The cu­ri­ous case of nootrop­ics

There’s more to nootrop­ics than its gleam­ing rep­u­ta­tion


We’re all play­ing catch-up, thanks to the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia. But liv­ing in the Post-In­for­ma­tion Age, some­one has in­evitably dis­cov­ered an ap­pro­pri­ate hack.

Nootrop­ics. The term has been around for quite a while now, with the prac­tice ex­er­cised for even longer. These are sup­ple­ments—also known as smart drugs—or sub­stances that claim to en­hance a per­son’s cog­ni­tion, help­ing them per­form daily tasks bet­ter. If you’ve seen Bradley Cooper’s movie Lim­it­less, then you get the idea.

There are var­i­ous forms of nootrop­ics. Some, like arousal en­hancer Modafinil claims to make you feel more like your­self. Some, like LSD or acid, claim to “open the gates of your mind” and make you more cre­ative. Some sim­ply help you fo­cus bet­ter, en­hance your abil­ity to re­tain mem­o­ries, or help you learn a new lan­guage more ef­fi­ciently.

Sounds too good to be true? That’s be­cause it is. These smart drugs, what­ever shape or form, come with a num­ber of side ef­fects. Too much of any of these will lead to ad­dic­tion. Too much LSD can make you hy­per-sug­ges­tive, such as the case of a man eat­ing an­other man’s face in public. Then, there’s Ad­der­all.

Wildly pop­u­lar in Silicon Val­ley, Ad­der­all has made an ex­am­ple out of men­tally healthy in­di­vid­u­als who take cog­ni­tive en­hancers in­tended for cog­ni­tively im­paired in­di­vid­u­als. Tak­ing Ad­der­all causes the op­po­site of its de­sired ef­fect and, in­stead, slows or dam­ages cog­ni­tive func­tions. That’s be­cause that is what it’s sup­posed to do: make hy­per­ac­tiveim­pul­sive in­di­vid­u­als lan­guid enough to ac­tu­ally fo­cus on one thing.

This is why suc­cess­ful bio­hacker and nootropic ad­vo­cate Dave Aspray ad­vises peo­ple to steer away from these smart drugs as much as pos­si­ble. “Treat them like the big guns,” he says. His ad­vice is to start with the ba­sics, go nat­u­ral, and treat these sup­ple­ments as a form of last re­sort.

He re­cently in­tro­duced Bul­let­proof Cof­fee, a cof­fee drink made with his spe­cial line of cof­fee beans, brain oc­tane oil, and un­salted grass-fed but­ter. This, he claims, helps clear the mind, up­lifts one’s mood, and im­proves men­tal fo­cus. Com­pletely nat­u­ral and safe, it is said to be good for ev­ery­day con­sump­tion. What’s the harm in a cup of joe, right?

Ap­par­ently, heart disease. Not only is this spe­cialty cof­fee ex­pen­sive, it’s also bad for your choles­terol lev­els. While there are tes­ta­ments to its de­sir­able ef­fects, doc­tors have no­ticed that peo­ple who drink Bul­let­proof Cof­fee daily have alarm­ingly height­ened choles­terol lev­els. So Bul­let­proof Cof­fee? Good for the mind, but bad for your heart.

All in all, our take is this: Nootrop­ics are the mir­a­cle life­hacks that they claim to be, but they don’t come with­out side ef­fects. Our ad­vice is to use them spar­ingly and wisely.

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