By Alexis Madrigal EmailSeptember 09, 2008 | 10:59:24 AMCategories: Behavior, Cognition, Drugs & Alcohol


Could the right drug make you a better person?

A British psychiatrist raises and argues for that possibility in a new paper in a prominent psychiatry journal. In fact, he says that in many clinical settings, moral steroids are already being used.

“Within many clinical encounters, there may already be a subtle form of moral assistance going on, albeit one we do not choose to describe in these terms,” writes Sean Spence of the University of Sheffield in the British Journal of Psychiatry.”

Performance-enhancing drugs are generally used to enhance performance in competitive settings, like sports. On Wired Science, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at ways to increase cognitive performance. But what Spence suggests is that science should be searching for drugs to make people more “humane” not just smarter.

Spence describes the case of a man with “antisocial personality disorder” — somewhere on the continuum between dangerously sociopathic and just kind of a jerk — who requests drugs to prevent himself from harming a girlfriend. In making that request, Spence says that the man is using pharmaceuticals to exhibit “moral agency.”

Continued here