Humans have come a long way in the last few hundred years, and evidence of this progress can be seen socially, culturally, and physically. People in general, and more so in developed countries, live longer, enjoy more opportunities to educate themselves, have access to better health care, welfare support, leisure, decent employment with protection, and political freedom.
However, despite such huge leaps forward in many areas of the world the constant need to push further doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. There’s still that raw edge of needing to improve, to be better than not just the previous generation but than our own, and to achieve this by any means legally, (and perhaps sometimes not so legally) possible. Consequently, we see rises in things like the use of Nootropics, also often referred to as ‘smart drugs’, taken to reach goals which are based on personal rather than strictly medical need.
Because of their popularity in the medical world just over half of those using smart drugs actually got them from a friend, (who we can assume had a valid prescription), around 1 in 10 had bought theirs online or through a third party in person.
What are smart drugs?
To examine this issue further let’s start by learning more about what smart drugs actually are, and what they do.
In some cases you may see the term smart drugs used to refer to any substance used in a non-medical (condition related) way, though on closer examination it does seem that the drugs in question come from a fairly small category of the entire range out there.
Many are stimulant based, and before now generally only caught the attention of the public following some kind of major athletic performance scandal, when accusations of cheating are thrown around following traces of a banned substance being found in the competitor’s body. Yet figures suggest at least 14% of the general public worldwide have used stimulants (prescribed drugs) at least once during 2017, while nearly 30% of US respondents reported the same, so it’s hardly a new or even a niche habit.
Nootropics can be synthetic or natural. Most mentioned here are man-made, but herbal nootropcs like Ginkgo Biloba, and American Ginseng are also popular. They are commonly used in alternative medicines, and tend to be a little slower acting than their synthetic counterparts. Some people like to combine both types or maximum effect. You can read a lot more about all of these topics from BestNootropicsNow editor Simon Manning.
So we know that smart drugs can be natural or human-made substances which people take for no obvious chemical condition, but rather instead to improve largely on their brain power. Let’s look a little further into the possible effects of smart drugs when used to potentially benefit our physical health and well being too, before returning to look more closely at their possible benefits for mental health.
How taking smart drugs will benefit your physical wellbeing
The most popular physical benefit from smart drugs is the increased energy users report. When someone is able to stay awake and alert for regular and extended lengths of time they tend to feel more able to undertake physical activities ranging from domestic and life chores to leisure, sports and socialising.
Modafinil is commonly prescribed to relieve the symptoms of jet lag in pilots and flight crews, and insomnia or fatigue caused by sleep deprivation in people like doctors, the military, and air traffic controllers, to allow them to function in extreme circumstances.
The hybrid uses of smart drugs
It’s not uncommon for smart drugs to be used to improve the physical symptoms which generally come with certain psychiatric illnesses. Good examples of this are depression, which is a mood disorder which commonly triggers memory struggles, inability to make decisions, and so on, or conditions which commonly cause hallucinations alongside problems speaking confidently to others, remembering everyday words, and staying focused for any period of time. Many people are treated with smart drugs to improve some aspects of their condition, and by default relieve the others.
Popular smart drugs for physical well being
Modafinil, Adrafinil and Noopept are amongst the leading nootropics. They are all affordable, and Noopept is now commonly available as a supplement added to packaged snacks for even easier consumption.
How taking smart drugs will benefit your mental wellbeing
It’s becoming increasingly mainstream for people to self-prescribe the use of smart drugs to get a jump on things like attention span, memory, focus, motivation levels, and creativity. In a competitive word people unable to develop these abilities without help can easily get left behind, so for them taking a smart drug is an accessible way to even the playing field out a little. (A more formal term for this habit is PCE – Pharmacological Cognitive Enhancement.)
PCE drugs are often extremely popular around exam times, or in a situation where someone is exposed to a potentially anxiety inducing experience – such as delivering a serious presentation at work with no room for error, or needing to negotiate on something very important which has perhaps failed to be agreed on in the past.
They deliver mental energy and vitality, lift moods, encourage a better quality of sleep, and generally boost a feeling of inner wellbeing.
The types of drugs people take for the PCE experience
These include prescription drugs like Ritalin, (commonly prescribed for ADHD), and Adderal, (another ADHD drug which also operates as an aphrodisiac and general brain booster), which are strong enough to have a particularly good effect on boosting attention span and memory.
Popular nootropics taken to boost physical health and ability
This starts life in natural products like coffee beans and cocoa plants, and features in some of the world’s favorite drinks. It is probably one of the most consumed smart drugs, though only some people deliberately drink it to get the benefits, which include feeling more alert, and a greater focus. Caffeine can be taken in supplement form for those who wish to avoid coffee.
This is another natural nootropic, an amino acid found in tea, and which can also be taken as a supplement if that is more convenient. It seems to create a feeling of calmness without sleepiness, and it really boosts creativity even in small doses. The effect is seriously amplified if this is mixed with caffeine.
An amino acid which boosts brain functions, leading to a better short term memory, and better reasoning abilities. 5g daily doses are known to have no particular side effects.
Popular nootropics taken to boost emotional/mental health and ability
Creatine, which has mental health benefits as noted above, is a flexible smart drug, and it also benefits physical health by helping the body make protein, and brain cells to work better.
This herb has a history which can be traced back many thousands of years, and it’s long been in favor as a great way to boost brain power and memory. It does need to be taken consistently for several months before the effects are really noticed.
Another herb that is a great stress buster. That alone is a great benefit as stress is so damaging to both the body and the brain, but this super herb also helps avoid burnout, reduces anxiety and generally lifts your mood. This is a great smart drug for students who are suffering from brain fatigue during exam sessions.
This is taken from the roots of a very ancient plant well known to herbalists as a good brain booster. It’s like giving your brain a nap, and fixing it up a little while it’s sleeping. Experts aren’t sure if this retains the same level of effect when taken for several years.
This is actually a tree, and it’s leaves are used to create a supplement now considered to be a nootropic/smart drug. After just six weeks of regular intake your brain should be showing signs of growth in terms of memory and thinking ability.
This has a pretty bad name due to it being linked primarily to cigarettes, but in its own right it is classed as a nootropic due to the way it boosts attention, and alertness. Due to it being so addictive it’s probably best to avoid smart drugs which contain anything more than a trace of this substance.
This is a synthetic smart drug which is often used as a supplement. It acts fast – we are talking minutes here, not weeks like some of the other nootropics mentioned, but the effects largely wear off after a few hours. It may not hang around for long but this is one seriously hard-working smart drug as it helps brain cells grow from minute 1. It’s a great aid for improving memory, and is thought to help those getting over brain injuries to recover faster than they would do otherwise.