected with world-class athletes. Today, however, it is the academic elite that seek to enhance their performance – and it is becoming increasingly common.
Claus Møldrup, professor with special responsibilities at the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, studies tomorrow’s medicines – how will medicine develop and how will we address an increasing tendency of healthy individuals to use medication that was developed to treat illnesses?
Medicinally enhanced normality
– “The sports world has made its position clear by banning performance enhancing drugs, but in other areas – such as performance arts – there is no clear rejection. Take musicians in a symphony orchestra or a rock star. We find it more acceptable in some way if they use beta blockers to control their stage fright or anxiety about performing,” Professor Møldrup says.
“Unlike in sport, most of us are free to use medicine to help improve our chances of success. It has become acceptable to prevent and improve rather than to just heal and alleviate. You could call it a medicinally enhanced normality, in which people use modern medicine to obtain their goals. But a discussion about the practice is something we all should be involved in. For example, if everyone at a workplace improves their performance by taking medicine to strengthen their memory will everyone then need to take the same medication in order to do their job?”
Mental capacity and GDP
Performance enhancement used to be a matter of improving your physical performance, but the new terms intellectual doping and cognitive cosmetics have emerged, and instructors and students at universities in the US and elsewhere are increasingly turning to performance enhancing substances.
“Cognitive cosmetics has a broad public appeal because, unlike blood doping and plastic surgery, it serves a rational purpose – improving mental performance benefits society in ways that world records and silicone breasts don’t.“
Professor Claus Møldrup
According to Møldrup, there is little difference between influenza vaccination programmes and programmes to improve memory, which – just like influenza vaccinations – will be paid for by employees or health services.
– “You can draw a parallel to Danish swine farmers and their use of growth hormones. Once a few started using them, everyone had to. But then once they found out growth hormones were dangerous for consumers, they began to gradually phase them out, and that had a negative effect on GDP. If you want to be controversial, you could ask whether Denmark can afford not to improve our cognitive abilities. We live in a knowledge society, so why not improve people’s memories and mental capacity if we can? Denmark’s most important resource is its people’s minds,” Møldrup says.
Professor Claus Møldrup held his inaugural lecture, titled “Modern Medicines” on 4 June.