Nootropics (also referred to as smart drugs, memory enhancers, neuro enhancers, cognitive enhancers, and intelligence enhancers) are drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals, and functional foods that purportedly improve mental functions such as cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation, attention, and concentration. Nootropics are thought to work by altering the availability of the brain's supply of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones), by improving the brain's oxygen supply, or by stimulating nerve growth.
Dr. Giurgea proposed the following criteria for determining whether or not a substance fits the "nootropic" descriptor:
- Enhancement of learning and memory function
- Improvement of learned behaviours when conditions are set to disrupt them (eg. administering an amnesiac)
- Must be neuroprotective
- Must be extremely low in toxicity, with few to no side effects
Classes of nootropics
There are several classes of nootropics, as well as compounds which fit no specific classification, per se. Once of the most well-known and most-utilized is that of the racetams, the prototypical example being that of piracetam, the first nootropic recognized as such in 1964.
The racetams all share a 2-pyrrolidinone cycle. Other racetam nootropics include aniracetam, oxiracetam, phenylpiracetam, and coluracetam.
A second class of nootropic compounds is that of the synthetic peptides, the most common example being that of Noopept. Although not a racetam, Noopept is commonly grouped with racetams due to a similar mode of action, however, it does not contain a 2-pyrrolidinone moiety, and is strictly not a racetam.
Due to the fact that nootropics science is in its infancy, there are continually new compounds being synthesized such as IDRA-21, PRL-8-53, Unifiram, Sunifiram, etc. which do not neatly fit into a structural drug class. Additionally, side effects, dosages, dangerous interactions and the like are virtually unknown for some of these compounds, making investigations into their use by the average psychonaut risky.
The effects listed below are based upon the subjective effects index and personal experiences of PsychonautWiki contributors. These effects should be taken with a grain of salt and will rarely (if ever) occur all at once, but heavier doses will increase the chances of inducing a full range of effects. Likewise, adverse effects become much more likely on higher doses and may include serious injury or death. The effect is listed and defined in its own dedicated article below:
- Thought acceleration
- Thought connectivity
- Focus enhancement
- Motivation enhancement
- Memory enhancement
- Anxiety suppression (for those with anxiety)
- Nootropic (Wikipedia)
- /r/Nootropics (Reddit)
- Nootropics / Smart Drugs (Erowid)
- Nootropic (Examine.com)
- Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary | http://web.archive.org/web/20080130031824/http://www.mercksource.com/pp/us/cns/cns_hl_dorlands.jspzQzpgzEzzSzppdocszSzuszSzcommonzSzdorlandszSzdorlandzSzdmd_n_10zPzhtm
- Cognition enhancers between treating and doping the mind (ScienceDirect) | http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661808000273