Neuroenhancement is the attempt of people to improve their brain's cognitive functions and mental well-being through the use of prescription drugs without medical indication. Based on a demand-control model extended by psychosocial factors, the present study focuses on neuroenhancement behaviour of employees in the context of stressful workload. Therefore, four occupations were selected, which are characterised by high demands on time, cognitive, physical or mental continuous performance as well as time pressure. In a three-stage study design, a total of 4,166 employed physicians, programmers, advertisers, and publishers were interviewed face-to-face (CAPI). Therefore, the second stage of the study asked a subsample of 710 persons to keep a diary for a whole week with the objective to observe a time connection between stress situations and neuroenhancement. The target persons recorded their daily workload, leisure activities, the use of medicines, and their health. The third stage were qualitative in-depth interviews with 33 employees, who had been identified in the face-to-face interview as manifest enhancers, about their personal life and motivations for neuroenhancement or substance use.
The study results show a significant connection between work stress and mental health. In all four investigated occupational groups stressful working exposures significantly increase the probability of occurrence of symptoms of mental impairments. These stresses lead not necessarily to taking performance-enhancing drugs or medications. Only a minor proportion of employees has actually practiced neuroenhancement. The four-week prevalence is 1.25 percent and the annual prevalence 2.80 percent. Yet, the lifetime prevalence rate is 8.30 percent. Although this indicator shows the latent willingness of a significant number of employees to neuroenhancement consumption, a statistically validated connection between stress and neuroenhancement, however, could not be provided with reasonable statistical certainty by means of quantitative measurement and analyses.
The explanation for the statistically weak correlation can be found in the in-depth interviews with hard enhancers. They actually explain in these qualitative interviews the fact, that they are taking medicines or drugs only occasionally, when the perceived burdens have reached such a high level that they are concerned about being unable to meet these strains. The descriptions of the individuals concerned show that neuroenhancement primarily serves maintaining performance in a situation appearing without any alternative instead of benefitting from the use of banned substances. The study results provide evidence that the use of performance-maintaining substances is favoured by a combination of high workload and certain personality traits.
Please download the complete report "Neuroenhancement Behaviour in the Context of Stressful Workload - empirical Studies on Employees" (in German only).
H. Schröder, T. Köhler, P. Knerr, S. Kühne, D. Moesgen, M. Klein:
Einfluss psychischer Belastungen am Arbeitsplatz auf das Neuroenhancement - empirische Untersuchungen an Erwerbstätigen.
1. edition. Dortmund: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin 2015.
ISBN: 978-3-88261-052-9, pages 115, Project number: F 2283, paper, PDF file