PurposeEuropean studies have shown lower prevalence rates of prescription stimulant use for cognitive enhancement, especially among student populations, compared to North America. This difference requires more cross-country research of the various factors involved. To find out whether other parts of the globe are witnessing similar increases in extra-medical stimulant use, and how this might relate to cognitive enhancement, requires empirical study of local contexts. This paper aims to argue that the academic and public discussion on cognitive enhancement should consider the specific country context of drug policy and research and rethink which drugs are included under the term cognitive enhancement drugs.Design/methodology/approachThis paper offers a general review and a sociological country comparison between the Netherlands and Finland, focusing not only on prescription stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but also illicit amphetamines among young adults and methylphenidate use among Dutch and Finnish participants of the Global Drug Survey. This paper emphasises sociocultural perspectives and the importance of context in cognitive enhancement in general as the line between therapeutic and enhancement use can often be blurred. Data is drawn from global, European and national sources, including the International Narcotics Control Board, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and Global Drug Survey.FindingsThere are hardly any national empirical studies done on cognitive enhancement drug use in Finland. On the other hand, there have been studies in the Netherlands showcasing that the use of prescription stimulants and other drugs for enhancement purposes is something that is happening among young people, albeit yet in a relatively small scale. Illicit and licit stimulant use and drug policy action in relation to cognitive enhancement drugs in the two countries varies, emphasising the importance of country context.Originality/valueGiven that cross-country research is scarce, this general review provides one of the first glimpses into cognitive enhancement drug use by comparing the country context and research in Finland, where the phenomenon has not been studied, with the Netherlands, where the topic has received more research and public attention. Further research areas are suggested.
Drugs and Alcohol Today – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 13, 2020
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