The polysemy of psychotropic drugs: Continuity and overlap between neuroenhancement, treatment, prevention, pain relief, and pleasure-seeking in a clinical setting

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Abstract

Background: Enhancement involves the use of biomedical technologies to improve human capacities beyond therapeutic purposes. It has been well documented that enhancement is sometimes difficult to distinguish from treatment. As a subtype of enhancement, neuroenhancement aims to improve one's cognitive or emotional capacities. Main body: This article proposes that the notion of neuroenhancement deserves special attention among enhancements in general, because apart from the notion of treatment, it also overlaps with other concepts such as prevention, pain relief, and pleasure seeking. Regarding prevention, patients' mental endurance can be enhanced when a patient is prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor for the purpose of preventing the relapse of depression following a stressful situation. As for pain relief, psychiatrists use medication to alleviate distress in patients who experience various types of anxiety; the alleviation of distress is equal to psychological pain relief, but is also an enhancement of the patient's temperamental traits. Regarding pleasure seeking, insidious transition exists between neuroenhancement and pleasure seeking when using psychotropic drugs. It is well known that people use psychostimulants for recreational purposes and to induce overconfidence in one's performance. The polysemy of psychotropics derives from their effects on human sensibility. Therefore, when using psychotropic agents, psychiatrists should pay close attention to what the agent is used for on each patient in each situation, and explicitly share the continuity and overlap in the purpose of prescribing a medication with the patients to make a better clinical decision. Conclusions: The notion of neuroenhancement overlaps not only with the notion of treatment, but also with other concepts of prevention, pain relief, and pleasure seeking. The continuity between those concepts makes the issues concerning the prescription of psychotropic drugs subtler. Psychiatrists should explicitly share the continuity with the patients to make a better clinical decision.

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APA

Sakakibara, E. (2020, July 6). The polysemy of psychotropic drugs: Continuity and overlap between neuroenhancement, treatment, prevention, pain relief, and pleasure-seeking in a clinical setting. BMC Medical Ethics. BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00497-z

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