The internet is buzzing with questions about cognitive enhancing nootropics, and brain boosting supplements, smart drugs, or smart pills that can unlock your true brain’s hidden potential… Let’s get some answers:
For a long time, nootropics have been an underground favorite among college students, programmers, and other people with mentally taxing jobs.
However, due to the popularity of the 2011 movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, the idea of a pill that could make you smarter captured the public’s curiosity.
Increased interest in what soon became labeled a “smart pill” has brought nootropics out of the shadows and into the public awareness.
But perhaps the best way to help explain what nootropic drugs are, is to first explain what they are not.
What Nootropics are NOT
Nootropics, sometimes labeled as “smart drugs,” are not some magical substance that is going to immediately increase your intelligence.
They will not, in fact, make you any smarter at all—at least not on their own.
While the idea of a miracle drug that can turn you into a genius is very attractive, the truth is, there is no such thing.
What Nootropics ARE
Nootropics are drugs, supplements, or natural substances that have either been proven or believed to improve cognitive functions, such as memory, focus, creativity and mood.
Thus, while nootropics will not make you smarter by themselves, they will expand your capacity to learn.
You will need to put forth the effort yourself to learn, but nootropics are believed to aid in the process.
While nootropics are not a miracle drug capable of immediately increasing your intelligence, they are capable of enhancing your ability to learn, recall information, and improve your mood.
While you will need to put the work in yourself, nootropics will enhance your cognitive functions.
A Brief History of Nootropics
Many cultures have known about and touted the benefits of different plants and herbs for thousands of years.
But the word “nootropic” was not coined until 1972, when Romanian psychologist and chemist, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, combined the Greek words nous, meaning mind, and trepein, meaning to bend or turn.
Dr. Giurgea synthesized piracetam in 1964, which is now recognized as the first nootropic. He later defined what could be classified as a nootropic by setting these criteria:
- They should enhance learning and memory.
- They should enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them (such as electroconvulsive shock, hypoxia).
- They should protect the brain against physical or chemical injuries (such as baurates, scopalamine).
- They should increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms.
- They should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs (such as sedation, motor stimulation) have very few side effects and low toxicity.
The benefits of nootropics are still highly debated among scientists, psychologists, and physicians.
Many of the popular nootropics have had little scientific study as to their efficacy or any long term side effects.
Despite this, the use of nootropics reached over one billion dollars in sales in 2015 and is expected to increase to over six billion dollars by 2024.
An Introduction to Nootropic Drugs
While there are no miracle drugs that are going to turn you into an instant genius, nootropics are a way to improve your cognitive functions and aide your concentration, increase your learning ability and improve your mood.
Nootropics not only help improve cognitive functions but also improve your brain’s long-term health.
It is believed that nootropics can also decrease the effects of aging on your brain and decrease the symptoms of diseases such as amnesia and dementia.
Some nootropics work by increasing the levels of oxygen in the blood delivered to the brain or by increasing the acetylcholine levels in the brain.
Acetylcholine is a chemical that the motor neurons release in order to activate muscles and is a neurotransmitter that is largely responsible for memory, learning and mood.
It was previously believed that we are born with only so many brain cells and that those brain cells would deteriorate as we get older.
Yet, recent studies have proven that is not the case, that our body can generate new brain cells well into adulthood. Some nootropics are even capable of stimulating new cell growth in the brain.
Different nootropics can affect the brain differently, so it’s very important to do your own research as to what nootropics will produce the desired effect you want for yourself.
It should also be noted that while some nootropics can have an immediate effect, others may have to be taken for days or weeks before achieving any results.
Nootropics are commonly classified into one of three main categories: racetams, stimulants and nutraceuticals.
Each has a specific function towards improving your brain.
Racetams are synthetic and are among the most popular of the nootropics.
They work by increasing the acetylcholine in the brain and therefore improving memory, mood, mental agility and focus.
Benefits from the use of racetams have been reported as increased memory and recall, better concentration and mental clarity, and increased calmness.
Users have also reported an increased ability to perform both analytical and creative work simultaneously, such as in writing an essay that requires organizing facts in such a way as to relay a message.
Stimulants – Where racetams improve the brain’s ability to process information, stimulants increase attention and alertness, thereby improving concentration.
Stimulants also increase the brain’s ability to handle stress by increasing energy levels, blood pressure, respiration and heart rate.
The effects of stimulants are also longer lasting than other nootropics.
Nutraceuticals – Nutraceuticals are foods that have medicinal benefits. These are the plants that been used by various cultures for thousands of years.
Many of these plants can have the same effects as racetams, stimulants or both. They are generally safe to consume and can be consumed daily.
While each of the individual nootropics can provide certain benefits of their own, different nootropics can be combined to produce a greater effect.
This is called “stacking.”
Stacking – Nootropic stacking can be done to enhance one effect or to combine several effects to create a specific cognitive effect.
For instance, a racetam and a stimulant may be combined to enhance focus and memory.
There are many supplements available on the market that have already stacked different nootropics.
However, you may want to research the different nootropics available to understand their individual benefits and create your own stack based on your individual needs.