An assortment of supplements and pills promising to boost brain activity and performance have been available to buy over the counter or on prescription for a number of years. 

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But addiction specialist Rehabs UK has warned that “the normalisation” of so-called nootropic products “could be fuelling a new surge in psychotropic substance addictions, with young people particularly at risk”.

So, what are nootropics?

The idea of a pill that “can supersize human intelligence” remains “decidedly science fiction”, said Time magazine. But “plenty” of professionals in drug development and research are working on nootropics, which are substances “designed to improve various aspects of cognition”. 

Roughly translated, said Time, the word nootropic is derived “from the Greek for ‘to bend or shape the mind’”. It was used in 1972, according to Live Science, by the Romanian neuroscientist Corneliu Giurgea, who discovered the “original ‘smart drug’” in the 1960s, said the BBC. Today, these products are also known as “cognition enhancers or memory enhancing substances”, noted Medical News Today

Nootropics can come as “pills, supplements and other substances”, and some of the “most popular” are a mix of “food-derived vitamins, lipids, phytochemicals and antioxidants”, said Time. Caffeine and nicotine are also common examples. 

How common are they? 

Some nootropics are available over the counter, while other medications are prescription only. 

Ritalin, a controlled medication prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), “is often abused by people seeking to improve” their mental focus, said the BBC. Modafinil has been used to treat narcolepsy since the 1990s, said Metro, and has “since become widespread for its supposed focus-enhancing effects”.

In 2016, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency warned university students about the potential risks of taking so-called “smart drugs” to boost their productivity. Research found that 14% of students surveyed were “likely” to purchase the substances during the academic year. 

In 2020, Dr Hilary McDermott at Loughborough University found that, of 506 students surveyed at 54 UK universities, 19% had taken cognitive enhancing substances. As of 2021, no universities in Britain had explicitly banned cognition enhancers, according to The Times.

How do they work and are they effective? 

Different nootropics work in different ways, including improving the brain’s supply of glucose and oxygen, protecting brain tissue from neurotoxicity, and having antihypoxic effects, a …read more

Source:: The Week – All news


Nootropics: do brain-boosting drugs work and are they safe?

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