Performance-Enhancing Substances for Workers
In a study commissioned by the DAK Insurance Group in 2008, less than 5% of respondents said they had taken work-enhancing drugs to improve performance.
The number had risen to 6.7% in 2015 and was found among 500 respondents.
Drugs and performance-enhancing drugs in the workplace are forbidden in most cases because they are commonly abused.
Consequently, performance-enhancing drugs increase employee performance as much as illegal substances for recreational sports.
| Related: What Are Performance-Enhancing Drugs?
Common Doping Agents and their Dangers
Drugs like Lorazepam, Tavor, or Ativan, belong to the group of benzodiazepines and have long been in used in managerial circles.
These are highly effective tranquilizers and anxiolytics.
Benzodiazepines can become addictive in a short time and can cause serious harm if taken long-term.
These should only be taken as emergency medication in cases of acute severe stress or severe sleep disturbances and upon consultation with a doctor.
Managers who travel a lot around the world want to balance their day-night rhythm with the sleep hormone melatonin.
Used for the treatment of general sleep disorders, melatonin doesn’t show any side effects even with long-term use.
Also called smart drugs, Ritalin or Modafinil, increase cognitive performance.
They improve concentration, alertness and memory and promote wakefulness.
Ritalin, commonly used for the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children is also widely used to increase concentration and enhance performance among employees and students.
Another performance enhancer or smart drug is called Modafinil which promotes wakefulness among narcolepsy sufferers. It helps the user to stay awake during work hours.
In this sense, neuro-enhancers are ideal manager drugs that are actually used to a considerable extent.
Known to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, the most common amphetamine used primarily in industries that are characterized by intensive project work is Adderall.
It causes alertness, increased concentration and conveys a sense of superiority and strength.
However, side effects range from headache, irritability, insomnia, dizziness, agitation, constipation, stomach pain, weight loss, impotence, cardiac arrhythmia to anxiety.
In the US, especially in the high-performance and demanding Silicon Valley and New York’s Wall Street, the use of Modafinil increased years ago. US authorities responded with stricter regulations, however, the drug is still easy to get online.
Also, in Ivy League universities, from Cambridge to Harvard, Modafinil also became popular for a number of years.
Almost a quarter of students admit to using the drug before exams.
Surprisingly enough, the British and US media only focused on legal violations of the drug use, that whoever uses the drug is committing cheating instead of talking about the damages and risks of the drug in long-term use.
Helpful but Dangerous Drugs
Using cognitive enhancers to improve one’s own intellectual capacity through medication is nothing new.
In fact, in the 1930’s, American students found that amphetamines helped them study at night.
During the Second World War, stimulants were distributed to soldiers to help them withstand their current situation.
Later on, increased abuse and uncontrollable side effects put most of these drugs on the watch list.
Today, amphetamines and amphetamine derivatives, are used as awakening and concentration-promoting agents.
Though they are primarily used to treat ADHD, Alzheimer’s and severe sleep disorders, more and more people ask for prescription and use these as neuro-enhancers.
Frequent flyers use Modafinil to wake them up and manage jet lag.
Whereas Ritalin helps in stressful situations that managers, sales people, technicians, and even apprentices, experience.
When employees need to make an important presentation or make a contract negotiation, Ritalin helps them focus, concentrate better and make decisions quicker.
But what’s really up to the brain-optimizing effects of these new lifestyle drugs?
Who takes them and how strong are they?
Most importantly, what are the downsides of the use of such drugs on health, mind and society?
Would it be unfair for a student to take Ritalin or Modafinil before a test to concentrate and remember better? Would that be cheating?
Or would it be fair for a worker to take these drugs to leave a good impression on a job interview and thereby securing the job?
Natural Alternatives for Brain Doping
Mental capacity can be increased naturally.
It has been proven that with the right nutrients, the performance of the brain’s gray cells can be influenced positively.
Some substances increase brain capacity for the long-term while others provide a short-term performance high. These include the following:
1Caffeine and sugar
When you instant boost, caffeine and sugar are the quickest brain doping agents.
Caffeine shoots up the adrenaline levels causing more focus, alertness and receptiveness.
While sugar fuels the brain.
However, too much caffeine and sugar are not recommended.
2Theobromine and Theanine
In addition to caffeine and glucose, substances like theobromine and theanine boost brain activity with immediately.
Theobromine, found in cocoa, has a stimulating effect. While theanine, found in green tea, is calming in stressful situations.
The brain and the nerve cells consist mostly of water. To keep mental performance stable, a constant supply of fluid is necessary.
Two to three liters a day, preferably mineral water or herbal tea, is recommended to stay fit during periods of high mental stress.
Some nutritional supplements are valuable for the brain because they play a role in communicating the nerve cells or creating new connections between them.
These include essential amino acids such as phenylalanine found in nuts or oatmeal. From these, serotonin, dopamine and other messengers are formed.
5Unsaturated fatty acids
Unsaturated fatty acids are essential for the flexibility of brain membranes which has a positive effect on memory and learning.
Great sources of unsaturated fatty acids are linseed oil, olive oil, fish oil, salmon, and Atlantic herring.
Even greater sources of omega-3 fatty acids, especially long-chain docosahexaenoic acid, are krill oil.
Sufficient supply of essential vitamins help brain function and protect it from free radical damage.
For instance, vitamin C is crucially involved in the formation of messenger substances such as dopamine.
Similarly, vitamin E and B complex increase the number of neurotransmitters and promote the transmission of stimuli between nerve cells.
Vital substances, including magnesium, stimulates the formation of new brain connections in high doses and activates signal molecules that are crucial for learning.
Also, an adequate supply of iron is important for the proper transport of oxygen to the brain.
If a need comes up that would require you to use cognitive enhancers, whether prescription or otherwise, consult with your doctor first.
Because sometimes, a change in diet and lifestyle can do the trick in improving brain performance.