Nootropics: A brain-power-enhancing life hack

We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t be the person buying Adderall in the library during finals week.” As tempting as it is to have hyper focus and the ability to forgo sleep, it is both illegal and dangerous. But what if I told you that there were drugs just as powerful, completely legal and readily available? You may be interested. I know I was. Enter the world of Nootropics.

Popularized by self-proclaimed “bio-hackers” in Silicon Valley, Nootropics are brain-enhancing drugs with limited to no side effects. One Nootropic we are all familiar with is caffeine. Caffeine offers improved alertness, focus and what many describe as a “boost,” which is the stimulant effect of caffeine on the nervous system.

The military is no stranger to many of these drugs. Germans utilized amphetamines in World War II and caffeine already had strong implementation. A returning Afghanistan veteran, who declined to be mentioned by name, shared with me a horrible concoction called “Ranger Dip.” After finishing an MRE (meal ready to eat), some infantry would dump the instant coffee packets into gauze and put it under their lips like dipping tobacco.

Caffeine has killed before, and we know even less about these other Nootropics. Noopept, for example, has been shown to cause total loss of emotion. Piracetam has been known to cause depression in some adverse cases.

I had to see what all of the online chatter was about. I bought a Nootropic stack called Dragon. A stack is the combination of two or more nootropic substances. It was $30—with a discount I found—for a bottle of 60 capsules, enough for 30 doses. In two days, I had a very powerful mix of chemicals in my hand. The process was incredibly easy.

The capsules had arrived the afternoon of a big chemistry test. A friend of mine, whose identity will remain anonymous, was interested in the Nootropic stack I had bought; I had been telling him about it ever since I ordered it. This friend of mine was very averted to any drugs or alcohol. In my time knowing him, he refused to drink or use any illicit drugs. He told me he would try a Nootropic if I did first. I agreed; I took only one capsule, half the recommended dose. Within 10 minutes, I felt a surge of energy and hyper focus. My acute symptoms of OCD vanished. I thought through my words much more methodically.

Part of the reason I chose to keep my friend’s identity anonymous is because of academic integrity policies. Although it doesn’t clearly define Nootropics, one could argue that Nootropics are an unfair, unauthorized advantage and therefore a violation of academic integrity. In fact, a study published by Phytomedicine claims that students using a Nootropic averaged scores over eight percent higher than a placebo group.

My friend claims that the Nootropic left him feeling “wired,” but he does not believe it impacted his test score by any significant amount. Another friend of mine also tried the Dragon Nootropic. His response was similar. He claimed to be “wired” and “focused.”

On the occasions where I have taken Dragon, I have accomplished large amounts of work in short periods of time. However, I can sometimes do this without the assistance of Nootropics if I’m in a focused environment.

Dragon has had some negative side effects for me, though. On one occasion, I had an increased level of anxiety, rapid heart rate and felt that I was intoxicated. On many occasions, I feel an increased need to take a nap, something I already do routinely. On a few occasions I’ve had headaches, but drinking water resolves the issue.

Not all Nootropics are legal. Many of these substances are recognized by the World Anti-Doping Agency as unfair stimulants, and therefore are banned. Adderall is still considered a Nootropic, as is Modafinil, although research has shown both to be very dangerous and potentially life threatening. You can still obtain these substances with a prescription. Prescriptions for such drugs are at an all time high. There is a caveat to Modafinil’s legal status. Adrafinil, a drug that metabolizes the same as Modafinil, is legal and requires no prescription to obtain.

I had multiple peers admit to using Adderall during finals week, including one with a genetic disposition for heart health. Stimulants like Adderall pose a risk to all users, but especially those with family history of poor heart health. Nootropics on the other hand, despite our limited knowledge of their long-term use, have shown to be safer than amphetamines.