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Potential dangers of smart drugs: What should we consider before using them?


Nootropics, also known as smart drugs and cognitive enhancers, are drugs, supplements, and other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. The use of cognition-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals in the absence of a medical indication is one of the most debated topics among neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and physicians which span a number of issues, including the ethics and fairness of their use, concerns over adverse effects, and the diversion of prescription drugs for nonmedical uses, among others.

Smart drugs help to promote wakefulness and alertness in patients with narcolepsy or shift work disorder. Fatigue and depression are also can be treated. They are also assumed to treat ADD, ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia1 by some researchers; though no concrete evidence has yet been provided.

Factors influencing the dangers

There are some factors to consider when thinking about potential dangers of nootropics. Perhaps the two biggest dangers to consider are the: brain development of the user as well as the dosage that a person is taking. Other secondary factors are listed below.

1.Brain development (Age): During critical stages of brain development such as the teenage years, it is unknown as to whether consistent nootropic usage would be detrimental. Some speculate that nootropics are unlikely to cause any harm and may actually improve brain development. Others believe that the brain may become dependent on the substance and may rely on the drug for functioning rather than creating new adaptations associated with new experiences.

2.Dosage: Nootropic effects can vary drastically based on the dose that a person takes. When certain nootropics are taken at high doses (e.g. Provigil) they have been found to stimulate areas of the brain involved in substance abuse and dependence. Each specific nootropic has recommended guidelines for dosing.

3.Duration: The longer you use a nootropic (or any substance) the greater the potential it has to alter your brain function. Those that use nootropics for an extended period of time may come to realize that they are dependent on the substance for functioning – especially if they use it on a daily basis. Using a substance daily for years straight teaches your brain and nervous system to become reliant on it in order to function.

4.Frequency of usage: Some people use nootropics on an “as-needed” basis to help them in a pinch when they need to maximize productivity to finish projects before a deadline. Others may use them to give them a cognitive boost when jetlagged or after getting a bad night’s sleep. Infrequent usage of nootropics probably is likely to carry considerably less danger than daily usage.

The dangers that are there for an unsupervised intake:

1.Brain chemistry alterations: Based on brain scans, it is clear that certain nootropics are capable of altering the way the brain works. Some researchers even speculate that certain regions may shrink or expand based on nootropic usage.

2.Cognitive deficits: Some experts have compared the usage of nicotine to other nootropics in suggesting that long-term consistent usage may lead to cognitive deficits.

3.Dependence: There have been user reports of long-term nootropic usage, some of which state that they can no longer perform cognitively demanding tasks without them.

4.Neurotransmission: The neurotransmission in your brain is very delicate and influenced by many factors. Taking a drug or supplement over an extended period is likely going to deplete certain neurotransmitters.

5.Side effects: Nootropics are not substances devoid of side effects – anything that influences neurotransmission is going to have side effects. Many of the side effects a person experiences are based on the individual. That said, these effects may include: migraines, dizziness, headaches, skin rashes, and in some cases – may be life threatening.

6.Withdrawal: With nootropics, many believe that there won’t be any withdrawal symptoms. But smart drugs are like any other addictive drugs that are responsible for the brain to function at an altered rate. When the smart drugs are taken away from the picture, the brain and the nervous system take actions in the form of withdrawals to get back to their default state. Proper care must be taken to overcome these phases, with the help of professionals and our near and dear ones.


While research is still being done on the effects of smart drugs, we can all agree that excess and abuse of anything is bad. And the dangers on smart drugs could be even severe since it is our CPU we are talking about. If you plan on using nootropics, it is best to proceed with caution as well as a healthy degree of skepticism regarding their long-term safety. Any symptoms of danger that arise, should be dealt with seriously and taken professional help whenever needed.


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