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How Smart Can You Get on Smart Drugs?

The Nootropic Trend

Trends can turn on a dime. And, who knows why? But, what was out of fashion can suddenly become all the rage. And, what was considered “geeky” or “nerdy” can instantly become trendy –like intelligence, for example.

Smarts are now the “in” thing. It seems everyone wants to be brainy. Although, in the past, many chose to use substances to dull the senses, now it’s cool to use substances to heighten the senses. Go figure. Rather than the pursuit of leisure as their pleasure, many have decided to pursue intelligence. Well, this is the Age of Information, isn’t it? So, that makes sense.

The Quest for 100%

We’re no longer living in the days when, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”, as the Beatles sang. Instead, these are the days of, “Intelligence Can Get Me Everything”. And, to that end, many of us are on a quest to find a way to enhance our cognitive abilities. We want to be able to use 100% of our brain. After all, it’s a competitive world with billions of people struggling for survival. So, Smart Drugs have become one of the new trends.

In this brave new world, it’s wise to know something about Nootropics or Smart Drugs and their effect on the human brain. And, although you can learn something from the opinions and experiences of others, it helps to do your own research before diving into unknown waters.

With all the information out there, only a few sites offer information from the source. Even scientific pubs about Nootropics are incomplete. There’s little statistical data to back up claims on the effects that these supplements have on the brain. And, less information regarding side effects.

Viable Updates

Nevertheless, in the past couple of years, a number of systematic reviews and meta-analyses on smart drugs were published. Data was combined from multiple individual studies. As a result, these conclusions were considerably more reliable.

How Smart is a Smart Drug?

Any substance that improves cognitive function, memory or even motivation and wakefulness in considered a cognitive enhancer. That includes caffeine. However, many of these up-and-coming nootropics were originally developed for therapy in patients of cognitive disorders and dementia, etc.

Since they weren’t designed for healthy brains, they may not have as great an effect on a healthy brain, except to perhaps improve alertness and mood. But, for many of us, that’s really all the help we need. Sometimes, all it takes is a little boost in motivation to get you over the hump.

Modafinil or Adrafinil

Only a chosen few nootropics have been proven to improve cognition. The most common one that has been widely tested is Modafinil (A prescription drug). Under the name of Adrafinil (precursor of modafinil), it is easier to obtain because it doesn’t require a prescription.

The Mechanism of Nootropics

A nootropic has quite a few mechanisms. Some will increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Some will prevent oxidative damage. Others speed up communication between brain receptors, and yet others will deliver supplements over the blood brain barrier.

Let’s Look at Some Popular Nootropics


Amphetamines are a specific family of pharmaceuticals that were developed to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) patients. Common in the classroom are Adderall, Lisdexamphetamine, and Dextroamphetamine. These have been known to enhance episodic memory, working memory, and attention.


Ritalin works a little differently than amphetamines do and has a different structure. However, it does bring about comparable results. With amphetamines and Ritalin, you must take lower doses because at a higher dose, their positive cognitive effects cancel themselves out.

Alertness Supplements

Modafinil –which used to be Armodafinil — promotes alertness. This improves productivity, mood, and motivation. Although you may not be able to say that it “makes you smarter”, it does enhance one’s logical reasoning, reaction time, and problem-solving. Modafinil is prescribed for patients with conditions such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and shift-work sleep disorder. On the other hand, Adrafinil (a prodrug of Modafinil which converts to Modafinil in the liver) is widely available online, without a prescription. It also presents equal effects to Modafinil.


The racetams (Piracetam, Aniracetam, etc.) are supported with more extensive studies as compared to some of the newer Smart Drugs. For example, Piracetam, formulated back in the 60’s, enjoys a close to perfect profile for safety. Few side effects have been reported with this drug. Particularly in the elderly and in those with dementia, Piracetam has been proven effective. It’s one of the milder nootropics.

Phenylpiracetam (also a racetam) was developed in Russia. Not only does it demonstrate the ability to enhance memory, but it proves effective to enhance resistance to anxiety.


Coffee can be considered a nootropic. Your mother was right, it is a drug. And, needless to say, a lot of us are addicted. That’s due to caffeine’s ability to increase alertness and thus enhance our performance. In fact, caffeine is comparable to many pharmaceuticals. When delivered in higher doses, it can be a health hazard.

Green tea also promotes alertness. China runs on it all day long. The L-Theanine it contains is well-studied and documented by multiple studies.

Herbal Supplements

Some recent studies on nutraceuticals and herbal supplement seem to contradict themselves. Although there is data to support the memory-enhancing effects of Asian ginseng, Gingko biloba, and Bacopa monnieri, some don’t have enough proof of their effectiveness. This may be because herbal supplements take longer periods of time to affect cognition. So, their effects are not as obvious short term. We can apply the same thinking to vitamins.

In Conclusion

As a healthy individual looking to increase your intelligence, there’s no magic pill. Although geeky is the new sexy, use your smarts to guide you. Get enough information to be safe and take only the recommended doses. Remember, you’re entering unknown territory for the most part. And, in some cases, bravery is just not smart.

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