This is Part 2 of a 2 Part series on Nootropics
In this post I will cover a few exotic nootropics and then move on to discuss in more depth my work with dopaminergic agents.
The basic challenge of brain enhancement is this: to create a prolonged state of high energy, high creativity, positive mood with little or no negative side effects (including withdrawal and “crash”). In medical literature, such a state does exist naturally, in what is called “hypomania” – a symptom of Bipolar II disorder. The real challenge however is to create a sustained, objectively and subjectively positive state of hypomania without flip side of depression found in Bipolar II or the reckless psychosis of full blown “mania.”
To this end we know that cognition can be improved by piracetam. The other critical components controlled by the mind such as mood, energy, and creativity must now be addressed.
Creativity is something that there is little research on, but I suspect is actually less dangerous to seek out. The process, in theory, involves an interaction between various neurotransmitters and endogenous dimethyltryptamine. Clearly you don’t want to boost dimethyltryptamine daily, even if you could ;) That being said, meditation, yoga and dream journaling along with very occasional low doses of entheogens may hold the key to unlocking powerful creative consciousness. Feeding the brain with stimulating music, literature, movies, games, and other forms of active and passive media no doubt aids in this process. Side effects may vary.
Medical science and the pharmaceutical industry have done a great job exploring the paths to developing a sustained positive mood. Here again, exercise and meditation will go a long way, but it is seen that certain drugs such as SSRI’s, SNRI’s, and SDRI’s are quite effective in those with normally negative mood states, though they still have a number of side effects. Finally, there is the class of benzodiazapines which can control symptoms of anxiety and stress. However, these agents and quite addictive and have a negative impact on cognition. With that in mind, there is a nootropic that has similar effects to the benzodiazapines and remains somewhat habit forming, but has the key distinction of actually promoting positive boosts to cognition. This substance is called Phenibut.
Because of its tendency to be habit forming, I have used phenibut on a variable but controlled dosing schedule. That is to say, I have used it infrequently with the abuse potential in mind. The first thing I noticed about this unique substance is that it has effects similar to a benzo - it causes tiredness and acts as an anti-anxiolytic. However, it is unclear to me if the mood effects – outside of reducing anxiety – match that of a benzo and any mood effects could easily be attributed to placebo.
Another way to deal with mood and energy is to play around with dopamine. Dopamine plays a key role in reward, motivation, stress response, and energy. Because of this critical role of dopamine, modifying its levels and actions can be both very powerful and somewhat dangerous. With that said, I have experimented with dopaminergic agents and I do believe, given that we have only crude bio-chemical means to upgrade right now, these agents can be very useful when used responsibly and with caution.
The first way to modify dopamine levels and action is the broad class of stimulant drugs. Caffeine is the most well known, and I have found that caffeine is a wonderful little drug for energy and focus, but has a very high abuse potential and a negative effect on sleep . Another well known stimulant agent is Adderall, a chemical similar to amphetamine. Adderall surpasses coffee in every way except for addiction, cost, and potential cardiovascular complications.
Another often overlooked stimulant is nicotine. Unlike tobacco, nicotine is not cancer causing in anyway, but can contribute to cardiovascular damage like cigarettes do. I have tried nicotineas a cognitive enhancer, specifically in the form of “dipping tobacco.” It is disgusting, but I found it helped me bear down and focus, especially on reading dry material. I would not recommend nicotine, unless used very infrequently, as other stimulants are far better for cognition overall (though perhaps not for relaxed focus on reading), without the addictivity of nicotine. That being said, I think nicorette gum or a patch could be used with few negative side effects aside from the dangers of addiction.
Another way I tried to achieve the same effect was to reverse engineer how dopamine is produced, and come up with a way to increase it “endogenously.” I found through some discussion and research that the process was quite simple: Take L-tyrosine and B vitamins while modifying sugar intake until you hit the “sweet spot.” I have heard that you can increase the effectiveness of the sugar to energy conversion if you also use Co-enzyme Q10, but I haven’t tried this. The effects produced from this create less body tension and less mood lift, but do seem to increase energy and focus. That being said, I do not believe it is a valid substitute for more powerful, lab tested, and efficacious stimulant drug.
With all of these upgrades in mind, I believe that regardless of your supplement and lifestyle choices, the most important things for general life enhancement are diet, exercise, regular sleep patterns and the use of multivitamins. In another decade we’ll have a ton of better drugs and real technological upgrade potential to play with.
This is Part 2 of a 2 Part series on Nootropics