Humanness – Study Drugs

‘Humanness’, as a means of describing theory, refers to the philosophy and sociology of human affairs. Humanness goes beyond the concept of human nature (and what the physical attributes of being human are), and is about “the quality or state of being a human” which gives “guidance as to what characteristics are implied by it” (Thompson, 2014). What makes us human is how we think of ourselves and how we project ourselves to the world.

The idea of post-humanism comes to mind when thinking about technology and humanness. Post-human can be “defined as beings whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to no longer be unambiguously human by our current standards” (Garreau in Wolfe, 2010). In Iveson’s (2012) blog review he cites philosopher Bernard Steigler’s (2010) ideas of humanness and post-humanism, “humanity will be displaced by a dystopian post-human future”. Human life today is nothing as it used to be; using human intuition we have created technology to better ourselves. We have created many technological human additions to increase our abilities in the world: prosthesis, biotechnology (genetic engineering), nanotechnology, robotics (AI), automation, warfare. Cognitive enhancements such as ‘nootropics’ commonly known a study drugs are prescription drugs initially meant to treat disorders like ADHD but are illegally misused to increase cognitive and attention productivity. It has become increasingly popular amongst students, coining the term ‘study drug’ or ‘smart drug’.

Discourses around study drugs are often negative. As well as being illegally misused, study drugs in terms of education are considered as cheating. People who use study drugs to enhance their cognitive thinking are also thought to lose their authenticity and morals. This academic code of conduct found from the Indiana university (this rule can be spread across any educational board) states that “cheating is considered to be an attempt to use or provide unauthorised assistance materials, information, or study aids in any form and in any academic exercise or environment”. This act of using cognitive enhancements to increase “the memory and concentration of healthy people” (Times Higher Education, 2007) brings up ethical discourses as it is not scientifically proven as being safe. Study drugs effect each user different, some people can have psychological effects like depression, insomnia and physical reactions like addiction, increased heart rate and some can experience no effect (Her Campus, 2016). There is also cultural and social discourse in study drugs as they are seen as a way to deal with poor education, as Ray (2014) argues the “remedying underprivileged children’s experiences of social inequalities”. However, study drugs aren’t used by more well-off students, they are used by any student wanting to enhance their normal human cognition.

Study drugs are a true form of humanness/post-humanism as they enhance and challenge the nature of the human being. People misuse these medications however aren’t aware of short or long term effects, showing an urgency in how society want to better themselves without taking precautions. Study drugs represent the ‘humanness of addiction’; we are addicted to bettering ourselves.



Gladu, A. / Her Campus (2016) Using Study Drugs to Get Better Grades: Why You Should Think Twice. Available from: [Accessed 11 October 2016].

Iveson, R. (2012) Taking Care with Bernard Steigler. Data Blog [blog]. 10 October. Available from:

Ray, K. (2016) Not Just “Study Drugs” for the Rich: Stimulants as Moral Tools for Creating Opportunities for Socially Disadvantaged Students. The American Journal of Bioethics [online]. 16 (6), pp29-38. [Accessed 11 October 2016]

Stiegler, B. (2010) Taking Care of Youth and the Generation. Translated from the French by Stephen Barker. California: Stanford University Press.

Thompson, S. (2014) Global Issues and Ethical Considerations in Human Enhancement Technologies. USA: IGI.

University of Indiana. Conduct of Student Rights, Responsibilities, & Conduct. Available from: [Accessed 10 October 2016].

Wolfe, C. (2010) What is Posthumanism? Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.


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