The movie Limitless brought the idea of smart drugs into the mainstream. In the movie, Bradley Cooper’s character took a drug that made him incredibly smart, insanely energetic, and wildly successful. In a matter of days, he went from almost-homeless-dropout to smartest-guy-in-town.
That movie was advertised as a fantasy, but what if it wasn’t? Scientists have been working on drugs that make us smarter for more than 60 years, and that effort hasn’t gone to waste. In fact, on both the CNN and Nightline segments interviewing me about how I’ve used smart drugs, the movie Limitless was a hot topic. That’s no surprise – it’s a good bet that the producers of the film experimented with smart drugs, because some of the visual cues in the movie matched what I see on Modafinil, one of the strongest smart drugs.
Smart drugs, or nootropics, are drugs or supplements that actually enhance your cognitive function. This means that instead of just feeling jittery, you have more useful energy, and instead of just feeling energetic, you make better connections between ideas, you concentrate better, and you remember things more accurately. Let’s look at a few nootropics in more depth. Some are pharmaceutical but available without a prescription online, some are prescription, and some are nutritional supplements. I’ve used them all.
I took modafinil for 8 years, starting when I was getting my MBA while working full-time at a Silicon Valley startup. It increases your focus and ability to think about the things you want. You don’t feel racy or jittery, just more aware and attentive. Modafinil also has stress-reductive properties, which is great because it allows you to make decisions based on what’s actually the best choice, not just because of impulse. It’s pharmaceutical and controversial. Professional card counters use it, and it’s sometimes used for ADD even though it is unrelated to amphetamines like Adderall and Ritalin.
Aniracetam is one of the more common nootropics, and it works by upregulating the speed of synapse transmission in your brain, allowing your brain to send and receive messages faster. Aniracetam also slows down the rate at which those receptors become desensitized. Aniracetam is great for increasing the speed at which you make associations and the rate at which you solve problems. It is the only smart drug that increases memory I/O speed, the rate at which you can remember things. I take it daily. It’s available online without a prescription.
Choline is a vitamin naturally found at low levels in foods like eggs, but you get the best results by taking a supplement that uses multiple strategies to help your brain elevate the level of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. When you have enough acetylcholine, it can make you more creative, more focused, and better at remembering things. This supplement pairs nicely with aniracetam or piracetam, which work better when there’s more choline. There are dozens of choline stacks on the market, and all do similar things. My favorite is Choline Force. (Disclosure: I made this one!)
CILTEP® is another natural supplement that boosts the transmission of signals between neurons in your brain. It increases your attention span so that you can focus your work on the outcomes you desire. It also gives you more mental energy and motivation. Even though this supplement is all-natural, some users like it even more than modafinil, the “king of smart drugs.”
Your body produces glutathione, the master antioxidant, on its own. But with constant exposure to toxins, pollution, and other stressors, your glutathione stores get depleted easily. You need glutathione to absorb free radicals and toxins and help your body eliminate them. Even alcohol has a large impact on using up glutathione – liver damage happens when you have no more glutathione left. Supplementing with glutathione doesn’t just help you maintain physical health; it allows your brain to work better so that you can reach your optimal mental potential as well. But since it also helps your body physically, you will have more energy to do more of what you love.
Should You Try Smart Drugs?
There are plenty of studies and doctors who say these supplements only work for people with cognitive decline, but my own experience (and that of hundreds of other professionals) proves this notion wrong. If you’re interested in trying smart drugs, you may have to try a few different ones before finding your magic bullet, but odds are one exists to help you perform like never before. This is a time when you can “be your own guinea pig” and act like a biohacker – try them out and see which ones do the most to totally rock your day.