When I heard about smart pills for the first time, I had an ocean of questions flooding my mind.
Can a simple pill make somebody smart? Do drugs boost our cognitive skills? Is it true that a tiny capsule sharpens memory power? Isn’t the idea of a simple pill making you smarter than usual enticing?
Well, it can be. Schools and colleges are no wonder hectic and stressful. Reports suggest that stress induced by educational institutions account for 90% of the total stress in a student’s life. Hence, to cope up with stress and pace up with academics the idea of ‘smart pills’ can be luring.
According to various researches and studies,, the intake of smart pills to elevate academic performance can be counted as one of the current trends. Just like people gulp down extra-large mugs of coffee to keep themselves alert and energetic, students intake these smart pills to boost their academic performance.
These smart pills are in huge demand for their apparent ability to boost cognitive skills like memory power, concentration, etc. But the question is what exactly are these pills and whether they actually work or not. What is ‘Smart Pills’ or ‘Nootropics’?
“Smart” Pills to make you “Smarter!”
The term smart pills refer to pills that are believed to boost cognitive skills. Cognition is the way in which we acquire, process and store information, so these drugs promise better memorization and attention abilities. These pills may include biosensors or image, pH or chemical sensors. These pills travel all the way down along the gastrointestinal tract, when swallowed. They try to procure information that is otherwise hard to obtain and get easily terminated from the system.
Smart pills are technically known as ‘Nootropics’. They are ingested in the form of drugs, supplements or other substances, which claim to improve cognitive functions like executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation in healthy individuals. Nootropics is derived from Greek which means ‘mind-turning.”
Types of Nootropics
Nootropics fall into two broad categories:
- Natural nootropics – These are natural elements like herbs and plant extracts that have been evaluated for their ability to enhance cognition. These substances are not regulated by the FDA and are restricted from making certain claims. Ex- Caffeine, Lion Mane’s Mushroom, L- theanine, etc.
- Synthetic smart drugs – These are pharmaceutical agents that can have a strong effect on mental functions. They often require a prescription and are used under medical supervision. Ex- Modafinil, Noopept, etc.
Be it synthetic or natural nootropics, the category you should opt for will depend on your personal goals. To find the right solution for you, you’ll need to research about the ingredients and compositions of the pills and their functioning.
Most of these artificially synthesized nootropics have been used more in the past for different purposes than their medicinal counterparts. Pharmaceuticals or the ‘smart drugs’ are considered to be the most effective ones among all the nootropics’ categories available in the market.
Nonetheless, these medicines can have serious impacts and side effects if not taken under proper medical consultation.
The side effects of Nootropics
Studies and researches have proved that Nootropics actually do what they claim to and show great results. But every good thing in this world comes with a price.
In 2018, some nootropic supplements with misleading ingredients were found being illegally traded in the US market. In 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned manufacturers and consumers about the possible advertising fraud and marketing scams regarding the manufacture and supply of these nootropic supplements
Despite some positive results, a lot of studies find no effects of enhancers in healthy subjects. For instance, although some studies suggest moderate enhancing effects in well-rested subjects, modafinil mostly shows enhancing effects in cases of sleep deprivation. According to a recent study by Martha Farah and colleagues, it was concluded that Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) had only small effects on cognition while users believed that their performance was enhanced when compared to placebo.
The use of these smart pills by healthy individuals in the absence of a medical supervision have given rise to numerous controversial issues, including the ethics and fairness of their use, concerns over adverse effects, and the diversion of prescription drugs for non-medical uses. Nonetheless, the international sales of cognition-enhancing supplements have continued to grow over time, exceeding $1 billion in 2015.
Furthermore, the cognitive enhancing effects of stimulant drugs mostly depend on baseline performance. People with low baseline cognitive abilities experience enhanced stimulant performance, whilst those who are already at optimum experience impaired performance.
Clearly, these drugs are beneficial in treating cognitive dysfunction in patients with Alzheimer’s, ADHD or schizophrenia, but it’s unlikely that today’s smart pills offer significant cognitive benefits to healthy users. However, smart pills are probably considered less effective than exercising or getting a good night’s sleep.
So, what is the best smart pill available in the market?
The best smart pill
The best smart pill with no consequences or side effects is the one that is readily available and is extremely affordable. And it is none other than ‘Sleep’! Sleep is the most underrated drug that is often ignored by every individual. It has been proved that during sleep, the brain and the cranial nerves repair themselves and our memories are consolidated (fixed and processed). Sleep does not only boost the memory power, but also sharpens it.
Lack of sleep exhausts our energy making us feel distracted and zoned out. It disrupts those hours during which our body heals and repairs itself. Furthermore, an improper diet and lack of exercise also contributes to the deterioration of our cognitive skills. Both drugs and “natural” enhancers produce similar physiological changes in the brain, including the increased blood flow and neuronal growth in structures such as the hippocampus. Therefore, it is advisable to use cognitive enhancers like nootropics but not at the cost of our health and well-being.
If you want to enhance or improve your memory, make sure to grab an eight hour sound sleep at night!