Nootropics are popular among students trying to pass their exams and professionals that are heading to a meeting and need to be laser focused.
What are Nootropics?
There are multiple types of nootropics, and the term once referred to chemicals that met certain criterion. The definition now refers to anything that impacts a person’s mental capacity, including:
- Prescription drugs
Nootropics can be synthetic or natural. When you take a nootropic, it will activate neurotransmitters that are responsible for transmitting messages throughout the brain.
Types of Nootropics
Users can purchase nootropics at health food stores, online or even in the grocery store. There are multiple forms of nootropics, including:
- Drinks that include multiple nootropic ingredients
- Supplements that contain nootropics
- Foods that fall into the classification of a nootropic
Multiple forms of nootropics exist with different levels of efficacy:
- Bacopa Monnieri
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Panax Ginseng
- Rhodiola Rosea
Nootropic types can be broken down into one of many different categories, including:
- Ampakines: A class of nootropic that’s known to target the glutamic receptors better than even racetams.
- Choline and Acetylcholine: Known for enhancing the levels of acetylcholine in the brain.
- Peptides: General nootropic that includes the popular noopept.
- Racetams: A popular choice that stimulates the glutamic and acetylcholine receptors in the brain.
Benefits of Nootropics
The cognitive benefits of nootropics are the primary reason people take nootropics. Students account for a large portion of users thanks to the short- and long-term benefits provided by these brain-enhancing drugs.
The benefits are wide ranging, with a multitude of different efficacy determined by the type of nootropic taken and usage patterns.
Numerous nootropics result in a reduction in anxiety. L-Theanine (1) has been linked to a calmer heart rate and a measurable reduction in stress markers. Bacopa Monnieri is shown to reduce anxiety without causing any risk of sedation. Lion’s Mane Mushroom was shown in clinical studies to balance a person’s mood.
Concentration is difficult to maintain in today’s hectic world. High levels of cognitive function allow a person to focus on a single task for an extended period of time. Students and business professionals are often looking for a way to enhance their productivity and attention performance.
Numerous forms of attention are supported by nootropics, including:
- Alternating attention, which allows a person to switch tasks with greater cognitive flexibility
- Divided attention that enhances a person’s ability to multitask
- Focused attention, which allows for focus on a single source of stimuli
- Selective attention, which makes it easier to focus on one task while stimuli exists in the background
Most nootropics do not contain stimulants, so they will cause natural energy boosting without the risk of jitters or side effects. Brain energy, which is a must-have when trying to learn new information, is increased due to:
- Higher levels of oxygen in the brain
- Higher glucose levels to burn for energy
- Optimize the brain’s energy production
When the brain is healthy, it consumes up to 20% of your energy (2). The energy will be used for various brain functions, including cell regeneration, repair and maintenance.
High levels of brain energy allow for better overall brain health, which includes the ability to improve mental sharpness an agility. Sufficient brain energy leads to quick thinking.
Memory is the primary purpose of nootropics. Historically, people have been using nootropics to improve their memory. There are also studies on people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in progress to try and determine if these supplements can benefit brain decline.
Performance in memory has been indicated across age groups, with improvements in:
- Short-term memory, also known as working memory, is improved. This type of memory occurs when trying to remember up to 10 pieces of information at a time. Short-term memories are held for 30 seconds or so.
- Long-term memory is stored in the area of the brain that can hold onto memories for years or decades. These memories can relate to a random fact or be used when learning a new language.
You also have what’s called free recall, which is your ability to remember the order of items for a few minutes at a time.
Significant studies have been done on the most common nootropics that found numerous benefits to memory, including short- and long-term memory as well as free recall.
The primary reason for memory enhancement is the support for cell membranes and support for neurotransmission.
Additional benefits that nootropics offer are:
- Better sleep
- Lower stress
- Higher creativity
- Higher motivation
There is some anecdotal evidence that when taken over the long-term, nootropics will help with anti-aging and allow the brain to be healthier and stronger for longer.
Nootropic Side Effects
When taken in natural form, nootropics are generally safe. The side effects are a result of prescription drugs in most cases. The side effects vary greatly from one nootropic to the next, which may include:
- Adderall: A commonly abused drug, this drug can be addictive and can lead to sweating, loss of sex drive and anxiety. If a person abuses this medication, it may result in severe health issues, including heart attacks.
- Methylphenidate: Known commonly as Ritalin, this drug causes numerous side effects that include headache, stomachache, insomnia and loss of appetite (3).
In general, the side effects that these top smart drugs cause are:
- Memory loss
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
If you experience any of the above side effects, it may be a dosage issue. Lowering the dosage should help, but if not, it’s best to cease usage. There are more than ample options for nootropics to try and find one that works well for you.
Prescription abuse is common, and a lot of users will take prescriptions illegally, primarily Adderall, as a nootropic. These prescriptions pose the highest risk of side effects and the greatest severity level.
If you have pre-existing conditions, you may want to consult with a doctor before taking certain types of nootropics.
- Hidese, S., Ogawa, S., Ota, M., Ishida, I., Yasukawa, Z., Ozeki, M., & Kunugi, H. (2019). Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(10), 2362. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102362
- Marcus E. Raichle, Debra A. Gusnard, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2002, 99 (16) 10237-10239; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.172399499
Morton, W. A., & Stockton, G. G. (2000). Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 2(5), 159–164. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v02n0502