Nootropics: Genius in a Capsule?

When the pioneers of the past envisioned the distant year of 2015, they conjured up images of hover cars, underwater cities, and mass-produced methods of time travel. Alongside the splendor and appeal of a chrome-coated world, these predictions hoped for an additional side effect of technology: a smarter population. Although it’s not quite possible to back-to-the-future oneself yet, the innovators of today are working to make intelligence and focus just a pill away. These drugs, known as Nootropics, are the tech world’s bizarre new phenomena and possibly the future of intellect in the modern age.

Stemming from the Greek word for mind “Noo”, Nootropics describe the broad category of drugs and supplements that can recover or expand mental function.  Popular in Silicon Valley and the uncharted territories of the Internet, sources assert that Nootropics can help the body combat mental illness, improve memory, and advance cognitive control. In the context of humanity’s long history of drug use, Nootropics are particularly innovative in their efforts to move away from the traditional physical improvement that one associates with supplementation.   Essentially, these cognitive enhancements aim to forward the human brain to its ideal state.

Currently, no single perfect pill exists— avid users down cocktails of 15 to 25 pills each day. Each one of these tablets represents a different use, ranging from perfected vision to a quickened metabolism. For entrepreneur and health guru David Aspery, these smart drugs allow him to “hack his own body.” Aspery has invested 15 years of his time and $300,000 in a quest to maximize his own potential. He claims that this endeavor has raised his IQ by 20 points and allowed him to lose considerable amounts of weight.

As exemplified by Aspery’s lengthy undertaking, these drugs are not known to produce quick results. Michael Brandt, co-founder of Nootrobox, a pill subscription service, describes the process as such: “The right analogy is compound interest. You’re not going to make a million dollars in a day. If you can be 10 percent more productive over the course of your 20s, the amount of throughput you can achieve is phenomenal.”

With claims like these, it is altogether unsurprising that the amount of Nootropics users is rapidly increasing. Moreover, this movement is largely a homegrown product of the Internet. The Nootropic subreddit has amassed over 50,000 subscribers, who are constantly exchanging details of their crowd sourced clinical trials and experimental chemicals.

Among these thousands of pages of Nootropic related material, a considerable portion does not actually include unstudied chemicals or trial materials. These natural remedies include L-theanine, an extract from tea that serves as an anxiety reducer, and Bacopa monnieri, an herb popular in traditional medicine for its ability to stimulate brain activity.  Many choose to focus only on these natural supplements, creating DIY projects to improve cognitive function.

For the more extreme users, however, natural concoctions are simply not enough. Powerful drugs, like Modafinil and Phenylpiracetam, are used daily by the members of the community in order to facilitate alertness and learning capacity. In this field, users are always searching for the most impressive Nootropics. In fact, Phenylpiracetam, a significantly popular substance, is branded as a more concentrated version of the most famous Nootropic, Piracetam. This product claims to be 60 times more effective than its predecessor. Due to the intensity of these drugs, online reviewers note that they can be unpredictable. Some note that they have experienced negative side effects from these drugs, such as hallucinations and mania.

Concerned about the possible side effects, many medical professionals warn of the dangers Nootropics. Despite their academic and productive uses, Nootropics are still drugs with the capability of forming habits and producing adverse effects on the body. Negative side effects aside, some professionals also negate the general effectiveness of Nootropics.

As the majority of the studies concerning these drugs have occurred solely on the Internet, the data produced is somewhat questionable. It is unclear if the results of online Nootropic studies are genuine or just a product of the placebo effect.  Regarding this data, Yale neuroscientist Amy Arnsten states, “Anything that isn’t placebo-controlled, it’s probably not worth anything.” Due to the often dubious nature of this industry, many scientists wonder if investing money in Nootropics will be worth anything in the long-term or if they will be just another inevitably useless fad.

Regardless of whether Nootropics are a pseudoscience or the gateway to godliness, they represent an interesting facet of human nature that compels us to pursue self-improvement. As humans, we are continuously searching the horizons for something to make us better. So, is the next step in humanity’s journey to perfection Nootropics? Only time and further data will tell.

–Staff Writer, Colette Juran

Posted by on April 28, 2015. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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