Thanks to professional sports most of us are now familiar with the idea of performance enhancing drugs. These are medications and compounds that when used can give athletes better running speed, more physical endurance, greater muscle mass and generally greater athletic performance that gives them an edge over the opposition.
Seeing as such drugs exist to enhance the body then, it stands to reason that you should also be able to find similar drugs for improving the mind and our physical performance. And what do you know? Just such a thing happens to exist…
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics in essence are performance enhancing drugs for the mind – or in other words drugs that can enhance our intelligence and productivity by boosting memory and concentration. The most obvious example of a nootropic is caffeine – which is used to help enhance our concentration and out wakefulness. This is a nootropic that we all use every morning when we wake up and drink a cup of Joe to get us started, but it can also be found in tablet form and products like Pro Plus are hot sellers among students who are cramming for their exams and need all the concentration they can get.
Caffeine then is very mainstream, but some people will take nootropic use very seriously and there are whole forums dedicated to the discussion of what the best ‘nootropic stack’ is for mental prowess. Following are just a few options…
Some Examples of Nootropics
Adderall: Adderall was originally developed to treat ADHD (attention deficit disorder) but is another one that has become a favourite among students studying. The idea is to accomplish a better ‘flow state’ (state in which you suffer no distractions) using this amphetamine based product which triggers the increased production of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. It’s illegal in many countries and states though unless you have a prescription.
Guarana: Guarana is a form of caffeine that is a little more long lasting but also a little more gentle. This means you get less of a kick and can sleep easier at night, but at the same time you should find your mind runs a little faster.
Piracetam: Also sometimes marketed as ‘Nootropil’ this can improve memory and will allegedly also help to improve memory. It’s similar to GABA which is a bodybuilding supplement/sleeping aid and is completely legal.
Beta Blockers: These are used to help keep you calm under pressure – an ideal nootropic for someone about to go into an interview or give a speech. Again though these are only available on prescription and there are many much safer ways to manage your stress.
Is it a Good Idea to Use Nootropics?
This really is the million dollar question but unfortunately the honest answer has to be no. While some nootropics are perfectly safe, even something as mild as caffeine is addictive and can cause other unwanted side effects (social anxiety, headaches, jitteriness, insomnia… ) and it’s always better to learn to improve concentration and mood naturally rather than turning to drugs. The fact that some of these products also alter your mood by increasing the amount of available serotonin/dopamine should also raise red flags as this could lead to an imbalance where the body reduces the amount it produces the rest of the time in order to compensate. Add in the fact that many of these products could have interactions with other drugs (or each other if you’re stacking unless you do a lot of homework) and the fact that you’re likely to notice only marginal differences, and really it’s not worth it.
If you’re cramming for an exam then the best thing for you is a good night’s sleep the night before and plenty of healthy carbs throughout the day. Maybe turn to coffee or even Pro Plus if the going gets rough, but steer clear of ingesting any chemical cocktails.