Can a pill make you smarter? Research has studied this and it’s still in its early days, but the early results from studies seem to suggest that they can. Experts are continuing to learn more about how substances affect the brain, and they believe that there is a possibility of a pill that can make you smarter.
What Are Smart Drugs?
Smart drugs are substances that can boost cognitive ability and memory. There are several different kinds of smart drug available and they vary in how they act on the body and brain, potential uses and the potential for addiction and abuse.
The Lack of Acceptance by the Medical Profession
Many of the most popular smart drugs have been on the market for many years, but they are still not accepted fully by those in the medical profession, despite the fact that they have been widely researched and if used correctly, have little or no side effects. So why is this the case?
Medical professionals tend to prescribe drugs once a health condition has developed rather than to prevent one (cognitive decline in the case of smart drugs), there is a belief that smart drugs are unnecessary and unnatural, and lastly, the word ‘drug’ has a negative connotation. Even though smart drugs are legal, they are classed as recreational drugs, and so they have been demonised in our culture, for example, athletes that use drugs to enhance their performance are considered to be cheats
But the research that has been carried out on smart drugs to date has shown that there is the potential to enhance cognition, and people may be willing to take the risk if the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
The Different Types of Smart Drugs
There are 7 main types of smart drugs: Racetams, Stimulants, Adaptogens, Cholinergics, Serotonergics, Dopaminergics, and Metabolic Function Smart Drugs.
These are the best-known smart drugs that are available, and they have been used for a long time. Piracetam is one of the best known and it is often prescribed to elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease or the early signs of dementia. Studies have found that Piracetam can benefit people of all ages. This class of smart drugs speeds up the signaling between the brain cells, which boosts learning and focus. Other drugs in this class include Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, аnԁ Aniracetam, which have the same effects but differ in potency.
Side effects include headaches, due to the drugs causing a deficiency of choline in the brain, but they are non-toxic and can be bought over the counter.
These smart drugs are the most familiar to people. They include substances like nicotine and caffeine and amphetamines. They promote wakefulness and make you feel more alert generally. The drug Modafinil is classed as a stimulant and it is used by people who work long shifts and students cramming for exams as it doesn’t give you the jittery feeling that is associated with caffeine.
Adaptogens are plant-derived substances that can restore the body’s processes to their natural function. This class includes substances like Ginseng and Kava Kava. The boost the user gets from using them is likely to be down to fixing an imbalance in people with a build up of toxins in their bodies or in people with poor nutrition.
This class of smart drugs plays an important role in regulating memory, attention, and mood. Acetylcholine is one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters, and it is also responsible for regulating the function of the nervous system. A study of rats showed that certain types of learning were impossible for them if their bodies were deficient in choline.
Some smart drugs can deplete choline, so it’s a good idea to take them in a stack including a choline supplement.
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP) as it is scientifically known, is another very important neurotransmitter that governs mood, sleep and appetite. Serotonin is produced naturally within the body and some foods like turkey can promote its production. This class of drugs can enhance energy, mood and memory.
These smart drugs affect the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter, and it is responsible for feelings of happiness and reward, like the feeling we get after good food, or when we are in a good relationship. These drugs boost attention and alertness by increasing the effectiveness of dopamine in the brain.
Metabolic Function Smart Drugs
These speed up the body’s metabolic processes such as producing new tissues and releasing energy from fat stores in the body. Gingko Biloba is an example of one of these drugs, and it is used to boost memory and circulation.
Why Are Smart Drugs Used?
People are increasingly turning to smart drugs to get ahead, as the world of work and education gets ever more competitive. But with this comes a debate about the use of smart drugs to enable us to work more and sleepless and the impact this might be having on our health. But on the other hand, we already use drugs to boost sexual prowess, to boost weight loss, and to lift our mood, so why shouldn’t we use them to boost our cognitive ability, and they are less harmful than other socially acceptable drugs like alcohol.
Is There a Downside for Health?
Some smart drugs have a potential for addiction and abuse, and the long-term effects on health are still not known. And are these drugs simply a way of cheating the system, will people rely on a drug rather than time management, planning and simple hard work?
These drugs may be effective in the short term but it’s likely that they will never replace a healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and keeping the mind stimulated.
The existing research has shown that smart drugs enhance cognitive function and help people to fulfill their potential. Most smart drugs have neuroprotective qualities, meaning they preserve brain function and boost cognition. There is also evidence that they can prevent age-related cognitive decline which is big news since people are living longer and so these diseases are more prevalent. But as with anything, there are downsides. Like any drug, smart drugs have side effects, and every person tolerates them differently. Here are some potential dangers of using smart drugs:
- You might rely on them to do anything that requires concentration and focus
When the drugs are used short term, they can boost cognition, but in the longer term, you might need more and more of the drug to function well cognitively.
- You might end up working against your own body rhythms
Stimulants can force your body and mind to be energetic even when you’re tired. This disrupts your body’s natural rhythms and it can even accelerate aging.
- You can become dependent on them
Many people use smart drugs that much, that they start to rely on them to function and be productive.
- There’s a lack of research on long-term use
There’s currently a lack of research on long-term usage. Some smart drugs can be completely safe when used correctly, but many people misuse them, and everyone’s body chemistry is different so there’s no knowing how you’ll react.
- They can interact with other medications
If you are taking any medications, use caution with smart drugs as they can cause potentially very serious adverse reactions. Do your research and get qualified advice.
- You can experience side effects
Any substance that affects the chemistry of your brain is going to have side effects. You may or may not get side effects as everyone is different, but common side effects from smart drugs include migraines, dizziness, headaches, skin rashes, sleep problems, and mood disturbance.
- You can experience sleep problems
Sleep quality can be affected when you are using smart drugs, and for a while after you stop. Stimulant drugs keep the nervous system active even when you’re resting so that’s why you can wake up feeling groggy.
- You can get withdrawal symptoms
Smart drugs can affect the levels of the neurotransmitters in the brain, and once you stop taking them, this has an effect on your mood, memory, and concentration, potentially for a long time after use if you have misused them.
How to Use Smart Drugs More Safely
If you are using smart drugs or you are considering using them, here’s how you can do it a little more safely:
Think about why you’re using them: research how to use the drug and the dosage you need to use for what you want to achieve.
Start off with a small dose and work your way up to check that your chosen smart drug does not cause adverse effects. Don’t think that a higher dose is necessarily better.
Use them as needed. This will reduce the risk of side effects, dependence, and withdrawal that you would likely experience if you took them all the time.
Give your body a break from nootropics every now and again and this will ensure that you don’t become too dependent on them to function normally.
Be aware that smart drugs might interact with medications you’re taking. Interactions can be very dangerous, so always pay attention to warnings and get qualified advice, especially if you have a health condition.
This is a prescription drug that is used to treat sleep disorders like narcolepsy and it’s the most popular prescription medication for smart drug users. It promotes wakefulness and it belongs to a class of drugs called eugeroics.
Users of the drug have reported that Modafinil gave them a feeling of alertness and better motivation, focus, and concentration.
Many users reported that they were more productive and managed to complete tasks and projects more easily.
The drug does have some downsides though:
- It Is Only Available on Prescription
- There is a potential for becoming tolerant to the drug over time so you need to use more and more of it
- Side effects can potentially outweigh the benefits
- It can be very costly. The cost of a month’s supply can range from $550 to 900
The reasons above are why many people use a non-prescription alternative called Adrafinil
In the 1980s, researchers who were trying to develop a drug to treat patients with the sleep disorder narcolepsy discovered Adrafinil. Adrafinil is converted to Modafinil in the liver.
The researchers found a way to make Modafinil directly, so they no longer needed Adrafinil to make it, and manufacturing of Adrafinil stopped.
Complete production did not stop, however, and some labs started making it again, because it’s a very low-cost alternative to Modafinil, and it provides the same level of alertness and focus.
Because it is broken down quickly by the liver, Adrafinil is taken in larger doses than Modafinil. This can increase the level of liver enzymes, so it should not be taken constantly. Try to use it on an as and when basis. Long term use can put a strain on the liver.
This class of smart drugs are very commonly used worldwide. These also include Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Omberacetam, Pramiracetam, Phenylpiracetam Nefiracetam, and Coluracetam. Piracetam was developed by a Belgian drugs company in the 1960’s.
There is over 50 years of existing research into this drug, and it is considered to be safe, not addictive, and not toxic when used as directed.
It’s a potent cognitive enhancer and it can improve memory, learning, and focus, plus it dilates blood vessels in the brain, which ensures that it gets a good flow of oxygen and nutrients to keep it working optimally.
Piracetam works mainly by boosting the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays a role in the functioning of the memory.
Side effects are uncommon, but if they do occur, they tend to be mild and include headaches and stomach upsets. This drug is often stacked with a choline supplement, as choline deficiency can be responsible for the headaches people may get while taking it.
Choline is the precursor for the manufacture of the important neurotransmitter Acetylcholine in the brain, which is responsible for many bodily functions including memory and muscle control. We tend to get choline from our diet, as it is present in foods like almonds, eggs and liver, but deficiency is surprisingly common.
When we get enough choline, it’s converted into acetylcholine, and this facilitates improved communication between nerves and the brain neurons. It makes the brain more efficient.
If we supplement with choline, we can improve our memory and our capacity to learn new things. Users of the supplement have reported that they have a faster recall and an improved ability to focus. As well as this, choline has been shown to slow down the aging of the brain.
Choline is available in different forms, but not all of them are as effective. Some Choline supplements can’t cross the blood/brain barrier, so if you’re looking to try one that will work on the brain, try Alpha-GPC and Citicoline.
Noopept was discovered by Russian researchers when they were attempting to make a synthetic version of Pramiracetam. It easily crossed the blood/brain barrier.
Noopept is often considered to be similar to the racetams, though the way it works is quite different. It is thought to be 500-1000x more potent than Piracetam, so the dose required for a therapeutic effect is quite small.
Noopept can improve memory, learning, focus and the ability to make decisions. Studies on mice and rats have demonstrated that it can also have a protective effect on the brain. The drug can also attach itself to brain receptors much more easily than some other smart drugs, so this means that small doses like 10-30 mg can increase focus, improve the ability to think logically, to recall information, and to learn new things.
This is a drug that has been developed more recently. Users have reported that it acts in a similar way to Piracetam, though some studies have found that it can be up to 1000 times more potent.
Sunifiram is known to improve memory and protects the brain from cognitive decline. It also promotes the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and so it can boost learning capacity, focus, and memory. Because it’s so potent, only a very small amount is needed for a therapeutic effect.
This smart drug is considered both a Racetam and a part of the Ampakine family which means that it can potentially offer more than cognitive benefits. It can reduce anxiety and stress, and lift the mood, so it may be one to consider if you suffer from a mood disorder.
It can also boost memory, focus, and attention span. Rather than feeling stimulated as would be the case with many smart drugs, users report feeling that they have more energy, but they feel relaxed at the same time.
This is a synthetic version of the B Vitamin Thiamine and it was originally developed in Japan. It is used mainly to boost brain energy. The drug also increases the attention span and the ability to focus and concentrate. As well as having this stimulating effect, it can also help you to relax and bring about a feeling of wellbeing.
The drug is not strictly a nootropic, but it is one of the most commonly used supplements in a nootropic stack. It mixes well generally with other supplements.
Which Smart Drug Is the Best?
The answer to this question is the one that works for you and does not give you intolerable side effects. Because everyone is different, medications can affect people differently. Having said that, Piracetam is one of the most popular and commonly used smart drugs, mainly because;
- It offers subtle yet noticeable cognitive enhancement
- It costs less per dose than other smart drugs
- It has been used safely for a long time with a low number of reported side effects
- If you want to try smart drugs, try something that has minimal side effects like piracetam first and then try stacking it with other supplements to boost its effects.