Cosmetic psychopharmacology: Drugs that enhance wellbeing, performance, and creativity

Richard N. Rosenthal, Laurence M. Westreich

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction The desire to improve oneself, whether in academics, athletics, or even everyday functioning, is a natural human drive. In fact, the push for self-improvement is the base upon which society builds its skyscrapers, literary masterpieces, universities, and initial public offerings. When modern medicine offered up the barbiturate sedatives which emerged as “Mother's Little Helper” (The Rolling Stones, Aftermath, 1966) in the post-World War 2 era, many saw their use as a direct response to the dissolution of traditional family and society structures. But the past 30 years have seen an explosion of psychopharmacologic preparations and their widespread use far beyond anything imaginable in the 1960s drug culture. The legendary drug use of the 1960s represented wide illegal experimental use of marijuana and hallucinogens for consciousness changing or raising, with only fringe elements of society using harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. Today's legal psychopharmacologic consumer, by contrast, is more likely to use for the sake of a specific and non-recreational purpose. In The Simpsons episode, aired October 3, 1999 and titled “Brother's Little Helper,” the title (cartoon) character is prescribed “Focusyn,” which improves his school performance but makes him paranoid (, accessed November 19, 2008). Even setting aside the prescription of psychotropic medications for the treatment of diagnosed psychiatric illnesses like attention deficit disorder and depression, our society is remarkably tolerant to the use of psychotropic medications for non-medical use. This “cosmetic psychopharmacology” will be the subject of this chapter.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClinical Addiction Psychiatry
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511782107
ISBN (Print)9780521899581
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


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