Let’s get something clear right off the bat—some drugs are smarter than others.
The word Nootropics literally means “to turn the mind” in Greek. Sound a little twisted? Well, it’s not what you think. By definition, nootropics not only stimulate certain parts of the brain, but also protect it… unlike their popular prescription counterparts that have recently be labeled “smart drugs.”
WARNING: SMART DRUGS ARE NOT SMART
If you’re cramming for an exam or you want to sharpen up for a big presentation, please don’t take the amphetamine-based drugs that are now being referred to as “smart drugs”—like Ritalin and Aderol. While they might help you stay up all night or nail that big speech, they can do serious long-term damage to your body, including:
- Liver damage
- Heart damage
- Raise in blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
No test or presentation is worth risking your health. The price could be painful and expensive.
NEWS FLASH! NOOTROPICS ARE THE REAL SMART DRUG.
Yes, nootropics are cognitive enhancers–so, technically they’re in the same school as the drugs mentioned above, but they’re not in the same class. Not even close.
Nootropics work by healing and stimulating cells while protecting the brain from degeneration due to aging or trauma… and they are nontoxic. They are not addictive, nor do they cause that whole laundry list of side effects. I like to use nootropics occasionally, and generally stick to the racetams.
RACETAMS: MECHANISMS AND BENEFITS
Racetams were first synthesized back in 1964 by a Belgian pharmaceutical company. Scientists there were struck by their ability to improve cognitive function in the brains of healthy subjects without any of the nasty side effects often attributed to other cognitive enhancers.
Racetams belong to a group of drugs called “ampakines,” which means that they affect the AMPA receptors of the brain. These AMPA receptors are highly concentrated in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and spatial awareness.
Piracetam hit the market as a pharmaceutical drug in the 1970’s under the trade name Nootropil, and is still prescribed in Europe today where nootropics remain categorized as prescription medication.
In the States, nootropics are not regulated and can be purchased over the counter.
How does piracetam work?
C6H10N2O2: This is the chemical makeup of piracetam. It’s a combination of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen that works to stimulate several functions of the intricate neural superhighway that is the human brain.
While we are still unsure of piracetam’s exact mechanisms, but the fact that it influences neuronal, vascular, and cognitive function without a sedative or stimulant effect is apparent. The scientific hypothesis is many-fold. The current thought is that, via the following methods, piracetam:
- Acts on ion channels to increase neuron excitability
- Amps up oxygen consumption in parts of the brain
- Increases cell and mitochondria permeability
- Improves neurotransmitter function
By stimulating and improving some parts of the brain, and then also inducing heightened permeability in others, piracetam can have a huge effect on everything from memory to mood.
Benefits of Piracetam Usage
The scientific research is finally catching up to the anecdotal success of piracetram treatment for a number of mental health issues. While this nootropic can be used to address specific conditions, it can also be taken by healthy individuals simply wanting to remember their dreams or where they put their car keys.
The therapeutic effects of piracetam usage include:
- Heightened awareness and sensory reception
- Increased focus and concentration
- Sharper memory
- Decrease in symptoms of depression or anxiety
- A kick in the pants—increased motivation
The clinical use of piracetam is broad and includes limited scientific studies to support their efficacy. However, the research is mounting and the anecdotal evidence is abundant regarding the value of piracetam in treating the following health issues:
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Vasospastic disorders
- Improving cognition after a stroke
- Dysgraphia and dyslexia
- EVEN shows promise as an effective treatment for alcoholism!
Without the side effects associated with other cognitive enhancers, many people are turning to piracetams as part of their treatment process.
How does aniracetam work?
C12H13NO3: This is aniracetam. You can see how closely related it is to piracetam…but that slight change in structure differentiates the way these two compounds work in the brain.
First of all, aniracetam is the only fat-soluble racetam—one possible reason that it’s more potent than the others. While piracetam has a broad, mellow, general effect on the brain as a whole, aniracetam specifically targets creativity, holistic thinking, and mood.
Again, the exact mechanism is still being studied, but the current theory is that aniracetam works by:
- Increasing serotonin and dopamine production
- Improving communication between neurons
- Increasing the number of acetylcholine receptors (a neurotransmitter)
Benefits of Aniracetam
We have recently seen a surge in the usage of aniracetam for both clinical and therapeutic treatments. This is the nootropic that I tend to use occasionally for sharpening my memory or to get my creative juices flowing.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s more potent and is well-absorbed by all of those healthy fats that are an important part of your regular diet.
The therapeutic benefits of aniracetam include:
- Heightened creativity
- Improved judgment
- Better mood
- Improved memory
- Increased adult neural plasticity
The clinical uses for aniracetam include treatment of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Mood disorders
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Sleep disorders
This list is narrower because aniracetam specifically targets certain parts of brain function, whereas piracetam has a broader effect.
GETTING STARTED ON NOOTROPICS
When you are choosing a nootropic, it’s important to think about what you want it to do, then research your options. As with all supplements, make sure you are buying from a reputable company. See my conversation with Gary Collins, an ex-FDA special agent from a few weeks ago for more information on that topic.
Also, make sure that you discuss any new health regime with your doctor, especially if you’re targeting specific clinical conditions.
Bottom line is: If you feel the need to sharpen your mind, get your creativity on, sleep better, be happier, or remember the name of your second-cousin twice-removed at the family reunion, nootropics are the intelligent alternative to so-called “smart drugs.”