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Work and neuro-enhancement

When stress at work leads to taking to drugs

Neuro-enhancement is also referred to as brain doping. Here, healthy people attempt to improve their performance with drugs. BAuA is examining the connection between work and taking prescription drugs.

Neuro-enhancement preparations are primarily prescription drugs. The following are known:

  • psychostimulants: e.g. drugs for treating the attention-deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHS) or narcolepsy,
  • antidepressants: for treating depression,
  • anti-dementia drugs: for treating dementia.

In addition, illegally trafficked stimulants are abused to improve cognitive performance and well-being, e.g. cocaine and amphetamines.

BAuA StudyBAuA

For the study, the researchers chose four occupations that are characterised by high cognitive requirements. Over 4,000 doctors, programmers, advertising specialists and publicists in employment subject to social security contributions were interviewed. In a multistage study design, face-to-face interviews, diary studies and qualitative in-depth interviews were employed.

Findings with regard to the frequency of neuro-enhancement

Only a small proportion of the employees practised neuro-enhancement. The four-week prevalence is 1.25 per cent and the annual prevalence is 2.80 per cent. However, the lifetime prevalence is 8.30 per cent and leads to the conclusion that there is a latent willingness to take drugs.

On the influence of work

The study shows a connection between work stress and mental health. In all four occupational groups more symptoms of mental impairments occur on increased stress. However, the stress that occurs does not lead inevitably to taking drugs. They are only taken selectively, if there is increased apprehension that the person affected will not be able to cope with stress at work. Neuro-enhancement therefore serves in the first place the maintenance of performance and not – as suspected in many cases – the improvement of performance.