Since the 1960′s when many new age drugs were brought to birth, people have been under the illusion that using drugs can make you smarter – than you already are. A range of products ranging from drugs to nutritional supplements, called nootropics (mind bending/ turning) can be obtained for the purpose of making your brain more active. As such they are sought out by students, and people who want to enhance their cognitve functioning.
Piracetam was invented in the 1960′s, one of a number of drugs in the racetam class that are believed to enhance memory, recognition, intelligence and learning ability. The drug remains popular. Although its precise mechanism is not known it is believed to enhance neurotransmitter function in the brain. In various tests, piracetam has been shown to produce slightly improved responses in people administered with the drug over a period of time, in some areas of mental function.
In the US, Piracetam is not approved as a dietary supplement and in Canada has no Drug Identification Number. Although widely available in Europe, in North America Piracetam and similar drugs are imported by mail order, being widely promoted and sold on internet.
Approved drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil (Provigil) are commonly used by students, shift workers, academics and in the military to ward off drowsiness caused by inadequate sleep. These drugs were originally invented to treat disorders such as narcolepsy, attention deficits and dementia.
While the risks and efficacy of the relevant dietary supplements, and performance enhancing drugs have not been extensively studied, claims are made that modafinil improves planning and problem solving skills, and memory, with Ritalin improving the working memory.
Other experts claim that hard work, physical exercise or a cup of coffee will achieve much the same results – no dietary product or drug will actually make you into a genius if you are not one already.
A writer for the Huffington Post wrote in detail about some personal testing that he did with Provigil in 2009 – which then claimed to be Viagra for the Brain.
As an experienced journalist of many years, with a balanced perspective, a fairly routine and socially connected life Johann Hari was able to give up the benefits of Provigil that made him feel more awake – well, almost. One can see in the saving of more medication for possible “emergencies” in the future the potential of this medication to create dependence.
Many people think that Provigil has no adverse side effects – see loss of appetite as a potential bonus in that they might lose some weight. Some think that living in fear of being pursued down the road by giant lobsters, being smothered by a huge devil fish as a result of persecutory psychotic episodes is only for people who take mescaline, like Jean Paul Sartre.
However, Provigil is not for those people who have suffered psychotic episodes in the past,nor for those with current depression, or for those who suffer from mania.
Provigil induced psychosis, due a need to continue to function with inadequate sleep, is a particular risk for shift workers who use it regularly.
We need our sleep – we need to dream, we need our “patchy” times – these are the times when the body heals, integrates experience, maintains our sanity and exercises creativity.
Provigil that helps you stay awake and focus on a task, improves self motivation. However, if you combine Provigil with too much pressure, not enough nutrition and sleep, you will soon find yourself inside a mousewheel that you are unable to stop, could find yourself being chased down the street by beasts similar to Sartre’s.
Always there have been warnings about the hidden cost of smart drugs – even high doses of dietary supplements, that have a stimulant effect.
Jonah Lehrer writes for ScienceBlogs a critique of the Hari experiment – and in fact picks the problem in one.
What Hari calls his “patchy” times, when his work in not up to the mark can be seen as impediment to “getting the job done” – or as necessary periods of distractability - during which time we are more focused on the business of “living”.
Putting all of our eggs into one basket in terms of creativity, drive, purpose and satisfaction is a recipe for disaster - we are meant to eat, to sleep, to relax and socialize – sit with time on our hands – not inclined to be “doing”.
As Mark Twain puts it – sometimes I sit and think – sometimes I just sit. How many people today understand the importance of just “being” – particularly those who don’t value themselves – except in terms of what they are “doing”.
Significantly, those in society who seem to see the most value in using smart pills are those most determined to get results – despite conflict with “feelings”. Those who deny feelings to achieve outcomes put at risk their physical health and balance of mind, those who use drugs to do it, intensify the problem.
People who see the ‘demands of duty” more or less as commands, who see in themselves inadequacy, the risk of possible failure to perform are those at the greatest risk of using smart drugs to the point of exhaustion, depletion and illness.
Comprehensive alcohol and drug addiction recovery programs provide nurture and ego support - to help you get in touch with your feelings, sort your demons out.
Gradually, naturally, without use of drugs, people find their way back into balance, happiness and good health.
Graduates emerge confident and serene. drug and addiction free – able to apply themselves to a task as required – and take time out as needed.