Nootropics are drugs that improve mental (cognitive) function without stimulating the central nervous system (often called “smart drugs”). The name is derived from the Greek word nous (meaning“the mind”) and tropos (meaning “to change or modify”).
Although intelligence is mostly genetically predetermined, it is little known that many substances can improve learning, concentration, memory, and creativity. Their effects have been proven in numerous clinical studies, but the American Medical Association does not support the use of these drugs for non-medical purposes in healthy individuals, but only to improve cognitive functions in certain diseases.
In spite of this, in 2015, nootropic sales exceeded $ 1.3 billion, and demand for these drugs has grown steadily during the past 5 years. Research shows that 25% of students in the UK and more than 75% of the programmers in the Silicon Valley are using Nootropics frequently.
Nootropics were discovered in 1972, during a clinical trial performed in patients with decreased cognitive functions. These drugs are also used to improve cognitive abilities in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsonism, attention-deficit disorder, narcolepsy, dementia, schizophrenia, and stroke.
How do Nootropics work?
Nootropics have demonstrated the following effects:
- Improving memory and learning ability.
- Improving the functioning of the brain in stressful situations.
- Stimulating creative problem-solving.
- Improving concentration and focus.
- Protecting the brain from the negative effects of physical and chemical agents.
Most Nootropics have no sedative or stimulating effects on the central nervous system.
Nootropics do not increase the intelligence quotient (IQ), but only temporarily improve the functioning of the brain by increasing the synthesis and signaling of various neurotransmitters.
The brain is made up of several billion neurons, which are interconnected by neuronal synapses. Neurons communicate with each other and act through substances called neurotransmitters. Most of the Nootropics work by improving the transmission of signals, i.e., communication between neurons, thus making a person who is taking nootropic to experience improved memory, concentration and mood – the person feels “smarter.”
Some studies suggest that continuous nootropic use improves synaptic signaling and brain function in the long run.
Some Nootropics act by causing vasodilatation of blood vessels in the brain, which improves the blood flow to the brain and thus increasing the amount of oxygen and glucose that reach the brain(oxygen and glucose are necessary for the proper functioning of the brain).
Side effects of Nootropics
Nootropics have relatively recently appeared on the market, and for now, there are not many studies of their adverse effects. However, it is known that long-term use may cause a serotonin syndrome that is manifested by symptoms such as increased sweating, confusion, anxiety, severe headache, diarrhea, loss of muscle coordination, tachycardia, and high blood pressure. Serotonin syndrome is a serious condition that can have a fatal outcome! Also, Nootropics can cause depression and anxiety if they are used over a long period of time.
Most Nootropics may (although very rarely) cause suicidal thoughts, especially in people who already have a mental illness. For this reason, the use of Nootropics in patients who have or have had a mental illness is contraindicated.
Top 3 Best Nootropics
Modafinil is certainly one of the most popular Nootropics. In Europe and North America, it is approved for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention-deficit disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease. Students at Oxford and Harvard use this smart drug very often to increase productivity to study, althoughNootropicsare not approved for use in healthy individuals. It’s easily available for purchase online, and this is one of the reasons why it’s widely used.
Modafinil is best tolerated from all Nootropics and exhibits the lowest potential for side effects. However, it should not be used in patients who have or have had any mental illness (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, manic and panic disorders, and others). It should also be used cautiously in patients with the cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, as it has been shown to cause hypertension.
The usual dose is 200mg daily or 100mg in the morning and 100mg in the evening.
It should not be used concomitantly with hormonal contraceptives because it reduces their effectiveness. Modafinil can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives up to 2 months after discontinuation of therapy. Therefore, use of other contraceptive methods is advised during the therapy and up to 2 months after therapy cessation.
Modafinil should not be used concomitantly with antidepressants, anxiolytics, and other antipsychotic drugs.
As we have already mentioned, this drug is well-tolerated and rarely causes side effects. The most common side effect is a headache, which occurs in 10% of patients.
Adrafinil is the prodrug of Modafinil and works very similar to it. The only difference is that when you take Adrafinil, the pill passes through the liver, transforms into the Modafinil, and then shows its effects. Therefore, Adrafinil has a weaker effect than Modafinil on cognitive function. However, there is still a large number of people using this medicine, mostly athletes.
The usual dose is 300mg once a day.
Do not take Adrafinil after 6 PM, as it may cause insomnia.
Piracetam is the first discovered nootropic discovered in 1972. It is approved for the treatment of myoclonus of cortical origin (sudden muscle contractions) and for the treatment of dyslexia in children. Dyslexia is a reading disability, despite normal intelligence, hearing, and vision. Piracetam is also used to treat aphasia (loss of speech).It works by improving the blood flow into the brain, which improves blood circulation and nutrition, thereby significantly enhancing cognitive function.
Piracetam is contraindicated in patients suffering from Huntington’s disease (a neurodegenerative disease characterized by specific involuntary movements and dementia), in patients with cerebral hemorrhage, as well as in patients with severe renal or hepatic impairment.
The usual dose for improving cognitive function is 4.8g once a day.
Clinically significant interactions with other drugs have not been reported, which is the main advantage of this drug. Only some cases of mild interactions with thyroid hormone substitution therapy have been reported.
Side effects of this medicine include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, headache, insomnia, anxiety, dermatitis and worsening of epilepsy symptoms. Piracetam can lower the threshold for epileptic seizures.
In general, Nootropics have proved to be very effective in improving memory, learning, problem-solving skills, concentration, and creativity. Given the challenges that many of us face on a daily basis, these drugs can really make life easier. The only disadvantage is that Nootropics are still the drugs. Therefore, our body recognizes them as a foreign substance and may cause side effects. Hence, we recommend using Nootropics only on a short-term basis.