Nootropics are a catch all term for any drug, supplement, or substance which causes improved cognitive functions such as attention, memory, creativity, longevity, etc. What sets a “true” nootropic apart from something like adderall is that nootropics tend to have more subtle effects and have very low toxicity and almost no side effects.
The term “nootropic” was first coined by a Romanian chemist by the name of Corneliu E. Giurgea. He was also known for first synthesizing Piracetam in 1964, which is the first drug in this class, and is considered the prototypical nootropic: a neuroprotective agent that has very low toxicity and side effects.
Guirgea’s definition of a nootropic featured the following qualities:
- They should enhance learning and memory.
- They should enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them (e.g. electroconvulsive shock, hypoxia).
- They should protect the brain against various physical or chemical injuries (e.g. barbiturates, scopalamine).
- They should increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms.
- They should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs (e.g. sedation, motor stimulation) and possess very few side effects and extremely low toxicity.
Today, the term “nootropic” has become a bit of a buzzword. With movies like Limitless which depict it as a drug which radically changes your cognitive abilities to an unprecedented level, many people are under the impression that nootropics are a magic substance. Many others are skeptical and think nootropics are simply snake oil placebos that don’t work.
I’ve used nootropics extensively and I’m here to tell you that they do work. Some work better than others, and some may not work at all. But there are some which can greatly enhance your life if used properly.
If you’re looking for unbiased, evidence-based information that is concise and easily digestible, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a skeptic or a long-time user, I will make sure you are well-informed about what these substances are and how to use them.