So my buddy Jay, ordered a taster pack of smart drugs from overseas and jumped straight in. We’ll talk about his experiences in a later post. But I’ve decided to take a more cautious approach. So I visited over a dozen websites, some scientific, some pseudoscientific, some anecdotal and aggregated their top 10 recommendations for smart drugs. Then I averaged it out to create my own top four.
I’ve also decided to adopt a name, for me and you. We are now officially nootronauts! Like astronauts, but we’re exploring nootropics, not space!
So without further ado, I give you…
Dave’s Top Four Smart Drugs for nootronauts (cue big band and cheesy graphic).
OK, so coming in at number 4 is Noopept. Like a lot of smart drugs, this one interacts with neurotransmitters in your brain and is effective at improving your memory. So you remember more and remember it more easily.
Because it also accelerates how fast you think and promotes connections in your brain, you can also experience better reasoning and problem solving. As a bonus it helps protect your brain cells from dying and has anti-anxiety properties. People generally take around 10 to 40 mg of Noopept once per day.
There is a similar drug called Phenylpiracetam. It works like Noopept, but has more of a stimulant effect, so if you want an energy and motivation boost, then this might be a better fit for you. But Noopept was more popular in the lists I found.
There are no known serious side effects from using Noopept. The most commonly reported side effects are headaches, irritability and mood swings, but these are usually associated with higher doses and are resolved by lowering your dose. Some nootronauts also believe that taking Choline with Noopept helps prevent any side effects.
Generally nootropics have very low toxicity. So the side effects are usually linked to how you use them, like dose, how often you take them, what else you are taking and how often you take a break from them. But the bottom line with any of these smart drugs is if the side effects are mild, give your body time to adjust, but if they don’t disappear or if the side effects are major, stop taking them.
I’m giving this one serious consideration. It’s cheap, seems to be extremely effective and targets something I want to improve, which is memory and problem solving. Also, analytical and reasoning skills are critical to designing and iterating, so a boost in these abilities is a no-brainer (pun intended;).
3. Caffeine + Theanine
Third on my list is Caffeine + Theanine. This is a popular smart drug combination and a perfect starting point for noobs like me. Basically they work together, so the caffeine hypes you up and gives you energy, while the Theanine knocks the edge off the caffeine by calming you down. The result is being energised and ‘in the zone’ for long periods of time, but without the downside of drinking ten cups of coffee. It also helps you avoid the crash that can follow a coffee binge.
So why not just drink coffee and tea (which contains Theanine)? Mainly because of dosage. You would have to drink buckets of tea to get the effect you’re looking for. But some people do dose by having a few coffees and taking a Theanine supplement.
Caffeine has been around for centuries and is extremely well understood. Equally, Theanine is considered extremely safe. Once again, with all nootropics, dose makes the poison. Don’t go hard and if you have a medical condition or are pregnant or breastfeeding, don’t take any of this stuff.
Both drugs are also cheap and easily available. They are usually dosed at a 2:1 or 4:1 ratio of Theanine to Caffeine. So 200 or 400 mg of Theanine and 100 mg of Caffeine. This combo will definitely be on my list to try. It’s safe, cheap and has proven effects. There are times when I need to pull insane hours. I usually use coffee to get me through, but this seems like a better way of doing things.
Number two (it’s getting exciting now!). People report that Aniracetam has a primary effect of stabilising your mood. But it also reportedly increases your general awareness, helps you with ‘holistic thinking’ and gives you more social fluency. Being more aware and creative, plus having the ‘gift of the gab’ is one hell of a business advantage, so it’s got my attention.
Some people take Piracetam as an alternative to Aniracetam, but the general consensus seems to be that Aniracetam is more potent and has the bonus effect of lowering anxiety levels. Conversely some people advise that newbie nootronauts start with Piracetam because it is less potent.
In terms of safety, Aniracetam seems to have very few side effects, except perhaps headaches at higher doses. But like Noopept, people either lower the dosage or take Choline to eliminate this side effect. Alpha GPC, a smart drug that many nootronauts swear by contains Choline.
The most common dosage for Aniracetam seems to be between 750 and 2000 mg. Also you need to take this one with food because it’s fat soluble. Some people take it after a meal and with a fish oil tablet for better absorption. It’s also fast acting and has a short half-life (meaning how long it takes for your body to eliminate it), so people generally take this with breakfast and lunch.
Aniracetam is a bit more expensive than the others (and you have to take larger amounts than with the other drugs on this list), so if you’re on a budget, this may not be right for you. But if you buy a morning coffee because it helps wake you up, then you’ll get way more bang for your buck from this smart drug.
This one is definitely on my list to try because of the ‘whole of brain’ effects it might have. I like the idea of boosting my awareness and ability to connect information in unique ways, because everyone wants to create the next unicorn!
(Drum roll) My number one pick for smart drugs is Modafinil. Perhaps the best known of the bunch, this amazing substance is also the most studied. It has been shown to improve wakefulness, concentration and mood, improve decision-making and boost your intelligence. This makes it an awesome all-rounder.
One word of caution. While it’s not addictive, it is so effective as a stimulant that some people report finding themselves staying up doing good work for days at a time. So if doing lines off the toilet seat is part of your daily routine, best you stay away from this one. If you have any lingering concerns, consider CILTeP. It’s an all natural alternative to Modafinil. But remember, natural does not necessarily equal safer.
There’s also a small possibility of headaches and nausea, but lowering the dose usually fixes these. Anything worse than that, you should stop taking it. But the general consensus seems to be it’s safe to use and for most users it has no side effects.
Most nootronautstake 200 mg of Modafinil daily, but some go to 400 mg and it’s well tolerated. Take it in the morning, because it has a long half life and will interfere with your sleep if you take it later.
This one is definitely on my list to try. It covers off a lot of brain boosting effects in one hit and is one of the safest and most well researched smart drugs out there.
So that’s my top four. Now I’ll need to think about how I put these drugs together, what dose, what times and in what combinations. nootronautscall this their ‘stack’. I’ll do some more research and share with you what my stack will be and why I designed it that way.
What’s going in my stack?
Greeting Nootronauts. Last time I counted down my Top Four Smart Drugs. Now it’s time to design my stack. A stack describes what you’ll take, how you’ll take it, in what dosage, when you’ll take it and for how long. As usual I’ve taken to the intrawebs to see what others are doing.
Preformulated versus make-your-own stacks
First let’s explore our options. You can opt for a preformulated stack like Alpha Brain, Nootroo or Brain Stack. This is a solid option because it’s more convenient just to take one pill or powder a couple of times a day. On the downside, It’s one size fits all, so you can’t customise your stack to your needs.
You’re other option is to buy each ingredient separately and make your own stack. If you buy in bulk this is definitely cheaper. But if you do that you need to understand synergy and response curves. Synergy is about how these things work together. For example you start smashing out some Mondafinil and Caffeine (both of which have a stimulant effect), then it may not just add the stimulant effects together, but instead multiply them. Meaning 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2, it may equal 4. So it’s best to think about how the different powders have overlapping effects and make sure your stack has balance. It might also be smart to start with lower doses if you do stack multiple drugs with the same effects.
Response curve is all about finding the sweet spot and generating a sustained effect when you want it (work hours) and a strong drop off when you don’t (bedtime). This generally means changing up dosages and taking stimulants in the morning (so they’ve worn off by the night) and cognitive enhancers both morning and afternoon, to keep you focused all day.
As you can see, this is the benefit of making your own over a preformulated stack: You can cut the cost while experimenting with this synergy and response curve to find a mix that works for you. But the other issue here is safety. You are screwing with your brain chemistry. While the research so far does not suggest serious effects, there is no real proof of long term safety. So proceed, but with caution. Start with small doses of one smart drug, then perhaps add a second. Do lots of research. Find your sea legs pirate, before tackling the horn.
If this all sounds too risky or too much effort, go with the preformulated option.
What enhancements do you want?
Next you need to work out what mix of enhancements you want. Memory, concentration, wakefulness, better decision-making, social fluidity, neuroprotective effects or creativity/holistic thinking?
I’m after a general memory, creativity and intelligence boost more than a wakefulness boost. I don’t have to pull all nighters, but I do a lot of mentally intense work. A bit of social fluidity and anti anxiety would be a bonus too, for the dog and pony side of things, but it’s not essential.
If you’re not sure what smart drugs have what effects, check out my Top Four Smart Drugs, or this reddit nootropics wiki.
How do you take it?
Smart drugs come in pill or powder form. They need to get to your brain. But if you swallow pills or powers, they’ll be digested and much of the desired effect may be lost, because your stomach acids break down the chemicals and only some of it makes it to the blood stream.
Then they have to get past your blood brain barrier. Evolution has been refining this fence for thousands of years and it’s designed to stop nasties sneaking into your brain via your blood supply….and it’s very effective.
When you add those two things together, you’re probably looking at maybe 15% of the active ingredient getting to your brain when you swallow it. But there is an answer.
Sublingual is a fancy word for sticking it under your tongue. This is easily done with small dosage powders and most pills contain powder too, so you can also do it with preformulated stacks. The reason that this works is that there are a bunch of blood vessels there that absorb the ingredients and deliver it straight to the brain. But do your research. Not all smart drugs work better when taken under the tongue and some are downright dangerous.
Pramiracetam is too potent to be taken under the tongue, while Noopept is greatly enhanced by dosing sublingually. Also, if your stack ends up being a few teaspoons 3 times per day, then it’s probably not practical to do it under the tongue.
Please also be aware that smart drugs usually taste bitter or chemically or sour, or like sulphur, basically they all taste like shit. Swallowing means they will taste bad, but only for a short time. Pills avoids the issue all together, but under the tongue means dealing with taste for a good few minutes until it’s absorbed.
I’m open to under the tongue, especially if I end up using a preformulated pill containing Noopept, but I’m not convinced yet. Also experienced Nootronauts swear by cranberry and grapefruit juice chasers.
Where does that leave me?
Given i’m a noob Nootronaut, I should probably start with just one smart drug at a low dose. But I want a range of effects including memory creativity and intelligence, so my drug of choice needs to focus on these effects. Also if the dosage is small enough and it’s suitable, I’m willing to try the sublingual method.
So i’ve decided to go with Noopept and Alpha GPC (because it contains Choline that can modulate the potential side effects of Noopept). Ideally I should buy the powder and measure it out myself, to save money. But then I need milligram scales and I’m not up to that. So I’ll need to find a reputable seller that offers pills with a powder inside. Anyway I’ll deal with where to buy in another article.