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Gamblers go all-in on Ritalin

Risk-taking may rise when people use stimulant to boost concentration

A dose of Ritalin makes healthy women more reckless in a gambling game. After taking the stimulant, participants in an experiment shifted their betting strategy and kept playing even when faced with stakes too high for most folks.

Though solid numbers are scarce, evidence suggests that many healthy people turn to Ritalin (also known as methylphenidate) and other stimulants to boost mental capacity. Some college students, for instance, rely on these “smart pills” to focus attention in cram sessions before tests.

The new results, published in the Sept. 19 Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that the drugs might have unanticipated consequences for these people, says study coauthor Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn of New York University.

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