Millennials: ambitious careerists.
Gen Z: the most entrepreneurial generation so far.
Fighting a battle for success in the competitive job market.
But will they manage to conquer it all on their own?
After being exposed to Bradley Cooper getting it all with the help of just one little pill, no wonder many are seeking a capsule that will grant them superpowers. Furthermore, with the expanding influence of Silicon Valley, we are witnessing the expansion of the cognitive enhancement community.
With kids these days much more career-conscious and interested in the value they can get from their diplomas, we see more and more people looking for a way to amplify their existing capabilities without experiencing any side effects in the long run.
Taking everything into consideration, it seems that brain enhancement drugs truly are the most effective solution. Still, with a multitude of brain booster drugs at our disposal, one might find oneself in a worse-than-the-Matrix conundrum: which one will take your mind to the next level and show you how deep the rabbit hole can go?
What are brain enhancing drugs?
One of the greatest misconceptions is that brain enhancing drugs, also known as smart drugs, are synonymous with nootropics. To clarify: nootropics ARE cognitive enhancers, however, not all cognitive enhancers are nootropics.
Most generally speaking, brain enhancer drugs represent categories of drugs, supplements and other stimulants that have the power to enhance one’s memory, cognitive functions and, dare we say it – intelligence?
Brain boosting drugs supply the brain with higher levels of neurotransmitters and stimulate important receptors, ultimately affecting our reasoning, attention, learning and mood. They target our abilities to reason, plan, focus and avoid acting on impulse.
All of this results in higher scores of fluid intelligence.
Due to an immense number of brain enhancing drugs, for the this article, we have decided to list only those considered the cream of the crop. So let’s get started!
Brain enhancing drugs promoting wakefulness and improving focus, memory and alertness
Described as a central nervous system stimulant which prevents excessive sleepiness during daytime hours, Modafinil was created in France in the late 70s and licensed for use in the U.S. in 1998, and the UK in 2002. Although first developed to treat narcolepsy, it did not take Modafinil long to become one of the most popular “student drugs”. Known for its ability to promote alertness and concentration, many have praised its effectiveness during exam periods.
In 2015, researchers at Oxford University evaluated all papers on the effects of modafinil from 1990 to 2014, and have discovered 24 studies which emphasize its benefits (memory, learning, decision making, creativity, etc.). Still, the performance-enhancing capacity of modafinil depends on the task at hand. Namely, the longer and more complex it is, the more consistently it conferred cognitive benefits.
It elevates histamine levels in the hypothalamus region of the brain, and these histamine neurons prevent sleep. Modafinil also binds to the dopamine transporter, acting as its reuptake inhibitor.
What makes it unique among brain enhancing drugs is its ability to improve the efficiency of processing information in the prefrontal cortex, thus affecting working memory and executive functions.
Modafinil did not show to affect flexibility of thought, however, it did improve planning and decision-making. Still, there are studies which indicate that the effect of Modafinil may depend on the user’s IQ. Research shows that students with a lower IQ saw significant improvement in test scores, students with higher IQ levels did not, concluding that a high IQ may limit the positive effects of this smart drug.
A relatively newly patented form of Modafinil, Armodafinil causes enhanced mental performance and is an effective narcolepsy treatment. Even though it is a prescription drug, Armodafinil is used as a cognitive enhancer, proven to have positive effects on overall mental health, both short and long-term.
Like Modafinil, it was initially developed to promote wakefulness, as well as help those who struggle with chronic daytime fatigue, ADHD, even obesity, and it boasts millions of users worldwide. It has quickly gained popularity among entrepreneurs and biohackers looking to improve their energy levels and gain a serious competitive edge. Armodafinil does not affect normal circadian rhythms and can be used in two ways: first, to boost performance while you are well-rested, or when looking to work/study long hours.
Falling under the category of Eugeroics, nootropic-like agents, Adrafinil improves concentration and alertness. It belongs to the class of stimulants which help people fight sleepiness, fatigue and exhaustion for a longer period of time. As such, it is one of the most beneficial brain enhancers for those who work night shifts or long hours.
Adrafinil works in two ways – on the one hand, it boosts the level of the neurotransmitter hypocretin, thus increasing wakefulness and concentration, while on the other it facilitates the learning process by stimulating memory and attentiveness.
While it is a stimulant, it does not stimulate motor coordination. Adrafinil is connected with a stimulation of Hypocretin, increasing how awake and alert a person feels. As a result of higher levels of Hypocretin, the levels of histamines, dopamines and norepinephrine are increased, all of which play a role in energy levels.
Not only is it popular among students, Adrafinil was given to French pilots in case of emergency. Moreover, a study has proven it boosts the learning abilities of aged beagle dogs; tests have shown that dogs which received Adrafinil demonstrated less errors.
In the short-term, it is an agent promoting alertness which stimulates perceptive and cognitive abilities. Still, note that the liver converts it into modafinil, and since it has to be taken in larger doses and can cause an elevation in liver enzymes, it cannot be taken on a continual basis. Long-term, it can render people to change their behaviour; for instance, those who are considered quite laconic might become talkative.
Brain enhancing drugs improving the process of learning, reasoning, as well as memory and public speaking
Piracetam is a derivate of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and one of the most popular members of the racetam family of cognitive enhancing nootropic supplements.
Although we are not yet familiar with all of its mechanisms of action, researchers believe it improves the permeability of cell membranes, or to be more specific – the delivery and dispersal of oxygen molecules to brain cells.
Piracetam also results in an increase in the circulation to neural tissues, which has a secondary neuroprotective effect for synapses and neurons. As improved circulation promotes healthy tissue, it is protected against normal damage and the decay that comes with age. Piracetam also eliminates waste material found in cells, which ultimately reduces or prevents the risk of brain conditions which result from a lack of oxygen (stroke, for instance).
Improved concentration and focus come from increased blood circulation, and users report an improved ability to pay attention, think and manipulate data. Furthermore, they were able to conduct everyday tasks like reading and writing with a lot more mental fluidity. According to a paper published by European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Piracetam is beneficial for children who suffer from reading disorders. Namely, 7 double-studies showed that 600 children who were diagnosed with dyslexia experienced better reading comprehension and verbal reasoning after taking Piracetam.
As early as the 1970s, one could come across articles which reported the improvement in memory and learning. Piracetam can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and interact with cetylcholine and glutamate receptors which play a role in cognition and memory. It is interesting to note that these specific effects may vary from user to user; while some reported seeing slight increases in thought processes or memory, others claimed to have started remembering even minor details of certain events, as well as entire dreams.
A 2005 study has shown a number of physiological effects that may result from the restoration of cell membrane fluidity. It has shown to be effective in cognitive disorders such as dyslexia, vertigo, dementia, cortical myoclonus and sickle cell anemia. Piracetam is believed to have a protective and optimizing effect on the cerebral cortex, thus improving communication. With this part of our brain being responsible for actions, reasoning, thoughts, learning and movement, it likely has a positive effect on not just our memory and learning, but public speaking as well.
As another member of the Racetam family, it is described as 5 times stronger than Piracetam. Although the effects are fairly similar, it comes with a heightened serotonin and dopamine influence.
The powerful brain enhancing drug Aniracetam stimulates some of the fundamental brain systems responsible for focus, formation of memory and intellect, resulting in increased brain activity and interneuron communication. Since it has a greater modulation on glutamate receptors, taking Aniracetam can have positive effects on energy, motivation and concentration.
It specifically works on the brain system which regulates neuroplasticity and new memory formation. The fact that it may reduce the rate of receptor desensitization in the hippocampus means that a user may recall more details, with some people going so far as to say that taking Aniracetam has helped them remember even the minor details of a highly technical article.
Researchers are currently investigating its benefits for epilepsy and Alzheimer’s patients, as well as those who are diagnosed with hypoxia, dyslexia, ADD, sleep disorders, and even depression.
Phenylpiracetam is a promising brain enhancing supplement worth mentioning. This slightly modified version of Piracetam was discovered in the 80s, however, it has experienced a rise in popularity in the last few years. The major difference between the two nootropics is the addition of a Phenyl group, which is responsible for making this brain enhancement supplement much more powerful than Piracetam.
Thanks to the additional Phenyl group, this supplement passes through the blood-brain barrier easier and more efficiently. What this means for users is that they can take smaller doses and expect Phenylpiracetam to act faster, as well as to stay in the system longer.
Much like Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam improves memory, and might even speed up the process of recalling a memory. Users claim they have experienced an increase in mental energy, concentration, focus and learning capacity. Additionally, in some instances, it has been shown to improve problem-solving and attention switching in patients diagnosed with asthenia.
Other than its cognitive benefits, Phenylpiracetam can reduce the effects of sleep deprivation, increase tolerance to cold, and finally, it has been shown to be critical to mood and movement, which makes it an excellent cure for motion sickness.
As the 3rd racetam nootropic developed in the 1970s, it is known to modulate AMPA-sensitive glutamate receptors and increase the release of neurotransmitters. Especially popular among neurohackers, it is used to boost learning and memory, as well as support brain health, thanks to its mild stimulant properties. Owing to the fact that Oxiracetam enhances the availability of acetylcholine in the brain, it has the power to improve both short- and long-term memory, eliminating the so-called ‘brain fog’.
One double-blind, placebo controlled trial was conducted with 65 patients who were diagnosed with primary degenerative dementia. The research has found that Oxiracetam improved the quality of their life scale.
Furthermore, clinical studies have studied the benefits of Oxiracetam for ADHD, Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as a number of other brain disorders. As a result, this brain enhancing drug has been proven to improve spatial learning, memory, recall, performance and the overall quality of life. Users report improvement in reading comprehension, as well as mood.
It is a Racetam-derived compound which belongs to the category of supplements known as dipeptides. Like other racetams, it benefits reasoning, memory and enhanced learning, but should be taken in much smaller doses. While the exact mechanism of its action is still being researched, so far it appears to function quite similar to Piracetam.
Its short-term effects include improved memory, recall and learning capacity, with the intensity varying from user to user. One might recall their dreams vividly, or notice a significant increase in productivity, energy and motivation. Moreover, it can affect linguistic processing and verbal fluency, so is popular among people who wish to be able to think on their feet more quickly.
When talking about the long-term effects of Noopept, it has been shown to have a great effect on memory retrieval and consolidation in the later stages of memory processes. Many users use it to reduce the effects of cognitive decline that comes with age.
Amphetamines and focus
First synthesised in 1887 in Berlin, amphetamines are some of the most potent CNS (central nervous system) stimulants, mostly used to treat narcolepsy, ADHD and obesity. Amphetamines are known to increase the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain which triggers the release of other neurotransmitters and hormones, like histamine, serotonin and epinephrine. There are several well-known prescription version of amphetamines including DextroStat, Dexedrine, Adderall, Desoxyn, Ritalin and Vyvanse. We’ll go into only Adderall in detail below due it’s extremely widespread use.
Adderall is widely known for its efficiency in treating hyperactivity, inattention and impulsive behavior. Many children who are diagnosed with ADHD report having issues with building strong personal relationships, low self-esteem and poor performance at school.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports, a quarter of college students with disabilities have been diagnosed with ADHD, and this number is on the rise.
This mixture of amphetamine salts function as a central nervous system stimulant that increases our attention span, focus and improves concentration. Once it enters the bloodstream, Adderall travels to the brain and targets storage areas which hold neurotransmitters like Norepinephrine, Dopamine and Adrenaline. By activating the adrenergic system artificially, it triggers the release of these neurotransmitters into the CNS, as a result increasing blood pressure and heart rate, improving alertness, attention and concentration.
Furthermore, Adderall is occasionally used to treat fatigue or sleep disorders, but it is primarily a smart drug which can enhance energy levels. Many users emphasize its positive effect on their mood.