Do Smart Drugs (Nootropics) Improve One’s Intelligence?


Nootropics are drugs that boost creativity and memory and facilitate better decision-making skills. If you search for nootropics, you will find ample OTC and prescription-based products sold online and in stores. Some popular brain-boosting supplements include food-derived nutrients, lipids, antioxidants, and phytochemicals backed by science to promote healthy brain function. Another example is omega-3 and flavonoids. Although eating fatty fish may be suitable for your brain, these supplements don’t do the job regarding cognitive benefits.


Dr. David Hoga, author of a 2015 review of nutrients and dietary supplements, does not find convincing evidence to link them with cognitive performance. While there are mechanisms linking these supplements with better brain function, supplements alone cannot replicate the complexity of natural food. Even if you consume these foods naturally, their cognitive benefits can only be experienced when you take them for an extended period.

Smart drugs and Abuse

Certain pharmaceutical products can also be qualified as nootropics. For the last 20 years, many people have turned to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications like Adderall and Ritalin to benefit from these drugs’ concentration-improvement effects. While some evidence claims these stimulants improve focus in people with ADHA, they are also linked to potential side effects such as insomnia, hallucination, seizures, heart issues, and even death, as per a 2012 review published in the Journal of Brain and Behavior. Plus, ADHD medications are highly addictive, so you cannot take them for a long time without developing debilitating drug dependency and potential harm to your health.

Many prescription drugs seem promising, and consuming them may get a short-term brain boost, but it could end up harming your brain in the long run. Researchers believe there are no such drugs that instantly make you intelligent or smart. These medications make you feel energetic, alert, and less anxious.

We have listed some of the most frequently used nootropics, including wakeful-promoting drugs like Modafinil and the racetam class of drugs.

Listed below is the type of nootropics available in the market

Below is a brief overview of some more frequently used nootropics, including wakefulness-promoting agents such as Modafinil and several in the racetam class of drugs.


A more recent study discovered the excellent brain-boosting drug Modafinil sold under the brand name Provigil, which became an instant choice for a significant number of Americans. Actually, Modafinil is FDA approved for treating excessive sleepiness or narcolepsy associated with OSA, shift work disorder, and RLS. Although FDA doesn’t recognize it as a cognitive enhancement drug, most users worldwide take Modafinil off-label. A 2017 study found a link between Modafinil and brain connectivity.


Modafinil is often compared with amphetamines, but as per overall consensus, it clears your mind without putting it in a fast gear. The same cannot be said for amphetamines. That’s why one rarely sees severe side effects or withdrawal syndrome after taking Modafinil. However, there are potential side effects of Modafinil, such as headache, anxiety, and insomnia. However, these side effects usually disappear when the drug leaves the system. Plus, insomnia was only seen in people who had taken more than the recommended dosage at the wrong time. This is because Modafinil can last up to 12 hours, and if you take it in the afternoon, you will probably struggle to fall asleep as the drug will still be in the system.


Piracetam is a cognitive enhancement nootropic used for treating cognitive functions in older people. It works by enhancing the fluidity of cell plasma membranes and mitochondrial function to improve cognition and prevent dementia. However, this medication is not FDA approved in the US for medical treatment.


It is a synthetic derivative of Piracetam and is considered the second most widely used nootropic in the Racetam family. It is known to enter the bloodstream quickly and aids in increasing creativity. Reports show that this drug is helpful for children with down syndrome. However, no enhanced cognitive function was noticed in children with down syndrome.


Oxiracetam is another medication from the racetam family used for recovery from neurological trauma. It is also known to improve long-term memory in people. Oxiracetam, as a cognitive enhancement drug, aids in improving attention span, learning capacity, sensory perception, and focus. As a stimulant, it increases your mental energy, alertness, and motivation.

Ginsenoside Rg1

It is a molecule found in the ginseng plant and is being researched for its nootropic properties. It is known to increase learning ability and memory power by speeding up neural development in individuals. It works on the NMDA receptors and nitric oxide synthase, which plays a significant role in personal and emotional intelligence.

Limitations of Nootropics 

The lack of research in this field is the major drawback of nootropics. The aim of the research should be focused on finding a drug that can increase mental ability and intelligence capacity without any side effects or toxicity. Ingredients used in these drugs may be known for their cognitive-enhancement effects, but randomized controlled trials of these effects on cognitive enhancement remain sparse.

Another issue is substance abuse and dependence. It is known that people with a history of mental or substance abuse are more vulnerable to the side effects of nootropics. This is why people must take these medicines only under the strict guidance of a medical professional.

Note: Nootropics are either taken alone or with a combination of other nootropics. The compounds used in these drugs can be natural or synthetic. 

We haven’t included psychostimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin. This is because illegal usage of these drugs for something they are not intended for can come at a considerable price, including severe side effects and addiction. 

Most nootropics mentioned in the list are not approved for use as medical drugs or dietary supplements in the US. Due to a lack of regulation and inconsistent clinical research, we suggest you consult a physician before taking any of these medicines. 

Which smart drug is the best for improving cognitive intelligence?

Of all the above-listed medicines, Modafinil remains the safest and most potent solution to improve cognitive intelligence. Also known as the genius pill, Modafinil is the only drug that has passed rigorous tests of cognitive enhancement, according to a Scientific American Journal.

Preclinical evidence also suggests Modafinil enhances experience-dependent synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis, besides offering behavioral and cognitive benefits(Minzenberg and Carter, 2008). Neuroplasticity refers to the phenomenon where our brain changes and reorganizes itself in response to an intrinsic or extrinsic factor. It can help individuals to engage thoughtfully and contribute to overall well-being.

Ref. Links

Cognitive enhancers – Alcohol and Drug Foundation (

Nootropics, or ‘Smart Drugs,’ Are Gaining Popularity. Should You Take Them? | Time

Nootropics: Can a Pill Make You Smarter? (


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