Cognitive and performance enhancing medication use to improve performance in poker

Abstract

Use of neuroenhancers has been studied in groups ranging from students to surgeons; however, use of cognitive and performance enhancing medications (CPEMs) to improve performance in poker has remained largely overlooked. To assess the use of CPEMs to improve poker performance, a survey of poker players was conducted. Participants were recruited via Internet poker forums; 198 completed the online survey. Approximately 28 % of respondents used prescription CPEMs, with the most commonly used including: amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (62 %), benzodiazepines (20 %), and methylphenidate (20 %). CPEMs were used in poker to focus (73 %), calm nerves (11 %), and stay awake (11 %). Caffeine (71 %), as well as conventionally counter-intuitive substances like marijuana (35 %) and alcohol (30 %) were also reported to enhance poker performance. Non-users of CPEMs were dissuaded from use due to not knowing where to get them (29 %), apprehension about trying them (26 %), and legal or ethical concerns (16 %). Respondents most frequently acquired CPEMs via friends/fellow poker players (52 %), or prescription from physician (38 %). Additionally, greater use of CPEMs was associated with living outside the United States (p = 0.042), prior use of prescription medications for improving non-poker related performance (p < 0.001), and amateur and semi-professional player status (p = 0.035). Unmonitored use of pharmacologically active agents and their methods of acquisition highlight safety concerns in this cohort of poker players, especially among non-professional players. The current state of guidance from national organizations on CPEM use in healthy individuals could impact prescribing patterns.

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