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What are nootropics or “smart drugs” or cognitive enhancers?

Whether you’re a college student looking to ace your exams, a busy professional looking for a promotion, or an elderly person worried about dementia, you’re looking to take medicine to improve Your brain power may seem attractive. So it’s no surprise that the use of nootropics (also known as cognitive enhancers or smart drugs) is on the rise. But do they work? Are they safe?

The term “nootropics” refers first and foremost to chemical substances that meet very specific criteria. But now it is used to refer to any natural or synthetic substance that may have a positive effect on mental skills. Generally, nootropics fall into three broad categories: dietary supplements, synthetic compounds, and prescription drugs.

While there is general agreement among health professionals to take prescription nootropics for FDA-approved purposes

For example, if you have ADHD, then Use of stimulant drugs; donepezil if you have Alzheimer’s) may help, but the use of any type of cognitive enhancer in healthy people is more controversial.

Reviews by researchers

Barry Gordon, MD, PhD, director of the Cognitive Neurology/Neuropsychology Division at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said there is “no strong evidence” that any of the so-called memory-boosting supplements on sale today are helpful . “It’s not clear if they’re effective or if they’re safe,” he said. He is also skeptical of the basic premise behind nootropics.

“The circuits involved in human cognition are very complex and not fully understood,” he said. “You can’t ‘turn up the dial’ that easily.” He points out that people who believe nootropics have improved their mental performance are largely affected by the placebo effect. “If you are more confident and think you can do better, then you will do better.”

Dr. Chris Dadamo, director of research and education at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, has a different view. Like Gordon, he doesn’t think nootropics will give you superhuman psychic abilities, but he does believe they have the potential to give some people an advantage.

“Most people seeking to optimize cognitive function are best focused on getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and managing stress,” he said. But once you get the basics down, the right nootropics may be a bonus, helping you think more clearly and sharply, or reducing your chances of cognitive decline as you age, he says.

Types of Nootropics

Almost everyone uses nootropics, whether they know it or not, D ‘ Adamo said. He’s talking about caffeine, a natural stimulant that has been shown to improve thinking skills, despite the health risks associated with excessive consumption. It doesn’t just make you feel more alert, D’Adamo says: Caffeine also puts you more exposed to several chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain, like acetylcholine, which help with short-term memory and learning.

But most people interested in nootropics don’t stick to coffee or tea. They are expanding into dietary supplements. Some, like ginseng and ginkgo, have not stood up to scientific scrutiny. There are others – including CDP-choline, L-theanine, creatine monohydrate, Bacopa ), Huperzine A, and Vinpocetine – which may still hold promise.

Racetams, like Piracetam, are another nootropic. You can buy these synthetic compounds over the counter in the United States, but in some other countries they are considered prescription drugs. These chemicals act on neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, and have been studied in older adults with reduced thinking abilities, D’Adamo said. He doesn’t recommend them to most young, healthy people.

Prescription nootropics consist primarily of stimulants, such as those found in some ADHD medications. While these work well for many people with ADHD, they are not recommended for others who just want to improve focus and concentration. Many college students obtain these types of drugs illegally, and while they may help in the short term, there are serious risks. Side effects may include insomnia, blurred vision, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, circulation problems, and addiction.

Another prescription nootropic is Modafinil (Provigil). It’s FDA-approved to treat narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and shift work disorder, but some studies suggest it may help learning and memory in healthy people. Modafinil appears to be safer than other types of stimulants, but more research is needed.

The most promising option

If you are considering trying nootropic supplements, you should discuss this with your doctor first. As with all supplements, you’ll want your doctor to keep you informed of any health risks, such as effects on any of your medical conditions or the medications you take.

Keep in mind that while there are some on the subject, they tend to be small or limited to older adults. Also, each person’s brain chemistry is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another, D’Adamo said. That said, these four types may hold promise:

L-Theanine :

D’Adamo says this supplement appears to enhance the psychoactive effects of caffeine and counteract the jitters that caffeine causes. Studies show that combining caffeine and L-theanine can help you perform better at multitasking. The safest way to get this combination is to drink pure green tea, which contains both caffeine and L-theanine, but it is also possible to combine regular coffee or tea with L-theanine supplements.

Do not take caffeine in pill or energy form as it is too easy to overdose. An excess of caffeine can be toxic, cause a racing heart, and even lead to seizures or death. Just 1 teaspoon of pure caffeine powder can contain as much caffeine as 28 cups of coffee. The FDA cracked down on manufacturers of pure caffeine and high-strength caffeine products, noting that the difference between safe and toxic amounts is very small.

CDP-choline: CDP-choline, often prescribed as a drug in Europe, has been shown to aid memory – at least in people with dementia due to vascular problems in the brain. There are no known side effects, so it’s generally considered safe to try.

Creatine Monohydrate: Creatine is often found in bodybuilding supplements to help build muscle mass. But research has also found that it may improve reasoning and short-term memory in healthy people. It increases levels of a molecule called ATP, which produces more cellular energy, D’Adamo said. “I take it a lot just for energy. It’s very safe.”

Bacopa monnieri

: A traditional Indian (Ayurveda) tuto) herb, Bacopa monnieri – also known as Brahmi – has been suggested to help the brain process information faster. It causes the branches (dendrites) of nerve cells to grow, D’Adamo said. He said the process will take some time. Expect to wait 4-6 weeks for results.

While it might seem like a good idea to combine several of these supplements – many formulas on the market do this – D’Adamo doesn’t recommend it because most combinations don’t get Fully researched. Instead, he recommends trying them for a couple of months, then taking a month off before reusing them or switching to something else. His concern is that you may develop a tolerance to nootropics, including caffeine, which means you’ll need more and more of it to work for you.

As with any dietary supplement, you should also remember that the FDA does not regulate nootropic supplements as strictly as prescription drugs. Look for a reputable brand and trust your body: if you notice any side effects or don’t see improvement within the expected time frame, it’s wise to stop.



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