Have you ever thought about taking drugs to
make you smarter or help you perform better at work? Smart drugs include all
compounds that are capable of enhancing cognitive function, including
stimulants like caffeine and Ritalin and nootropic substances such as piracetam
and modafinil. While some of these substances have been found to improve
memory, motivation and creativity in scientific studies, they can be dangerous
when abused or taken without a prescription.
Drinking coffee in the morning has become
such a standard ritual in western society that most people don't even think of
it as a drug. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, however, and the world’s most
popular psychoactive drug. Caffeine can improve your motivation and focus by
increasing catecholamine signalling in the brain. L-theanine has a similar
effect, with this compound present in black, green, and white teas from
Camellia sinensis. So if you drink either tea or coffee, you're consuming a
cognitive enhancer everyday.
While caffeine and L-theanine are the most
popular cognitive enhancers, other compounds can be even more powerful.
Modafinil is the most widely researched of these compounds, with this
wakefulness drug approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration to
treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy. While this drugs beneficial effects in
sleep-deprived people are well-known, modafinil has also become popular for its
neuroenhancing effects. While this drug is used by some to create a competitive
edge, the absence of long-term clinical data and potential side-effects should
be a major concern to potential users.
According to a 2015 research review by the
University of Oxford, modafinil intake was found to enhance executive function
in most studies, with half of the studies also showing improvements in
attention, learning and memory. What is particularly fascinating about this
substance is that the longer and more complex a task was, the more consistently
the drug improved cognitive function. Amphetamine drugs such as Ritalin and
Adderall have also been found to enhance performance, although their effects
are more modest. Because these drugs modulate important neurotransmitter
systems such as dopamine and noradrenaline, unregulated use does come with
Perhaps the most popular class of smart
drugs are racetams such as piracetam and aniracentam. In fact, the term
"nootropic" was originally coined to describe the effects of
piracetam, which has been found to be effective in a number of studies. One
study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, found that piracetam
can improve brain function in elderly patients. Another study, published in the
journal Psychopharmacology, found that piracetam improved memory in the vast
majority of healthy adult volunteers.
Piracetam may work by increasing membrane
fluidity in the brain, but the worrying thing is that no-one knows exactly how
it functions. This illustrates the danger of taking these substances, many of
which lack long-term clinical data, especially on healthy subjects. While
piracetam and other smart drugs have been found to improve cognitive function
in numerous studies, you should always research thoroughly and talk with your
doctor before taking any psychoactive drug.
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