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Introduction to Nootropics

Nootropics, from Greek, meaning “mind-towards” or in our day to day terms, mind enhancers or “smart drugs” are a new constellation forming in the universe of drugs. We’ve always been told that drugs are bad, but every American at least once in his lifetime has used a drug. Whether it’s the prescription drugs the doctor gives you, the weed you smoked in high school, the bourbon on the rocks, or the pack of cigarettes that gets you by each day at work, we’ve all used drugs. What are these so called “mind enhancers”? Who uses them? What are their effects? Are they available to the public? Are they legal, safe, ethical? Two of these smart drugs are common to most of us, like caffeine and nicotine, others like ephedrine, amphetamines, and piracetam are hardly known about except by certain groups of people.


About 90% of Americans consume caffeine daily and the majority not once, but couple times a day. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, and in energy drinks. As a stimulant, caffeine awakens the user, speeds him up, and like a car-wash for his mind; helps him think clearer. Students can be seen at the local Starbucks enjoying their cup of coffee while studying, professionals will drink their coffee in the car, and senior citizens will enjoy it slowly in the morning. The benefits are obvious, the question that arises concerning those seeking super-human thinking abilities is, how much is enough? Most doctors will argue that 300mg is the healthy choice, but everybody’s body is different. According to Dr. Jonathan Geiger from the University of North Dakota, “Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability to stabilize the blood brain barrier means it could have an important part to play in therapies against neurological disorders”, Dr. Geiger’s comments came after studies that linked the daily use of caffeine to the prevention of Alzheimer. Caffeine has proven to be a safe “smart drug” and with potential health benefits in the long term.

When we hear the term nicotine, the image of a cigarette comes into our minds and along with it a whole bunch of health warnings by the medical authorities. What most “authorities” ignore and hide is that nicotine by itself is a mind enhancer. Nicotine users experience similar effects to those of caffeine, mainly because like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant. British researchers are even exploring the idea of creating a new nicotine pill to help dementia patients. One of the leading researchers, Professor Stolerman said that “Nicotine….has many multiple effects, some of which are harmful, whereas others may be beneficial”.

Ephedrine has been known to bodybuilders and athletes as the wonder pill for diets and cutting down body fat until the FDA made it a controlled substance breaking one of the core nutrients of the fitness world. Unlike in the US, in Europe ephedrine is really popular in smart shops, stores that sell smart drugs and psychoactive products such as mushrooms and mescaline-containing cactuses. Ephedrine is the main ingredient in most of the health supplements sold in smart shops for students, businessmen and white collar workers for better concentration, improved memory, and more energy. Ephedrine is similar to amphetamines in its effect, which might be great at the time, but dependency is a problem and addiction becomes stronger with constant use.

A miracle pill has risen in college campuses across the nation, the blue pill. Not Viagra, rather Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD sufferers. Adderall has become more popular than any other drug during examinations and the hard last weeks of semesters. Students are referring to it as their new best friend. No more need for study groups, take a pill and you’ll be fine for the rest of the night. According to a student “I stayed up all night…and totally zoned in”. The FDA has classified Adderall along with cocaine, opium and other hardcore top shelf drugs to prevent its abuse, but numbers show that in top campuses, Adderall use is at a high 25%. According to the students, the worst part of Adderall is not its availability (they need an ADHD drug dealer) but rather its withdrawal symptoms. Responsible use would prevent the symptoms, but like most drugs, users are irresponsible and lack information. Adderall might help during exams, but not the day after.

Caffeine, nicotine, ephedrine and amphetamines are all used to improve the intellect, but their main uses are others and most times, the agility, stamina, improved concentrations and other benefits come as a side effect rather than the main effect. But as we explore this unexplored world of mind enhancers and smart drugs, we will find another drug named Piracetam. This supplement, unlike its counterparts, is completely safe and if there are any side effects, they’re minimal. Piracetam acts by increasing the blood flow to the brain, and hence causing greater memory, ability, stamina etc. Piracetam has started to grow in popularity recently, since little is known about it, only a few number of students have gone in the search for it. One of these students recorded his experience on a popular video sharing website, day by day and describing the effects. He reported to have increased his work efficiency, being able to finish all his homework which seemed impossible before, he also claimed to be able to work and edit four videos a day in comparison to one before the use of Piracetam. Several studies confirm the benefits, but there has only been done a minimal amount of research. What is for sure is that Piracetam has a great future for it and those who have used it, will keep using it.

If we search online for nootropic drink we will find dozens of supplements, millions of herbs, and little or no research to confirm it. What is certainly true is that some of the drugs categorized “smart” are used every day, and others have just been discovered while hundreds wait to be found. Students will find ways to get the drugs as hard as it takes for an easier study session as material grows, entertainment grows, and time shrinks. Whether it’s at the gas station, the coffee shop, or an online retailer, smart drugs are available and as Fortune claimed there is a great future awaiting for the smart drugs market. Whether these drugs continue to be legal depends on the future research. The biggest question is what will the effects of a smarter society be? Is it cheating? After all, smart is not popular, and let’s hope it stays that way. For those of us who we like to explore, let’s get our degrees in chemistry and do some researching on Nootropics!