What do you know about nootropics? If this is the first time you hear this term, it generally refers to a class of substances, both synthetic drugs and natural compounds, that are thought to improve cognitive functions and mental performance.
Also often called “smart drugs”, nootropics have significantly increased in popularity in the past few years, a trend which can be linked to increasing levels of competition in study and work environments.
These supplements and drugs are used for a variety of reasons, including to improve motivation, creativity, memory, focus and more. Oftentimes, the claims made around these cognitive enhancement pills can seem too good to be true.
In a recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, researchers found that the use of stimulants to enhance mental performance rose from a meager 5% of respondents in 2015 to a staggering 14% in 2017.
While this may not seem like much, the rate of increase between the years is notable. The United States was the country that saw the highest rate of nootropic/smart drug use in both years, showing a rate of 20% in 2015, which increased to nearly 30% in 2017.
This can be attributed in part to a strong emphasis on work performance and individuality prevalent in American culture, as well as a general increase in competition in the job market. As advancements in technology bring global citizens into dialogue with one another, larger pools of people are finding themselves in competition for the same positions.
Whether those positions be at prestigious schools or in competitive workplaces, it is hard to deny that this broadening of competition leads to additional pressures on individual workers and students. In addition to these cultural circumstances, there is also the fact that ADHD and other mental disorder diagnoses are widespread and rising among students and other segments of the population in the US. This makes popular prescription smart drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin much easier to access than in other countries.
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By far the most popular nootropics, however, are nonprescription substances. As innocuous and commonplace as it may seem, the most popular stimulant drug by far – smart or otherwise – is caffeine. Caffeine is useful as a nootropic, insofar as it increases levels of alertness and brainpower without having a significant negative effect on other cognitive functions.
This makes caffeine a particularly attractive choice for people with a demanding work schedule who need a small boost to get them through the day. On the downside, taking caffeine and similar stimulants often has the unintended consequence of triggering or increasing anxiety in some users. Additionally, drugs in this category can disrupt the body’s natural sleep patterns and cause sleep disorders.
Another popular, nonprescription nootropic is ginseng. Ginseng, derived from Panax ginseng root, has been shown to possess medicinal properties connected to its ability to enhance mental performance as well as reduce mental fatigue in some users. While more research needs to be done to validate the effects of ginseng and determine what risks, if any, are involved with taking the substance, it is a very promising natural cognitive enhancer.
L-theanine is another naturally sourced nootropic in the form of an amino acid. It is most commonly found in tea leaves, but it can also be taken on its own in supplement form. L-theanine is known for its ability to relax the body and calm the brain. It has also been linked to improved cognitive performance and some users report an increase in their creativity after taking L-theanine, a unique benefit that needs more research to confirm its veracity.
Unlike other relaxing substances, L-theanine produces a calming effect without causing drowsiness. Oftentimes, consumers take L-theanine in tandem with caffeine to obtain the energizing effect of caffeine while reducing the anxiety and agitation that it so often triggers in many users. Morris on Health notes that caffeine and L-theanine make one of the most powerful synergistic nootropic stacks or combos commonly sought by online shoppers.
The combination of multiple nootropic compounds is a fairly common practice among users. While it is mostly harmless in the case of natural supplements like caffeine and L-theanine, it can be much more dangerous in the case of prescription drugs, whose side effects can be volatile when mingled together.
All in call, the smart drug or nootropic trend is one that needs more research to scientifically validate the long-term benefits and drawbacks, but there are many promising candidates for safe and effective cognitive enhancers. Prescription drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin have the most extreme and immediate effects on their users, but on the flip side, they also come with the most debilitating side effects and should not be taken lightly.
Nonprescription, naturally occurring substances such as caffeine, ginseng and L-theanine are generally a much safer choice. While the effects of these substances are not as immediately noticeable as their prescription counterparts, they can still have a remarkable positive effect when taken over a sustained period of time.
The only fact that is certain is that smart drug use is on the rise and this trend seems unlikely to slow down any time soon, so the best course of action is to become educated on them and do an in-depth research before even considering to take any supplement or drug that claims to boost cognitive performance.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).
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