The future in prescription drugs is looking at a pill that will be able to enhance moral behavior, reduce racist thoughts, and to increase empathy. Does it sound too far fetched? Apparently not because there is research being conducted right now on such a pill.
There are already drugs in circulation that somewhat achieve this affect, such as Prozac. According to the deputy director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and a Wellcome Trust biomedical ethics award winner, Dr Guy Kahane, in an article in The Age,
Drugs that affect our moral thinking and behaviour already exist but we tend not to think of them in that way,” he says. “[Prozac] lowers aggression and bitterness against environment and so could be said to make people more agreeable. Or oxytocin, the so-called love hormone … increases feelings of social bonding and empathy while reducing anxiety. Scientists will develop more of these drugs and create new ways of taking drugs we already know about.”
But would pharmacologically induced altruism, for example, amount to genuine moral behaviour? “We can change people’s emotional responses but quite whether that improves their moral behaviour is not something science can answer,” Kahane says.
Kahane also said that he did not believe in putting drugs into the water system; however, he speculates that if a moral altering drug was taken by a wide range of people, it might help us tackle global problems better. One thing that I question in this statement, if the government wanted to develop such a drug and put it in the water system, how would people know. I have heard of water supplies already being drugged with lithium to help put people in a better mood.
However, the chairman in ethics in medicine and director of the centre for ethics in medicine at the University of Bristol, Professor Ruud ter Meulen, speculates that a drug that can enhance moral behavior can also have the opposite affect. According to Meulen,
“While oxytocin makes you more likely to trust and co-operate with others in your social group, it reduces empathy for those outside the group,” he says.
He says deep brain stimulation, used for Parkinson’s disease, has had unintended consequences, leading to cases in which patients begin to steal or become sexually aggressive.
Meulen suggests moral-enhancement drugs might be used in the criminal justice system. “These drugs will be more effective in prevention and cure than prison,” he says.
Personally, I do not think that this is something that should be explored because every person’s chemical makeup is different and a drug like this can affect people in different ways. An example of this is how different peopel react to Prozac or any antidepressant of that class of antidepressants. We all all wired differently so whereas this moral drug might help one person, it might turn somebody else into a serial killer that is wired differently. We do not need to experiment with drugs that just turn people into what other people think they should be or for all the population to become the best moral people that we can be. Human nature is something that should be left alone and not messed with. As the saying goes, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.”