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Performance Enhancing Drugs in the Workplace

adderallThey are coming!

In sports, people take performance enhancing drugs for one reason:  Professional sports are extremely competitive.  The difference between a superstar and an average professional athlete is a razor thin margin.  The push to be your absolute best is intense, no less so when the compensation differences between superstars and average players (all of whom were huge superstars in college and high school) is orders of magnitude.

This is an area where people are under intense scrutiny to not use performance enhancing drugs.  In many respects, being caught taking them is comparable to a death sentence, yet the incentive to perform better is so enormous, people take that chance.

In the workplace, without such oversight, if there were drugs you could take that make you a superstar, what would you do?

I suspect people will dope like crazy!

I have been reading many articles lately about the Adderall trend.  I now believe the following facts to be true:

  • There are drugs that you could take today that would improve your performance in the workplace.
  • These drugs are frequently taken by college students today and have been taken for years by a younger generation, illustrating that the long term side effects of such drug use are relatively low.
  • The generation entering the workplace today is taking these drugs and performing better as a result.

Given the evidence we have seen of how professional poker players and college students have reaped the benefits of Adderall use, I suspect that today many Wall Street employees probably take Adderall.  It is a competitive industry and compensation is tightly linked to performance.

If your peers were suddenly working harder and being more productive than you, would you feel pressure to enhance your performance artificially?  What if the people working for you were suddenly working harder and more productive than you.  Would the person performing poorest be less likely to be promoted?  Would you promote the least productive person on your team?  Who would you promote if everyone else was using Adderall?  The possibility of not just upward mobility halting, but continued employment may be threatened for non-enhancers.

This is you entering the world of professional athletes.  Everyone is doping to get ahead, if you do not, you risk not getting ahead.  Is your company suggesting people don’t?  Nope, they are in a battle to the death with competitors and the enhanced performance of their employees is critical to victory.  Your company wants you to do it, your co-workers are doing it, and not doing it makes you a worse employee.

Is this bad?  I don’t know, but it is certainly seductive.  If I told you that you could take a pill when you got to work that would give you unparalleled ability to focus for the next 12 hours, would you refuse?  Who doesn’t like to flow?  Be in the zone.

The American Psychological Association believes that achieving “Flow”, the state of intense focus, is critical to a person happiness.  Hey, I believe it.  When I am flowing, it is awesome.  Flowing is the most awesome thing around.  Now you can self-medicate to instantly flow.  For me, it typically requires 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time for me to be able to achieve flow for the last 2 hours.  And that only works 25% of the time.

I work with coders.  Coders are the kind of people that would probably benefit disproportionately from the ability to decide to instantly flow for a few hours.  What would you be willing to do to flow on command?

Are you tempted?  Comment.

One Response to “Performance Enhancing Drugs in the Workplace”

  1. laen Says:

    I’ve taken adderall before and its nothing short of great. If there were drugs out there that were getting people high but slowing down production i can understand the fuss about banning thos particular drugs. But a drug that gives you the focus needed to achive the task at hand and still have enough energy left afterwards, well i personally dont see anything wrong with that. Add’s rule !