In a world full of acceleration, there is a mounting interest in smart drugs, or nootropics – substances that boost cognitive abilities. Prodrug piracetam gives immediate effects, while noopept and aniracetam take a little longer. With government censoring and pressure on faculty members, graduate students and professors begin to use brain-enhancing drugs more frequently to stay at the top of their game.

Understanding Nootropics

From the Greek noos meaning ‘mind’ and trepein, meaning ‘turning.’ The term ‘nootropics’ signals a range of compounds used to improve cognitive performance. Such substances typically affect brain neurotransmitters such as the dopamine system to optimize attention, memory, and learning – though they can be natural, such as in ginseng, or dietary supplements, like caffeine.

The Science Behind Nootropics

With these nootropics, a series of experimental studies found positive effects on cognitive function, while clinical trials reported a remarkable enhancement of memory and cognitive processes. The neuroprotective effect of some of these drugs has made them promising candidates for the therapy of cognitive decline and brain ageing.

Types of Nootropics

Nootropics can be classified into various categories depending on their mechanisms of action and outcomes on the brain. Cognitive side effects and adverse effects of certain prescription drugs reinforce the need for establishing nootropics as natural, more suitable substances, which are effective in enhancing cognition and correcting cognitive deficits without harmful effects.

Benefits of Nootropics on Cognitive Function

Woman focusing on her work

A number of nootropics are known to have beneficial effects on cognitive function among animals and humans. For example, caffeine, which is an active ingredient in coffee, has well-known effects on attention, memory, and overall cognitive performance – an effect possibly mediated by enhancement of working memory and other cognitive processes.

How Nootropics Work

The mechanism of action is crucial to understand how nootropics act towards impacting cognitive processes or memory. This is because nootropics interact with neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine that play a critical role in memory and higher-level processes. Hence by influencing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, nootropics produce a myriad of cognitive effects such as memory, learning, and attention.

Furthermore, learning and memory processes can be improved by nootropics. Caffeine, for example, improves memory function, and ginseng increases the efficiency of cognition and brain function by optimizing cognitive processes and working memory capacity, among other effects.

Moreover, the same level of cash on cognitive enhancers and nootropics gives the same relationship – with a focus on cognitive decline in nootropics, and cognitive deficit on the other hand with cognitive enhancers. Finally, in comparison to other prescription drugs, which normally leads to a common chemistry side for the boost in cognition and brain activity, the natural nootropics offer more security.

A figurative image of an individual loosing their mind

Natural Nootropics vs. Synthetic Compounds

Exploring Natural Nootropics

Another critical area of study is in natural nootropics. Natural nootropics are a class of substances that originate from a plant or other natural sources and which are thought to improve or enhance cognition. Examples include the long-established use of ginseng and caffeine to enhance attention and mental alertness.

Safety and Efficacy of Natural Nootropics

Distinguishing natural from synthetic nootropics is important when thinking about safety and efficacy. Natural nootropics are assumed to be less risky than synthetic alternatives because they are biologically based and are much less likely to cause adverse side-effects. But dosage levels, purity and interactions with other drugs still needs to be considered when using natural nootropics.

Comparing Natural and Synthetic Nootropic Compounds

One must compare the two by considering the mechanisms by which we have observed synthetic compounds do certain things, natural nature compounds might do other things, they could be mutually exclusive, could be synergistic … the mechanism of action, bioavailability, and what they deliver to cognitive function. If certain things will help magic memory, [and] certain things will help magic verbal fluency … You could construct a synthetic compound specific to just that one kind of cognitive effect. Or, if you really want to design a potent compound, you want to get the constructive interaction of main compounds found in plants and mushrooms. There are many things more precisely tuned to memory magic. And there are also some things that will help with cognitive stimulation and alertness that work slightly differently when you are taking multiple agents at once – stimulants and stupefacient. It is not a simple question of either/or it all depends on the cognitive enhancement you wish to pursue.

The Future of Nootropics and Cognitive Function

However, we think that nootropic science has a bright future, and that smart drugs will continue to get better at enhancing memory, focus and brain function more generally as research and development continues to progress.

Research and Development in Nootropic Science

Continued investment in the emerging area of nootropic science is needed if we are to discover the potential of cognitive enhancers to the fullest. With a better understanding of the mechanisms of action behind the different compounds, scientists can develop new agents or improve existing ones to boost cognitive functioning.

Emerging Trends in Nootropic Use

Nootropics are gaining momentum to gain a competitive edge in thought. If the rise of psychoactive drugs is anything to go by, the latest trends can tell us something about emerging demands in the world of brain-boosting. There are signs of a growing interest in natural nootropics, and this rise is just the start of a drive to make cognitive enhancement safer and more sustainable.

Ethical Considerations of Smart Drug Consumption

Although we might be positive about the theoretical advantages of smart drugs that improve cognitive capability, and their potential to make us smarter, it is also ethically important to think through some of the underlying issues. Questions about access to cognitive enhancement, the effect of cognitive enhancers by some people on others, and questions about the consequences of nootropic consumption that would make us psychologically different beings in the future all needs to be considered. Finding the right balance between the advantages of smart drugs, misuse of them, is important for the evolution of thinking about the responsible and considered use of cognitive enhancers.


I want to wrap up this conversation on the glittering but often unfocused world of nootropics, or brain-boosting supplements, aka ‘smart drugs’, which have drawn a lot of buzz for their prospective ability make it easier for us to concentrate on work, memorize what we’re laboring over, and perhaps even feel a little more calm. Nootropics are seductive – but remember that not everything that glitters is gold. To use nootropics wisely, do your research, understand what you are putting into your body, and ideally have a conversation with your doctor before you dive in. Nootropics can feel like that Lego set. For the picture on the box, you are going to need all the pieces in the right place. So, is it all unwelcome news? Not really. Nootropics could bolster brainpower, especially if you take the time on your own to be smart about supplements.