The second half of the paper examined the increasingly prevalent group of novel psychoactive substances (NPSs), describing the different types of substances classified as novel, their effects and their potential dangers. While there is little research on the effects of novel recreational drugs, preliminary work suggests that there are significant risks attached. For example, because many of these drugs are synthetic, a small amount of the substance may have a significantly higher dose than the same amount of traditional recreational drugs. This would likely lead to higher rates of emergency medical treatments in response to accidental overdoses.
Moreover, the use of novel psychoactive substances for recreational use has also been on the rise. NPSs often mimic the effects of more traditional recreational drugs, such as cannabis or MDMA, but they differ slightly in their chemical make-up, which allowed them to bypass previous drug legislation. Indeed, the dramatic rise of NPS use and their potential dangers has led to the introduction of new laws in the UK. Under the Psychoactive Substances Act, it is illegal to distribute any substance that “affects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state […] by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system”. This recent change in the legality of NPSs is also likely to change the motivation of those who use them.
Many people have a desire to enhance their creativity and productivity, in order to achieve great thoughts or produce novel inventions. There are also pressures in a competitive world to take a pill to help achieve more, better and faster. The increasing lifestyle use of cognitive enhancing drugs raises both safety concerns as well as ethical issues, including coercion and increasing disparity in society. As a society, we need to consider which forms of cognitive enhancement (eg. pharmacological, exercise, lifelong learning) are acceptable and for which groups (eg. military, doctors), under what conditions (eg. work, shift work) and by what methods we would wish to improve and flourish.