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New Labour's top science advisor has told government a new generation of brain function-enhancing pharmaceuticals are set to change how people live their lives over the next 20 years.

In a presentation to ministers at Downing Street, Sir David King said “recreational psychoactive substances” will be used by healthy people to improve their cognitive abilities, The Sunday Times reports.

The idea has been dubbed “cosmetic neurology”. The ADHD drug Ritalin is already used by some without the condition to boost their powers of concentration.

King questioned whether regulatory schemes will have to be adapted to account for the new market. He said: "Are cognitive enhancers a great market for social opportunity or destabilising and divisive?"

Bristol University's Dr Paul Howard-Jones said: “There could be restrictions placed on their sale, but that might mean people buy them illegally. I would call on people to start discussing their impact - before they start causing tremendous problems in society.”

Dr Andrea Malizia, a consultant senior lecturer in the Department of Psychopharmacology at Bristol University, advocates making Alzheimer’s treatment Donepezil easier to get hold of. The drug improves memory and learning. Dr Malizia said: “The potential for these drugs is enormous. People already buy vitamins and take caffeine to improve mental functions but these drugs will offer a whole new dimension.” ®

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