GTFS: Global Trends and Future Scenarios Index

Foresight: Drugs Futures 2025


Executive Summary

Over the last ten years there have been significant advances in our understanding of areas such as neuroscience, genetics, pharmacology, psychology and social policy. These advances have moved us to a new level in our understanding of how brains work, how chemicals affect the brain’s performance and, in turn, how this affects our behaviour. These advances may have wide-reaching implications for society over the next 20 years.

They are likely to be applied in three key areas to provide a better understanding of:

  •  mental health and the development of new treatments for it
  •  the effects of legal and illegal so-called ‘recreational’ drugs1 on different people and how to treat addiction
  • mental processes, bringing with it the potential for substances that can enhance the performance of our brain in specific ways, such as improving short-term memory and increasing our speed of thought. This new breed of drugs is called cognition enhancers.

As with any advances that have significant implications for society, it is important to consider how to manage change before we find we have moved along a road we would rather have avoided.

This Foresight project was set up for precisely this task. Its aim was to consider:

‘How can we manage the use of psychoactive substances in the future to best advantage for the individual, the community and society?’

This project was an independent analysis based on a thorough review of the science. The potential advances it uncovered were then explored in four different socio-economic scenarios to help understand the challenges and opportunities.

The findings do not constitute Government policy.