Cognitive Enhancing Drugs in Sport: Current and Future Concerns

Aaron C.T. Smith, Constantino Stavros, Kate Westberg

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Sporting authorities and policy makers have warned of a radical increase in the availability and use of so-called ‘smart’ drugs, which putatively deliver cognitive enhancements in the form of improved focus, concentration, alertness, and rapid decision-making. Although the potential for health risks is well documented when it comes to performance enhancing drugs in sport, the health implications of cognitive enhancing drugs (CEDs) remain unclear. Objectives: This article aims to provide a foundational understanding about CEDs and their application in sport. It considers what little is known about the types, nature, impact, and implications of their use for athletes and sport policy. Method: A narrative literature review was undertaken to ascertain the emerging role of CEDs beyond their clinical use to treat prescribed disorders, including the limited studies in the sporting domain. This review also considered literature pertinent to the impact of CEDs in sport and the challenges for sport policy. Results: Given the prospects of negative health impacts, policy-makers interested in preventing and controlling the use of CEDs, as well as reducing harm to athletes at all levels of performance, need guidance. This article highlights multi-faceted concerns and shines a spotlight on key issues for sporting bodies to consider regarding the critical impact that widespread use and adoption of these substances might entail. Conclusion: While the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is seemingly awake to the threat posed, actions to circumvent the spread of CEDs throughout sport are nascent and require greater understanding and attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2064-2075
Number of pages12
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Cognitive Enhancing Drugs in Sport: Current and Future Concerns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this