Mood and behaviour enhancers are taken for the purpose of altering mood or social behaviours in people who may or may not be mentally healthy.
The use of mood and behaviour enhancers is nothing new, and in particular drugs such as alcohol, cannabids and MDMA have been used for these types of effects. Besides these more ‘traditional drugs’ people are finding new ways to improve their mood, reduce anxiety, relief pain and increase ‘happiness’. For example, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat ‘depressed feelings’ (e.g. Prozac) or the use of beta blockers (e.g. Propranolol) to deal with stage fright.
Currently there is little research on people who are using these drugs as part of their medical treatment or just to enhance themselves. In the US 52 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetime. Most of the non-medically used presecribtion drugs were painkillers (5.1 million) (e.g. oxycodone) and tranquilizers (e.g. diazepam) (2.2 million). Another study in the UK showed that the lifetime prevalence of prescription drug misused was 33% amongst students and 25% among university staff, of which again painkillers were the main used drugs, followed by sedatives (e.g. amobarbital) and sleeping pills (e.g. alprazolam). Further, it is shown that an increasing number of people are using SSRIs to enhance their mood, although several studies have showed no immediate or delayed mood enhancing effects. The use of mood and behaviour enhancers is more common among individuals who have a high workload and private stress such as surgeons or students.
In general the harms posed by these types of human enhancement drugs have been extensively studied in the medical literature, as most mood and behaviour enhancers are licended medications used to treat problems such as depression and social anxiety disorder. Like any medication, these drugs may come with several potential side-effects including a range of phyiscal and psychiaterics effects. For instance, painkillers and SSRIs may cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, sleeping problems and skin rashes. Furtermore, there is a risk of dependence when using certain mood and behaviour enhancers (e.g. opiods), even when you take them for more than a few days. However, little research exist on the effects of these drugs on healthy individuals who use them for non-medical reasons.
- McCabe, S.E., Teter, C.J., & Boyd, C.J. (2005). Illicit use of prescription pain medication among college students. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 77(1), 37-47.
- Repantis, D., Schlattmann, P., Laisney, O., & Heuser, I. (2010). Modafinil and methylphenidate for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals: A systematic review. Pharmacological Research, 61, 187-206.
Examples of drugs used to enhance mood and social behaviours:
|Name||How it works||Duration*||Route of administration|
|Beta-blockers (e.g. sectral, Inderal, Tenormin, zebeta, Lopressor and corgard)||In a medical setting beta-blockers are prescribed to treat several different types of conditions, including hypertension, some abnormal heart rhythms, anxiety and migraines. Non-medical users mostly consume these drugs to reduce (performance) anxiety, for instance, when giving a public presentation.||The half-life of beta-blockers varies but is usually within a couple of hours (around 2 to 6 hours).||Oral|
|Painkillers (e.g. Oxycodone, propoxyphene, hydromorphone, meperidine & Hydrocodone)
|In a medical setting painkillers are used to block pain. In addition to blocking pain, most painkillers are known to stimulate portions of the brain associated with pleasure (producing a ‘high’).||The half-life of painkillers varies but is usually within a couple of hours (around 2 to 6 hours).||Oral and injection|
|Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) (e.g. Citalopram, Escitalopram, Paroxetine, sertraline & Fluoxetine).
|SSRIs in a medical setting are used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Potential benefits including reducing the severity of anxiety and feeling of depression. Non-medical users consume these drugs for similar reasons, e.g. the use of SSRIs when ‘feeling blue’.||The half-life of SSRIs differs considerably, e.g. the half-life of paroxetine is around 21 hours while the half-life of Fluoxetine is between 1 and 6 days.||Oral|
|Sleeping pills (e.g. zolpidem, eszopiclone, ramelteon, zaleplon, bezodiapines (e.g. alprazolam) and anti-depressants (e.g. trazodone))||Sleeping pills are used to treat insomnia. These drugs work well at helping you fall or staying asleep.||The half-life of sleeping pills varies but is usually within a couple of hours (around 1 to 4 hours).||Oral|
* The duration can vary depending on the type of drugs.