“Smart Drugs” (Nootropics) – A Precursor to the Development of Lifestyle Dementia?

Nootropics (smart drugs, brain enhancers, mental magic) fundamentally alter brain chemistry and may be a precursor to developing lifestyle dementiaThis blog has discussed the use of drugs designed for specific kinds of attention-deficit disorders being used by people without an attention-deficit disorder for cognitive enhancement and the risk such usages portends toward an eventual development of lifestyle dementia.

Anything that alters brain chemistry (legal or illegal) introduces the risk of dementia down the road. We must understand that. It seems, however, that we – both the medical community who blithely prescribes these legal brain-altering chemical compositions and we the people, who decide for ourselves and choose to take both legal and illegal brain-altering chemical compositions because they seem to promise a short-term benefit (or because we want to numb our brains and not deal with life as it is and comes) – don’t understand that.

Or if we do understand it, then we don’t care.

Either way, when dementias develop because of our choices, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Sadly, however, our lifestyle choices will impact others: those who will handle the lion’s share of our care when we can no longer care for ourselves.

Therefore, engaging in this kind of risky lifestyle behavior highlights the selfishness and the narcissism that has infected our society almost to every single person. We don’t care how our actions, our choices, and our lifestyles affect anyone else. We don’t think about the long term or the future. Instead, everything is all about us, right here, right now, and the rest be damned.

It’s a tragic commentary on who we as the human race have become and what lies and deceit we’ve allowed into our thinking and our being that we make these dangerous, foolish, and widely-impacting lifestyle choices cavalierly and daily (although this is a single aspect of the selfishness and narcissism that the majority of us have embraced, it is plainly visible throughout every part of our lives, in our thinking, in our words, and in our actions).

Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs,” “mental magic,” or “brain enhancers,” are legal and illegal drugs that have become popular in Silicon Valley (the epicenter of global technology) and among students trying to get better grades as a lifestyle choice to do more longer, faster, and better.

Like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, the eventual outcome is not the one the promise it was offered with suggested. And the long-term deep and serious cost was, in retrospect, not worth the seeming (but short-term) gain.

Nootropics are a class of substances (both legal and illegal) that promise better and extended cognitive performance: focus, clarity, creativity, and productivity.

Modafinil, a drug used to treat narcolepsy, is a primary drug for users of nootropicsThe most common legal “smart drug” among this class of substances is modafinil, a prescription drug used to treat narcolepsy. Even among people using illegal “smart drugs,” modafinil is often used as well.

For narcoleptics, modafinil helps stave off the random-and-anywhere-anytime sleep episodes that characterize this brain disorder. For non-narcoleptics, modafinil works like amphetamines, supposedly without the negative side-effects of hyperjitteriness and susceptibility to addiction that are inherent with regular amphetamine use. For non-narcoleptics, modafinil simply enhances and prolongs wakefulness. 

sleep deprivation disrupts the body's natural circadian rhythmFor regular readers of this blog, there should be some red flags in that last paragraph. Prolonged wakefulness is one because it disrupts the body’s normal circadian rhythm and results in sleep deprivation, which is also a potential factor in the eventual development of lifestyle dementia. The other is that the “benefits” of using a nootropic like modafinil make it attractive and addictive.

Other prescription drugs in the nootropic class that are commonly used by people seeking brain enhancement and mental magic are Adderall and Ritalin.

It has become increasingly popular among these brain-enhancement and mental-magic seekers to use a cocktail of vitamin supplements, legal prescription nootropics, and illegal nootropics, easily obtained in South American countries like Columbia to try to achieve the maximum cognitive enhancement they can get.

A telling quote comes from one of the admitted “human guinea pigs” in this quest, major investor in Silicon Valley, well-known speaker, and The 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss, highlights the unknown long-term potentially harmful results – including the real possibility of lifestyle dementia – of this here-and-now holy grail choice: “Just like an Olympic athlete who’s willing to do almost anything, even if it shortens your life by five years, to get a gold medal, you’re going to think about what pills and potions you can take.”

Nootropic use is like playing a game of Russian Roulette with the brainWith all the possible factors that lead to the development of dementias all around us and over which we have no control, it is inconceivable to me that people would willingly and consciously choose to add a Russian Roulette component like nootropic use into the mix.

However, if there is one thing I’ve learned in my short time dancing on this earth, it’s that humans – and, at times, that includes me – more often than not simply don’t make sense, even with facts, knowledge, and common sense right in front of them.

I suspect that’s another undocumented feature of the lure of the promise of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There, it seems, are more of those than we can count and many of which we are unaware.




5 thoughts on ““Smart Drugs” (Nootropics) – A Precursor to the Development of Lifestyle Dementia?

  1. Well, this is very interesting to me, because I have tried to tell others about the dangerous of many of these drugs. I myself, will not take a lot of drugs doctors prescribe for me – especially when I read the side effects. When I go to the doctor and they ask me to list the drugs I am taking, I always put, None. They cannot believe in mid-life that I take nothing. People today, want that high, want to feel good, want to mask the disappointments of their lives. I do what my Mother always told me to do from the time I was a child, “Liz, square those shoulders, chin up, face the world head on, you are a strong person, don’t let the world get you down.” I worry with so much dementia in my family that my daughter may have to take care of me someday. As a caregiver to my brother for a few years I would not wish that on anyone. So, I try my best to learn what not (drugs) to fill my body with, how to eat a good diet, exercise, and keep my mind sharp by learning new things every day. Most people do not worry about a loved one having to take care of them someday. I worry very much, because I do not wish to burden anyone. Extremely good post Sandra. God will bless you for the work you are doing and for trying to educate the public about dangerous drugs and diseases.

    • You’re so right, Liz. My parents also, although both of them were medical professionals, were careful about the medications they took (my mom did extensive research for both Daddy and herself on all suggested prescriptions), and they always warned us, more than anything else, to guard our minds and to understand anything that might alter them completely.

      I am thankful for their guidance. I always – and still do – believe that my mind was and is the only thing I have going for me. Therefore, I’m not going to do anything to compromise it.

      The real tragedy here is the lack of value that many people put on their minds combined with selfishness and narcissism that leads to taking these substances that can potentially – by their choice and their decision – render them neurologically compromised and depleted. When we lose our minds, we lose everything.

  2. Pingback: A Mixture of Degenerative Neurological Changes Drives the Development of Dementia | Going Gentle Into That Good Night

  3. Pingback: The Ever-Increasing Connection Between Diabetes and Dementia | Going Gentle Into That Good Night

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