Can you smoke Prozac

New pills for the new person

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Happiness in pill form has long ceased to be a vision of the future. Millions of people around the world make use of it. From 1993 to 2002, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants in Germany doubled. And not everyone who swallows these lucky pills is really depressed. The pills also help completely healthy people to get over one or the other low mood. But the new pills for the new person can do a lot more. They drive our brain to peak performance. They make you smart, attentive, socially competent, reduce the need for sleep and increase the ability to react. Originally developed for the sick, healthy people should also benefit from the new miracle pills in the future. Researchers in the US and UK are currently testing the first memory pills on humans. In Münster, healthy test subjects learn vocabulary with the help of a Parkinson's medication, and pilots should react even faster in the future under the influence of an Alzheimer's medication.

The new pills make you fit for a life in the modern performance society. A small change in the chemical equilibrium of the brain and it's there: happiness, balance - even intelligence. And that is also necessary. Because how else can man - a product of a million years of evolution - be able to cope with the demands of his brave new world? Our genetic makeup is long out of date. It has long been unable to keep pace with the rapid development of our increasingly complex society and the increasing overstimulation. In order for people to meet the requirements of their own future, they need the support of the pharmaceutical industry. New pills for the new person.

"This is where perhaps the greatest upheaval in our image of man occurs. One assumes that humans have a certain normality. And that one cannot or must not intervene in normality. But if you look at it scientifically, then it is our psyche yes, a combination of many drives of many factors that produce normal people in such a way that there is a certain range of fluctuations in the combination of many drives, we call that normal. And abnormal are simply the fluctuations that become too large if you represent it figuratively, there is a Gaussian normal distribution and we call it normal what scatters around the mean. In this respect, there is no ideal-typical normal case, but there is a statistical normality. In this respect, the deviations are not deviations from any norm, but rather of an average development, that has to be seen very clearly, and how we are optimistic or pessimistic h looking out into the world, that is determined by this mixture of very specific chemical substances in the brain. "

The brain researcher and philosopher Gerhard Roth from the University of Bremen is concerned about the enormous popularity of the new lucky pills.

Fluoxetine, the name of the most widespread happiness pill substance, has been on the market for years. In the USA, fluoxetine is known under the trade name Prozac, while our pill is called Fluctin. Originally developed for severely ill depressants, around 20 million Americans now take the wonder drug.

The fact that Fluctin dampens negative moods would actually not be a cause for concern. But the active ingredient shifts a balance that has been established in the course of evolution. This balance makes most people shallow optimists. This attitude has proven to be extremely beneficial for human survival. If the mood barometer shifts from this starting position in one or the other direction, this does not necessarily have a positive effect.

"If certain substances predominate, dopamine or the famous endogenous opiates, then we see the world too rosy, then we are under drugs and then we do not recognize risks well or not early enough and then we run into great dangers, similar to the shortage Such substances drive us into a deep depression, and we only see the dangers everywhere and we are walled in by fears and there we do nothing at all. So we can already deduce from this that a certain basic optimism is what will always come because the high-level optimists and the high-level pessimists will naturally die out. "

In the meantime, humans determine the rules of their evolution themselves. And the lucky pills of the future could enable them to survive times of crisis in a reasonably good mood, without any outside help:

"When we lose a loved one or suffer a serious misfortune, there have always been mechanisms to alleviate this suffering. The best mechanism is consolation and compassion. Today we know that consolation, compassion from others is certain to be calming or satisfying In particular, serotonin and endogenous opiates and all societies have developed certain social rituals, for example certain burial and mourning rituals, in the event of death or other serious accidents, and they had a big one Sense of helping people through this immense pain.

And today you can show that, of course, like everything that happens to us, they intervene in our brain and, after all, one speaks of grief work in psychotherapy and that is indeed the case that it is the most natural thing, with the help of others and it is extremely difficult on its own, and that is the point, with the help of the social environment, and there it is completely right, one matures from that. It may and may not succeed, it also depends on the psychological constitution, but that is the normal case.

Of course, people have always resorted to drugs and alcohol when the pain and sadness and disappointment got too great and you have always seen the dangers. Namely, there the grief work, the coping with the frustration, the unhappiness is not worked out naturally but is replaced and that is a great danger and alcohol is a very strong drug. That is the danger of becoming dependent and not doing the coping work, and it is the same with stress. If someone is under great stress, he will take a bottle or drugs instead of eliminating the causes of the great stress, if it is possible, namely to work less, to burden oneself less. That's one thing, and I guess there's a pretty direct connection between taking it easy, taking happiness pills, taking serotonin-boosting pills, reaching for the bottle, and the discontinuation of these psychosocial aids. Because there is no one left who mourns with me, comforts me. Firstly, it's much easier, and secondly, there is no one left in an Americanized society. I have to take care of myself with alcohol and pills. "

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Psycho pills like Prozac or Fluctin don't just make you happy. They even increase social skills. Test subjects cooperate significantly better under their influence in group tasks. Current studies confirm this.

By changing the chemistry of the brain, such pills also intervene in the personality. Medical ethicists like Bettina Schöne-Seifert from the University of Münster are already thinking about the consequences this could have:

"The basic idea is that you want to be at peace with your life and in balance with yourself and, so to speak, a somewhat coherent balance between the things that are important to you and the things you do and can develop your self-esteem. And the imagination What critics and concerned voices have about these lucky pills is that someone who has been a shy, hesitant, thoughtful and shy person for many years of their life when suddenly throws in a pill and becomes a party animal, then it doesn't really suit him at all, then you can't even imagine that it would be built into a successful life in a meaningful and happy way, so to speak. And then you have great worries that these are the standards that people face from outside .

So nowadays you have to be socially competent and you have to be able to pave your way through crowds like a politician, have great self-confidence and be situational funny and be able to do five things at the same time, and that these are actually things that do not fit into the character of many people and which get out of balance due to a selective change. "

According to studies by American psychiatrists, at least the use of Prozac is largely safe: Many of their patients feel more authentic with these so-called lucky pills - closer to themselves - than without the drug. And that also applies to people who take the antidepressant without actually being sick themselves.

The psychiatrist Dr. Markus Pawelzik, head doctor at the EOS Clinic in Münster, can imagine a sensible application of such happiness-makers in pill form in healthy people.

"I didn't choose my nerve suit in the gene lottery that my parents organized. What do I do if I'm a little too sensitive, a little too vulnerable a guy? Okay, you could say that is perhaps the prerequisite for as a writer to build appropriate sensitivities. Only as someone who specializes in the treatment of affective disorders, I don't give a damn. That can be a terrible life below the threshold of manifest depression or it seems to be clear that ... Well, if I do I have the opportunity to improve my lot in the gene lottery a little by such a measure, then the development tasks that stand in front of me are, so to speak, my own perspective on life, they are in no way settled, they are still in front of me, but I can do them maybe realize a little better, a little more successfully. "

If pills could do that, they would surely be a boon to humanity. However, the brain researcher and philosopher Gerhard Roth believes that any intervention in the human ego is risky. And that's exactly what psychopills like Prozac and Fluctin do. He takes a position that is particularly popular among brain researchers today, but has also been advocated by other philosophers in the past: the drive of all human action is always emotion. There is no such thing as acting purely for reasons of reason. The human ego is a construct of our brain, we do not have free will. If the brain is disturbed in the construction of the human ego, as the auspicious pills do, for example, this is not without consequences:

"The corresponding neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, all the substances like serotonin or norepinephrine and whatever they are called stop that, but always in a very close relationship to early childhood experience. So the ego matures in which it has innate drives and then in them Primary psychosocial relationships have to be tested and then you have to find some kind of balance that is completely individual. Not too much egocentricity, then one becomes an egocentric, narcissist, but also not too little, then one becomes a completely withdrawn armored person. That is the great art of our individual brain to somehow find the balance, and that then stabilizes.

During puberty there is again vigorous stirring and then hopefully we come to our youthful adult self and these pills intervene in this unstable equilibrium, but these pills are not mediated by experience, but are administered to you. We know from learning psychology that there are two things that are really bad. Unjustified and unexpected misfortunes are very bad, that which cannot be explained and worse is unjustified and unexpected reward is even worse. It bends the psyche radically. Especially with children, because then all the target values ​​for deserved rewards are adjusted, they become absolute tyrants and egocentrics. There we see that the brain can only change based on its own experiences, and every pill and every sip of alcohol is not this own experience of the ego, but an artificial experience, and the ego cannot cope with that. We humans, especially children, have a very fine feeling for what they have to do in order to receive a well-deserved reward. That is registered very finely. And drugs and these pills are undeserved rewards, so to speak. And the brain is extremely sensitive to this. "

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Awakening pills are not a new invention, people have always tried to outsmart sleep. It's not without reason that coffee is so successful. But such legal means of brain doping are no longer enough for many people. The doctor Markus Pawelzik is repeatedly confronted with the desire for a pick-me-up.

"It already happens today that law students consult you according to the motto: You are a liberal, open-minded doctor, for example, prescribe me Ritalin, an amphetamine preparation that allows me to study for more than 16 hours a day because I don't get tired. "

The side effects of sleep deprivation are well known: Depression and irritability up to depression. But even if pick-me-up pills had no such side effects, the problems would by far not be eliminated. The medical ethicist Bettina Schöne-Seifert:

"A cardinal problem in this debate, namely if all people use such pills and improve their starting level accordingly, then the whole thing has been turned up a spiral of competition, so to speak, and the competition starts all over again at the top. Another example in this context, I like it What is discussed: Imagine that the entire management floor of a board member, just to stay competitive, suppressed their need for sleep with medication, and assuming that this would be reasonably low-risk, then the competitive advantage that one would like to gain would still be achieved namely that you can work a few hours longer, that would not pay off because everyone would do it. And conversely, anyone who would say they want to be natural and not take any medication would have a disadvantage, which somehow also would be worth considering for reasons of justice.

In addition, if the whole thing becomes very expensive, only the wealthy would be able to use these optimizing advantages and others would not, because they could not afford it, because no health care that we could imagine would be for that come up something. We already have enough shortages in health insurance. "

Anyway, the question remains to what extent health insurance companies and doctors would be responsible at all? After all, the new pills enable so-called neuro-enhancement in healthy people. Neuro Enhancement is the English term for the strengthening of brain functions - of feelings, the ability to concentrate, social competence and learning performance.

"As a doctor, I have nothing to do with it, because by definition I am responsible for the treatment of diseases. A wish-fulfilling medicine goes beyond the scope of our previous understanding of medicine. The fact that the limits are in motion is indisputable when one thinks of aesthetic surgery There are also doctors who do it, and it is a clear case of medical enhancement if I allow myself to be beautified without being extremely disfigured, which could perhaps also fall under illness.

From my point of view it is relatively clear that with the growth and expansion of the instrumental possibilities, of course, the health-disease boundary shifts.The more we can do, the more is viewed as undesirable, i.e. tends to be ill, and in this respect the range of what medicine will do in the future will expand. "

Many doctors are already receiving considerable pressure from some patients to prescribe the new pick-me-ups for them. The drug Modafinil was originally developed for neuroleptics. These are patients who suffer from sudden sleep attacks. The symptoms can be found on the Internet. Every now and then, sleep doctors report on simulators who want to have this drug specifically prescribed. And that's just to dance the night away in the Technodiscos.

American researchers tested another form of neuro-enhancement: They gave pilots the Alzheimer's drug Donezepil. The result was astonishing: With the drug, the pilots were more concentrated, reacted more quickly in difficult situations and showed a better result overall in the flight simulator tests.

"So in principle there is nothing to be said against it. And people have been doing this for a number of years, since modern times. There are many people, and I am one of them, who are not in a good mood without tea and coffee in the morning, and tea, caffeine are of course drugs that have a particular effect on our cholinergic system and make us more alert and alert. It goes without saying that if you sit there in long conferences and have no coffee or tea, then you can no longer study. A very dangerous drug, namely that Nicotine, acts directly on this system. It is not an invention of chronic smokers that they can no longer think clearly without nicotine. And when they smoke again, then the thoughts come because the nicotine directly affects the cholinergic attention system. But you can see the fate. And smoking cigarettes, nicotine addiction, is one of the worst addictions. Not that it destroys people like alcohol, but the relapse rate is t the highest of all known drugs. And misery is coming slowly. This shows that you have an immediate effect on attention, but the consequences are catastrophic. It's not like that with coffee, thank goodness. That means it always depends on the dangerousness or harmlessness of the drugs. And it's not as bad in the cognitive area as it is in the emotional area. The cognitive area is not as vital to survival as the emotional area. Emotional deficits are much more important and have a much greater impact than mild cognitive deficits. That's only natural. "

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Neurologists at the University of Münster recently tested a Parkinson's medication on healthy people. The test subjects had to learn an artificial language. The result: With the help of the pills, the test subjects learned a fifth more vocabulary: instead of 100, they managed 120. So-called ampakines can also improve learning performance. The first clinical studies with this substance have already been completed. Nobel laureate Eric Kandel is also researching a memory pill. He wants to bring them onto the market in the next few years.

The possibilities these memory pills offer seem promising. Of course, provided these pills don't have any serious side effects. The medical ethicist Bettina Schöne-Seifert can imagine a future in which such pills could do a lot of good:

"To say something positive now: Imagine that we now have memory-enhancing options that are reasonably inexpensive, and everyone could get them, if that would also be a very desirable prospect to say: We learn vocabulary for which we would otherwise having to spend a lot of tedious time in a much shorter amount of time and the time that becomes free is then used socially. We have time to build a well for a developing country. It depends a lot on how these things are used. They are not, so to speak even the devil, but careless handling and a socially irresponsible framework for the legal arrangement would be the problem. "


It is also conceivable that people who are disadvantaged by nature will receive the new pills in a targeted manner. Then those who got a bad lot in the gene lottery would also have a chance of education and social advancement. American ethicists have called this principle "chance by choice". Ultimately, politicians and lawyers have to decide who will have access to the new pills for the new person. Until then, the researchers are facing completely different problems: It is not yet clear what side effects the new substances will have. Neuropharmacologist Michael Koch from the University of Bremen has concerns as to whether the memory pills and other brain doping agents can actually work in the long term.

"These systems, on which we play the piano, so to speak, as pharmacologists and influence with various substances, are millions of years old and in the form we have now, so to speak, have developed in a very stable manner. That means for a pharmacologist to see clearly that these systems are very That is, if we intervene in one area, it is simply in the nature of things that such natural biological systems try to establish a homeostasis. For example, if we chronically overstimulate these systems, as there are also many studies on this As it was investigated with chronic cocaine users, the system counteracts this, that is, receptors react to the oversized supply by downregulating their biological sensitivity. "

As with any drug, after a while, the brain will probably ask for more and more of the miracle pills in order to achieve the same effect. Without the pressure of illness, caution is still advisable with the new pills at the moment:

"Otherwise it really seems to me to be concerned that you will reach for things far too quickly, which actually work much better in a different way, in a natural way, and are more properly incorporated into life, quite right, even if you don't have any good arguments in the end For this we find that naturalness as such is a value. Therefore, in many situations, if we don't know better, naturalness is first of all the trustworthy alternative to the manipulated, because we do not overlook the complexity of the events and the interventions at all We don't even know what we're causing, and that's why we should be so careful. "Nature knows best" - that seems like a very good motto to me until we know better ourselves. "

Why do people even get the idea of ​​improving themselves? But only because they are no longer able to cope with the demands placed on them. In extreme cases, this can even lead to illness. Doctors have long suspected that the constant overstimulation is a reason for the increase in depression. Markus Pawelzik knows the problem from his own practice:

"With 400 TV programs and fast internet access, I can potentially compare myself to everything there is in this world, and no matter what subject or perspective I choose, the possibilities are endless. The choice problem leads to psychological opportunity costs that simply are too high. That is no longer manageable. In order to grow successfully, we need a matrix with which we can orientate ourselves, a handrail, a psychosocial handrail, a cultural handrail that has something to do with the restriction of Possibilities. And the opposite is the case: we are victims of a tyranny of freedom. "

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