Cognitive Enhancers In The Military Term Paper

Length: 4 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Military Type: Term Paper Paper: #21047574 Related Topics: Military Intelligence, Pharmacology, Military Training, Military
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Neuropharmacology & the Military

It is hard to argue with the basic premise -- the U.S. military exists to promote, by means of force or by means of deterrence backed by the threat of force -- American interests. In military situations, winning is the most important thing, and all other factors are secondary. This has always been true of military endeavors, and that has not changed today. Given that, the U.S. military seeks to be the world's best military. It is the best-funded, and it is the largest. It is also the most technologically-advanced. Where on one side of the technology ledger, the U.S. military is looking at robotics as the next innovation in combat, it is also examining the role that neuropharmacology can provide with respect to its human members, especially combatants. The United States military has a keen interest in neuropharmacology and the effects that it can have on cognitive functions, fatigue, calmatives, rehabilitation and interrogation.

Cognitive Enhancement

Neuropharmacology is a branch of pharmacology that specifically examines drugs that effect neural pathways, altering how the brain functions. One class of neuropharmaceuticals are the cognitive enhancers. These have been developed to serve a number of different functions in civilian society, and many of these drugs have been adapted for military use as well. Stimulants used in civilian society for conditions like ADHD, such as methlphenidate and amphetamine impact cognition by increasing catecholamines in the prefrontal cortex and adjacent regions (Farah et al., 2012). Cognitive enhancers have been investigated by the U.S. military for improving the cognition of their soldiers, enhancing focus and clarity of thought. While some stimulants are effectively ruled out for military duty because of illegality (i.e. cocaine), others such as...


There are risks with most of these drugs related to overconsumption, including reaching a point of cognitive impairment, but studies have shown that many cognitive enhancers do improve cognition (Wood et al., 2014) In theory, performance in high-stress military operations, especially ones that last for very long periods of time when cognitive function might otherwise wane.

The nature of military tasks has driven this curiosity on the part of military researchers. Military tasks are often highly complex, and require intense concentration. This concentration may be required for prolonged periods, in excess of 24 hours, and during high stress situations such as combat. Such situations would, without cognitive enhancers, almost surely result in fatigue, which in turn effects cognition. By allowing soldiers to maintain their cognition at high levels, drugs would promote efficiency in their tasks, and allow them to retain a high level of concentration during complex tasks, even after extended periods without rest. Mood elevation can also occur with some stimulants, providing a short-term morale boost during especially challenging periods, should that be an issue for soldiers under duress. The combat benefits of improving cognition, concentration and suppressing the effects of fatigue are self-evident, and could result in significant competitive advantage in challenging situations (Giordano & Wurzman, 2011).

There are certainly ethical issues with respect to this research of cognitive enhancers. Normally, these drugs are used to treat conditions, and there are ethical issues at play in testing and using them on healthy individuals (Forlini, 2013). The military may view its duty, however, as being quite different from civilian applications. As noted in the introduction, the military has a somewhat unique position given the importance of its role in society and the reality that military…

Sources Used in Documents:


Farah, M., Smith, M., Ilieva, I. & Hamilton, R. (2014). Cognitive enhancement. Wires. Vol. 5 (2014) 95-103.

Forlini, C. (2013). Should physicians prescribe cognitive enhancers to healthy people? Retrieved April 16, 2015 from

Giordano, J. & Wurzman, R. (2011). Neurotechnologies as weapons in national intelligence and defense -- an overview. Synesis. Vol. 2011, T55-T71.

Ilieva, I., Boland, J. & Farah, M. (2012). Objective and subjective cognitive enhancing effects of mixed amphetamine salts in healthy people. Neuropharmacology. Retrieved April 16, 2015 from

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