Use of pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers in the Australian financial services industry

OVERVIEW

The non-medical use of so-called "smart drugs" (such as methylphenidate, amphetamine and modafinil) to enhance cognitive performance for study or work use has been explored in populations such as college students, medical students and surgeons in the US and Europe. An anonymous online survey was distributed to investigate the use of such substances among professionals working in the Australian financial services industry. The primary hypothesis was that different industry sectors would report use of different drugs in response to different workplace task demands.

This survey aimed to explore the perceived prevalence of the non-medical use of prescription medications in the Australian financial services industry using a survey method that avoided possible reticence on the part of respondents to report personal usage. This technique was favoured because it would likely enhance the validity of the responses and minimize the known limitations in self-report surveys relating to drug use. Significant variation in the total rates of reported use of pharmacological cognitive enhancement was found between different sectors of the Australian financial services industry. However, differences between rates of use of different substances nominated by respondents from different sectors did not reach significance. It is hoped that this survey will further inform the ongoing debate on the usage and effects of attempts at pharmacological cognitive enhancement in twenty-first century workplaces. It is important that these issues are beginning to be explored in a greater range of work environments and in greater depth, as increasing workplace pressures may drive employees to further increase their performance at the potential cost to their health as well as economic damage.

KEY RESEARCH QUESTION

To what extent are different substances used for non-medical cognitive enhancement purposes in different sectors of the Australian financial services industry?

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