What if I were to tell you that the pills Bradley Cooper took in Limitless (2011) actually exist? Of course, the concept was slightly exaggerated on the big screen, but the reality is not so far behind either. And if you’ve no idea what I’m referring to, let’s catch up to the plot. Our protagonist, played by Bradley Cooper, comes across this drug that enables him to activate 100% of his brain function with a pill. It’s a science fiction thriller, so I’m sure you can assume a million ways how this movie concludes; the pills he took causes trouble eventually. But yes, there are “smart drugs” that go by the name “nootropics“, and they’re used to enhance brain performance by boosting your cognitive abilities such as memory, focus, attention, motivation, etc.
Diving into the New Tropics – The Nootropics
There are prescription nootropics such as Adderall, Ritalin, etc. which are used to counteract the symptoms of mental conditions such as ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, or Narcolepsy. However, illicit use of these drugs to boost the brainpower of healthy individuals can get risky, and cause adverse effects. They’ve also shown to impair the cognitive function if used for non-medical purposes, and can induce psychosis when taken in high doses.
Over the past decade, a lot of students have chased ADHD drugs to strengthen their concentration powers. While there’s evidence that these drugs can improve your focus and concentration with or without ADHD, they can cause hallucinations, insomnia, heart trouble, seizures, and sudden death.
Non-prescription substances are those that cannot treat diseases, but are used to improve brain performance, such as caffeine. Chemically known as 1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine, or caffeine, is known to boost cognition by increasing alertness. Although there was a time when caffeine was considered harmful, there’s strong evidence that suggests that it’s more beneficial than harmful when consumed in moderation.
Our brains can change or reorganize itself in response to various intrinsic or extrinsic factors, through Neuroplasticity. This indicates that our brains have an intense potential to enhance its functions by medical or other kinds of interventions. Psychotherapy is one such intervention that has been able to induce structural changes in the brain. Other interventions include mindfulness, meditation etc.
However, if you’re in search of a way to improve your brain power that’s 100% safe, consider exercise and nutrition, because they play an extremely important role in neuroplasticity. Vitamins such as B6 and B12, phenethylamine that’s found in chocolate, I-theanine found in caffeine and green tea are some examples. Regular exercise demands more efforts than popping a pill, however it is the safest way to strengthen your brain function.
Where Do We Conclude, Then?
There’s a severe dearth of research, trials, and regulations on Nootropics that compel researchers to say that till date, there’s no such “safe” drug that’ll fuel your brainpower without causing any side effect. You might come across some very promising drugs with genuine performance-related results, but they only provide a short-term mental that’ll end up harming your brain, or your health in the long run. The smartest decision to make your neurons smart would be to indulge into mindfulness practices, a Sudoku or two, and nutritious meals every day.