If we take a few minutes and look to the right and left of us, we can imagine everyone is playing by the same set of cards dealt; as yourself.
But, is this true?!
What is possibly true is that we are all looking for that competitive edge. Something that trajects us forward and up the proverbial ladder to "success."
So is it wrong to want to add to our arsenal in the game of life?
Whether microdosing psychedelics, swallowing a smart pill, enjoying a cup of coffee, or chewing on a stick of nicotine, most of us are willing to some extent take the necessary steps to be the best version of ourselves.
The primary key is super-charging our brain to its full potential by properly continuing to learn, process, and form new neural connections to maintain optimal brain health and longevity.
So, what are nootropics, really?!
The short version...
"Nootropics is simply any substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning." - Webster Dictionary
They come in all shapes and sizes, from natural to synthetic. You can find them listed in supplements, and other substances that may improve cognitive functions, mainly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.
Nootropics can improve brain performance so we can focus better, become more creative, increase our memory, boost productivity, and even think more clearly.
Although it has been rising in popularity over the years, it isn't a new fade. The use of substances to improve cognitive functioning in healthy individuals has been around for thousands of years.
Back in 2011, Piracetamimitless debuted, we might have all went searching for NZT-48, I know I did. So, it would be safe to suggest that the rise of Nootropics began just after this movie, right?!
Yes and no.
Fortunately, there is vital evidence of the use of nootropics dating as far as back as 10,000 years ago.
Of course, during the ancient times, there wasn't some mad scientist in Jerico creating some magical elixir to think more clearly. It was more like, using the oh so natural and organic fields to grow some delicious herbs, which far into the future we come to realize is brain food (superfoods).
It wasn't until the 1960's that the first synthetic nootropic drug was officially developed. The name of that drug was called Piracetam. It was created by a Romanian psychologist and chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea to treat people suffering from motion sickness.
Later during his testing, Giurgea believed this drug boosted brain power and began his journey down the rabbit hole of "nootropics," a term he coined, possibly after a dose of his own medicine.
This rise in nootropics, notably Piracetam, demonstrated benefit in mental performance, information processing, and memory consolidation. Opening the door to the endless possibilities for scientists to discover and entrepreneurs to thrive.
Coincidentally, in the early 1960s, Dr. James Fadiman decided to take a "Trip" to Paris and hang out with his college buddy Ram Dass, who introduced him to LSD.
Several years later, around 1966, Fadiman published a study with his team about the effects of hallucinogen drugs (Microdosing) and creative problem-solving, called, "Psychedelic agents in a creative problem-solving experiment."
This fact would suggest that officially, nootropics began to become popular during the mid-to-late 1960s, at least the synthetic versions.
If you haven't already, you will soon discover that some will create separate definitions for both nootropics and smart drugs. Then others will define them the same, but call them by different names.
For our purpose, let's use both nootropics and smart drugs synonymously, as most of us do already. Therefore, instead of separating the two, let's call all smart drugs, nootropics.
Let's further breakdown nootropics into two categories; over-the-counter nootropics and pharmaceutical nootropics.
Natural nootropics are non-prescribed compounds, including vitamins, herbs, and other natural compounds that provide a daily cognitive boost, protect your brain, and support peak cognitive function.
Although slow-acting, natural nootropics benefits can be achieved without neurotransmitter depletion, adverse body side effects, or building a tolerance or reliance.
Perhaps, it's because they aren't as potent compared to that of synthetically created pharmaceutical-grade nootropics.
For the most part, this means to feel the effects of natural nootropics; one would need to be routinely consuming them for several weeks to months before noticing any difference. It's a much more gradual improvement than an immediate change, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Many natural nootropics are used in alternative medicine, but their effects are typically more subtle. They are even suggested to be taken in combination with other natural nootropics to boost their effectiveness, called "nootropic stacking."
The Chinese knew this very thing and have been combining herbs for thousands of years, which still proves quite useful to this day.
Over-the-counter nootropics are mostly sold as "dietary supplements." This allows manufacturers to produce, sell, and market them without demonstrating safety.
The creation of an artificial substance to enhance mental cognitive abilities was first given the name "nootropics." Now, this term encompasses all types of nootropics, including nutrients and botanicals in dietary supplements and yes, synthetics themselves.
Over-the-counter synthetic nootropic supplements like Noopept and Piracetam are widely available, but of course, research on their effectiveness in healthy adults is lacking.
Maybe because they don't have the pharmaceutical coins to back it up. Perhaps because it's far too early in the rise to really understand the final impact on someone who's been taking it for decades.
It reminds me of the holistic realm. We know a lot of it is effectiveness; however, the studies to back it up are limited compared to its counter-parts, prescription drugs…
In the US, companies are required to put disclaimers on their synthetic nootropics, which states something like; "This Substance Is Not For Human Consumption. Research Purposes Only"
In a nutshell, the safety of natural nootropics appears to exceed that of synthetic nootropics.
The main reason for this is because natural nootropics have been around a lot longer (10,000 years). Compare that to a new synthetic that hits the market running from possibly a newly created corporation looking to squeeze into a popular market.
So, the general rule of thumb, natural (herbal) nootropics are considered safe until proven otherwise; whereas, the opposite would apply to all synthetics. Or at least that's what I've been told.
Prescription nootropics such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil are mostly synthetic but have the most robust and most significant proven effects on memory and attention. It's prescribed medication or generic label drugs that are used to treat a mental or cognitive disorder.
Pharmaceutical nootropics are legally available in most countries with a legal prescription. Although each country classes nootropics differently, in most countries, obtaining nootropics like modafinil or methylphenidate without a prescription from a doctor is entirely illegal.
Heck, even doctors must adhere to strict guidelines with state and territory laws when prescribing certain nootropics. Sometimes requiring them to obtain approval through the appropriate health authority channels, making it quite difficult for both the doctor and us to get nootropics with a prescription.
The significant difference between pharmaceutical and over-the-counter nootropics is that most, but not all, "synthetic" nootropics are only available through your local pharmacy with a valid and legal prescription.
Its also good to mention that each country is different in the selling of synthetic nootropics. Therefore, some of what is mentioned under pharmaceutical nootropics might be available over-the-counter, depending on where you are buying nootropics.
As with any supplement, there is a risk of side effects and interactions with nootropics. People should consult their doctors about the safety of any supplement before taking it.
However, even by consulting a physician, your not out of the woods as there have been many instances where supplements do not contain what their labels state.
For example, a recent Consumer Reports article discussed quality failures in both turmeric and echinacea supplements being labeled under false assumptions and arbitrary parameters.
This is why it is essential to purchase any supplement only from reputable companies that you have done research and feel confident that they will provide you what was promised, no exceptions!
One way to ensure dietary supplements are of high quality and possibly not contaminated or altered with other materials is by purchasing products with labels indicating they have been tested by either an independent, nonprofit company, like US Pharmacopoeial (USP), NSF or something similar, like checking on a site like ConsumerLabs.
Though without inspecting a vendor's facility yourself, there are no 110% guarantees. In other words, trust your gut, do your due diligence, and review independent testings.
This is one of the many reasons you must be tread carefully when walking into the realm of nootropics. In the end, it is your body and what you put in is your responsibility and yours alone.
Although prescription nootropics may relieve mental or cognitive disorders, the treatment still arrives with its own set of issues.
The main issue is that these drugs are mainly stimulants, which means must produce spikes in both dopamine and norepinephrine.
This hormonal spike produced by these drugs may lead to a few of the following;
One that I can think of right off the top of my head is Adderall. I remember taking Adderall years ago, and my initial thoughts were, "WoW what a game-changer."
I was studying for my Series 7 exams (Stock-Broker License) in the US. And, oh man, I was making some head-way, self-teaching my way through some of my toughest studying, ever!
Well, that was until I wasn't taking any or between dosages. That was when I would get irritable, man I was a bitch to some of my best friends between dosages. Aside from being moody, I had no appetite and suffered a bit of anxiety during that time.
Having these almost uncontrollable side-effects may not seem like much to us at first. Heck, we might not even know we have any, I know I didn't think so at least not at first.
These are just a few of the issues that can occur and by no means limited to only the above side-effects.
"Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough." - Mark Twain
Now, in no way am I endorsing drinking too much whiskey, as I'm a vodka man myself. Nor am I suggesting taking nootropics and alcohol together.
What I am saying is, don't over-do it. Don't chew on three times the dosage to speed up results. Over-the-counter nootropics aren't designed to provide instant results.
Let's say for a second you are thinking about it. Why not, I thought the same thing years ago.
If that's the case, then remember what I mentioned earlier. Conduct your due diligence and research, research, research first!
What you will find is a lot of conflicting responses to just about everything.
Most notably, is that by consuming natural nootropics, you will not suffer any side effects. This leads me into another famous phrase, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't."
The real "truth," at least for now, backed by scientific evidence, suggests that consuming more than needed of anything can cause minor-to-major side-effects.
Let's use Vitamin K as an example, as our body requires it. We have all heard how important a role it plays for our bones and blood, right. Yet, if we take more than daily recommended, we could suffer nausea, dizziness, irritability, drowsiness, increased intracranial pressure due to cerebral oedema, coma. Although not as common, it can even cause death.
Another good example would be drinking too much coffee. Our heart feels as though it's going to leap out of our chest, as it continues to beat like someone playing the djembe (unusually loud drum) beating against our chest.
Then the feeling of air not making its way to our lungs and brain fast enough that we begin to have shortness of breath…..OMG, I know I have done that and learned my lesson the hard way.
The takeaway is this; it doesn't matter whether it's natural or synthetic, for the love of yourself, always err on the side of caution.
So now that we know what nootropics are, a bit about the history of nootropics, and the difference between over-the-counter nootropics and pharmaceutical nootropics, it's time to experiment.
Remember, no one knows your body better than you, so listen to your inner-self. Take notes in a journal, follow regimens, keep to routines, and for goodness sake, don't overdo it.
Enjoy the journey, not the destination, and above all have fun, because it genuinely can be a fantastic experience toward self-empowerment.
Have you experienced any nootropics? Or maybe your thinking of making the evolutionary leap and have a question. If so, leave your thoughts, questions, or comments below and let's chat.