This world is competitive. Extremely competitive. If you’re not actively seeking an advantage, you’ll quickly get passed by those who do. Whether you’re studying for a final exam or trying to secure a big business deal, you need a definitive mental edge. Are smart drugs and brain-boosting pills the answer for cognitive enhancement in 2018? Maybe. If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, right? Bad advice for some scenarios, but there is a grain of truth to every saying—even this one.
When 2011 Hollywood blockbuster movie Limitless hit theaters, the smart drugs industry erupted. While smart pills and nootropics aren’t new, Limitless fueled the industry’s growth to meteoric proportions by taking biohacking mainstream. If you haven’t seen the movie, imagine unfathomable brain power in capsule form. Picture a drug from another universe that can transform an unsuccessful couch potato into a millionaire financial mogul. Ingesting the powerful smart pill boosts intelligence and turns you into a prodigy in your field, and its results are instant. Sounds great, right? If only it were real.
Can a ‘Genius Pill’ Make You Smarter?
As farfetched as the movie was, that didn’t stop people from scouring every corner of the internet for pills that make you smarter. Students, entrepreneurs, and the Silicon Valley elites threw caution to the wind in search of the next experimental brain boosting miracle drug. The renowned “genius pill” from the movie is the limitless pill NZT-48. It even has a cool name, but sadly, it is fictional. Smart drugs like NZT do not exist as portrayed in the movie. For now, you’ll have to find some other way to become the next Albert Einstein.
The truth is, taking a smart pill will not allow you to access information that you did not previously learn. If you’ve never spoken Spanish in your life, a smart drug cannot embed the Spanish dictionary into your brain. It will not magically make you smarter or more intelligent. We need to throttle back our expectations and explore what smart drugs can realistically accomplish. Brain enhancing substances have excellent overall health and cognitive benefits that are worth exploring.
Truth About Smart Pills & Nootropics
Smart pills and nootropics do exist in various forms. Most of them are highly effective in boosting specific areas of mental cognition. For example, there are many effective supplements for memory that can improve information recall and memory retention. These nootropics are ideal for both young adults and for an elderly population that needs brain function support.
You’ll find several supplements that can enhance focus, energy, creativity, and mood among other things. These brain enhancers can work very well. Again, nootropics won’t dress you in a suit and carry you to Wall Street. That is a decision you’ll have to make on your own. However, sometimes smart drugs can provide the energy and motivation boost you need to make positive changes in your life.
Best Smart Drugs List 2018
Regardless of your goal, there is a supplement that can help you along the way. Below, we’ve put together the definitive smart drugs list for peak mental performance. There are three major groups of smart pills and cognitive enhancers that we will cover in our list of smart drugs. They are natural and herbal nootropics, prescription ADHD medications, and racetams and synthetic nootropics.
1. Natural & Herbal Nootropics
Natural and herbal nootropics are by far the safest and best smart drugs to ingest, and so they’re worth covering first. Our recommendation is always to stick with natural brain fog cures and herbal remedies for enhancing mental cognition. These frequently studied substances are superior for both long-term safety and effectiveness.
Natural nootropic supplements come about from nutritional studies demonstrating the health benefits of various isolated vitamins, nutrients, and herbs. By increasing your consumption of select vitamins and minerals, you will often experience enhancements in brain function. Below is a list of the top categories of natural and herbal nootropics that have become mainstays in many of today’s best smart pills.
For proper brain function, our CNS (Central Nervous System) requires several amino acids derived from protein-rich foods. Consider amino acids to be protein building blocks. Many of these amino acids are dietary precursors to vital neurotransmitters in our brain. Neurotransmitters such as epinephrine (adrenaline), serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine assist in enhancing mental performance.
A few examples of amino acid nootropics are Acetyl-L-Carnitine, L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine, GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), and 5-HTP. Except for L-Tyrosine, the other amino acids mentioned contain anxiolytic properties to help regulate our moods. While none of these are genius pills per se, these supplements will support brain health under a variety of every-day circumstances. Thus, amino acids are commonplace to many smart drugs and mood enhancing supplements.
Deficiencies in B vitamins can cause memory problems, mood disorders, and other forms of cognitive impairment. B vitamins will not necessarily make you smarter on their own, but they do support a wide array of cognitive functions. Most of the B complex assists in some fashion with brain function. Vitamin B12 (in the form of Methylcobalamin or Cyanocobalamin) is perhaps the most critical B vitamin for maintaining mental health.
Studies have shown that B vitamin supplements can protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline. These natural nootropics can also reduce the likelihood of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Due to their far-reaching effects on mental health, a B vitamin complex makes an excellent addition to any smart drug stack.
Any nootropic substance that enhances acetylcholine synthesis is known as a cholinergic supplement. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter in the brain primarily responsible for supporting learning and memory activities. Even a minuscule improvement in our brain’s acetylcholine production can significantly enhance cognitive function.
Many of the best smart pills contain a natural choline supplement such as Alpha GPC. These nootropics boost memory, enhance information processing within the brain, and shield the brain from cognitive decline. Alpha GPC also has high bioavailability. This characteristic allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier and reliably boost acetylcholine production. Other choline sources such as Lecithin, DMAE, Choline Bitartrate, and CDP-Choline (Citicoline) have low bioavailability and are less effective at increasing cognitive function.
Among the most prestigious fatty acids known to support cognitive health are Omega-3 fish oil (EPA and DHA), Phosphatidylserine (PS), and Coconut Oil (MCT Oil). These are extensively studied natural smart drugs that support many cognitive abilities. Fatty acids play an essential role in providing structural support to cell membranes. They also contribute to the growth and repair of neurons. Both functions are crucial for maintaining peak mental acuity as you age.
Heavily concentrated in the brain, Omega-3’s and phospholipids have a profound impact on focus and concentration enhancement. Not only do they support mental well-being and brain function, but these nootropic supplements also benefit the physical body in several ways, including mood support and reduced bodily inflammation. When taking fish oil and Phosphatidylserine (PS) together, a synergistic effect occurs, further enhancing cell-to-cell communication in the brain. This benefit is ideal for controlling symptoms of ADHD and for boosting memory and studying capabilities.
The smart pill industry has popularized many herbal nootropics used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Originating in India, Ayurveda is a branch of natural medicine that focuses on using herbs as remedies for improving quality of life and healing ailments. Evidence suggests our ancestors may have been on to something with this earthly approach.
Several noteworthy herbal supplements can enhance cognitive function and provide neuroprotection to the brain. Ashwagandha, Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri, Huperzine A, St. John’s Wort, Vinpocetine, and Rhodiola Rosea are the most well-researched herbal smart drugs in today’s top nootropic stacks. Their mechanisms of action are all slightly different, but each has a profound impact on memory, mood, and mental energy. Many of these substances are also popular herbal remedies for the treatment of ADHD and neurodegenerative diseases.
Although caffeine is not technically an herb, it deserves mention here since it derives from herbal teas and coffee beans. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that improves brain power and energy levels. If you’re sensitive to caffeine intake, we recommend taking it with L-Theanine. This way you’ll enjoy smooth, long-lasting energy without the crash and jitters.
2. Prescription ADHD Medications
There are numerous prescription drugs used to treat ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Note that the inclusion of prescription ADHD medications in a list of the best smart pills is not an endorsement for their off-label use as cognitive enhancers. Modafinil, Armodafinil, and Adderall are among the most potent wakefulness promoting agents on the market. But they are prescription drugs for a reason—handle them with caution under the supervision of a medical professional.
A common misconception is that Adderall and the likes are genius pills, and they will make you smarter or more intelligent. While they can enhance productivity, they are not miracle drugs. As mentioned earlier, natural Adderall alternatives are always the best solution for improving mental acuity, memory, and energy levels. Herbal smart drugs and brain supplements have proven themselves to be safer for long-term consumption. Natural ADHD substitutes are also more reliable for use in children, adults, and seniors.
Modafinil, known under brand name Provigil, is a prescription eugeroic (wakefulness promoting agent) used to treat a variety of fatigue-related disorders. Modafinil can promote the release of histamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), glutamate, and GABA neurotransmitters in the brain. This mental stimulation is what increases focus and attention span in the user. Among the FDA permitted treatments for Modafinil are extreme sleepiness, shift work disorder, narcolepsy, and obstructive sleep apnea. Although the FDA has not yet approved Modafinil for the treatment of ADHD, it is a suitable Adderall alternative.
When taken as prescribed, Modafinil is safer than Adderall with far fewer side effects. Smart pill enthusiasts find a heightened sense of alertness and motivation when taking Modafinil. In healthy individuals, Modafinil will boost energy levels very reliably, but a choline source should always accompany its consumption. With that said, you should only use Modafinil in moderation on an as-needed basis.
Armodafinil, known under brand name Nuvigil, is viewed by many in the smart drug and nootropic community as a superior form of Modafinil. Here’s why: Modafinil contains an R-enantiomer and an S-enantiomer. The S-enantiomer is thought to be mostly useless. The mental stimulation, alertness, and cognitive enhancement come from the R-enantiomer. Armodafinil is strictly the R-enantiomer, making it potentially twice as powerful for improving focus and mental performance. Like Modafinil, Armodafinil prescriptions are meant to treat disorders related to extreme fatigue.
If you’ve spent any time researching self-proclaimed genius pills or smart drugs, then you’ve heard of Adderall. This cognitive enhancing psychostimulant is the most frequently prescribed medication to treat ADHD and narcolepsy and for a good reason—it works. The problem with Adderall arises from its chemical makeup. It is an amphetamine. The amphetamine classification means Adderall shares a scary amount of similarities to methamphetamine, a dangerous street drug known to be highly addictive and often deadly.
Adderall compared to Modafinil has a higher risk of addiction and dependency issues. These problems arise from Adderall’s ability to flood the brain with an exorbitant amount of dopamine. The unnatural rush of feel-good chemicals may eventually cause a drop-off in regular dopamine production. While all of the prescription ADHD medications mentioned above can be habit forming if abused, Adderall can cause irreversible harm to your central nervous system. This impairment can lead to severe depression and anxiety, making Adderall one smart pill to avoid.
3. Racetams & Synthetic Nootropics
Most diehard nootropic users have at least contemplated the idea of using racetams for enhancing brain function. Racetams are synthetic nootropic substances initially developed in Russia. These smart drugs vary in potency, but they are not stimulants. Unlike traditional ADHD medications (Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, etc.), racetams boost cognition by enhancing the cholinergic system. Acetylcholine can have a substantial impact on enhanced neuroplasticity and memory retention. It can also increase levels of focus and concentration and improve overall mental performance. This effect is in opposition to ADHD medications which typically flood the brain with dopamine and serotonin.
Due to the synthetic nature of racetams, you won’t find them in many of the best smart pills on the market. The intentional exclusion is not because racetams are ineffective. Instead, the vast majority of users trust natural smart drugs more. The idea of using a synthetic substance to modify your brain’s operating system is a big turn off for most people. With synthetic nootropics, you’re a test subject until studies are more definitive on racetam safety.
A quick search for drugs that make you smarter will undoubtedly lead you to the discovery of piracetam. Piracetam is the first synthetic smart drug of its kind. All other racetams derive from Piracetam. However, some are far more potent (but also carry more side effects). Piracetam is considered an allosteric modulator of acetylcholine receptors. In other words, it enhances acetylcholine synthesis which boosts cognitive function.
Considered to be the “entry level” racetam due to its lack of severe side effects and relative subtlety, Piracetam is a reliable supplement for improving creativity. Rather than feeling instant gratification like other brain enhancers, Piracetam’s effects take hold over time through continual use. Additionally, this nootropic can enhance holistic thinking, verbal memory, and mental energy levels.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Aniracetam is approximately five times stronger than Piracetam for enhancing mental cognition. This synthetic nootropic substance is an AMPA modulator. Aniracetam improves the response of AMPA receptors associated with sensory perception, learning, and memory function.
Smart pills and supplements containing Aniracetam may also help improve communication between the brain’s hemispheres. This benefit makes Aniracetam ideal for enhancing creativity and stabilizing mood. However, the anxiolytic effects of Aniracetam may be too potent for some. There have been reports of some users who find that its stress and anxiety-reducing effects cause them to feel unmotivated or sedated.
Regarding potency and bioavailability, Phenylpiracetam (Phenotropil) is arguably the best smart drug in the racetam family of nootropics. This substance is the same as Piracetam, only with a phenyl group molecule added to its chemical structure to improve blood-brain barrier permeability. The modification to its original form allows Phenylpiracetam to work much quicker than other racetams. Its cognitive enhancing effects can potentially last longer as well.
Phenylpiracetam is a substantial upgrade over other racetams and is said to be up to 60 times stronger than its little brother Piracetam. Outside of enhancing mental function, this synthetic brain booster can also improve physical performance. For this reason, Phenylpiracetam is banned by the Anti-Doping Agency for use in Olympic competition. Animal studies have also discovered other possible benefits of Phenylpiracetam as a smart pill. These include reducing the severity of epileptic seizures, preventing the onset of retrograde amnesia, and providing neuroprotection to the brain.
Omberacetam (N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester) is a synthetic brain enhancing chemical that goes by the brand name Noopept. Originally developed in Russia, Noopept is well known for its ability to improve the speed and efficiency of neurotransmission. Initial research suggests this nootropic may be an eventual medication for cognitive restoration in Alzheimer’s patients. The neuroprotective and regenerative properties of Noopept show significant promise. Studies indicate Noopept may be able to reverse trauma-induced brain damage, lessen oxidative stress, and potentially reverse cell death.
In our list of synthetic smart drugs, Noopept may be the genius pill to rule them all. Said to be nearly 1000 times stronger than Piracetam, Noopept may not be suitable for everyone. However, this nootropic substance requires significantly smaller doses for enhanced cognitive function. If you’re looking for synthetic alternatives to Adderall and other prescription ADHD medications, Noopept may be worth a look.
Final Thoughts on Nootropics, Smart Drugs, and ‘Genius Pills’
Genius pills that make you smarter and more intelligent do not exist. But there are a variety of natural and herbal smart drugs in 2018 that are suitable options for cognitive enhancement. Nootropics are highly capable substances for improving memory, focus, concentration, and overall cognition.
Using prescription ADHD medications, racetams, and other synthetic nootropics can boost brain power temporarily. Yes, they can work. Nevertheless, we advise against using them regularly since the research on their long-term safety is still new. Use them at your own risk. For the majority of users, stick with all natural brain supplements for best results. What is your favorite smart pill for increasing focus and mental energy? Tell us about your favorite cognitive enhancer in the comments below.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
~ Albert Einstein
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