By: Paul Hewson
You're probably on drugs right now. It could be caffeine, or Xanax, or Anchor Steam, but it's in your system. Maybe you take something specifically to help you play poker. Or maybe you're thinking about it, but you're not sure it's the right thing to do and you're looking for some guidance. You've come to the right place, and here it is: Consult your doctor.
Seriously. Only your doctor is in a position to tell you what you should take – and to prescribe it to you, if it's something you can't get over the counter or in your grocery aisle. But I am in a position to inform you about what other people are taking. Here are three things in particular you should investigate thoroughly and think very hard about before you even consider using them.
ADHD Drugs (Adderall, Ritalin, et al)
These are the big ones. They've been prescribed to millions of schoolchildren over the past few decades; whether or not all those children really have ADHD or a similar cognitive deficit is up for debate. Baseball players and other athletes who used to pop greenies before games are now getting suspended for using Adderall. It's the same stuff, basically. Will it help you play better poker? Yes and no; these drugs can help you focus and put in more volume at the tables, but studies have shown they can also impede divergent thinking – the ability to see multiple potential outcomes, like what might happen if you 3-bet this guy.
In a way, these are the opposite of ADHD drugs. They limit your body's ability to absorb and use adrenaline (and noradrenaline), thus calming you down. Beta blockers have become increasingly popular among performers who have to audition for gigs, like actors and concert violinists. They can also have potent side effects, like sleep disturbance, hair loss, and erectile dysfunction. This is why I don't do auditions.
Weed is arguably the most popular drug in poker – not including booze, of course. There are many positives and negatives when it comes to the sticky-icky, not the least of which is its legality in your neck of the woods. Again, you'll have to consult your doctor. Your actual doctor, not the guy around the corner who'll rubber-stamp your medicinal marijuana certificate. In theory, if you can limit your intake to one small hit or two, you can get some cognitive benefit from weed. But it's like that Steve Martin joke: You'll only take it in the late evening, or occasionally in the early evening, or the mid-evening, or maybe the early afternoon...