This is not medical advice. I am not a doctor. It is your sole responsibility to consult with a physician before consuming any cognitive enhancing drugs, prescription or over the counter. It is also your responsibility to understand your local laws regarding obtaining prescription drugs. This information is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
Cognitive enhancement is becoming a hot topic, in large part due to the growing research on nootropics and their positive effects. Then there’s the drug Modafinil, which had been a well-kept secret shared by entrepreneurs in online forums, that is getting more publicity thanks to bloggers like myself.
Of course Adderall has been around for years. There are countless others, as well, that have come and gone.
In this article I’m only going to be focusing on cognitive enhancers that I actually have experience with myself. I’ll break down and compare their benefits, side effects and my final take on each one.
You might think it is hypocritical to promote a healthy lifestyle and then go and talk about prescription drugs. Well, I feel it would be hypocritical not to be upfront and honest about it.
If you found my site then you are most likely looking to get more out of life. You’re looking to better yourself, accomplish more and be a top performer.
Top performers are competitive and are willing to push the boundaries.
Whether you are blind to the fact, or just in denial, people have a desire to increase their mental performance. My goal is to help people make better decisions about approaching cognitive enhancement.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am more concerned about the effects a substance has on my body than whether it is labeled “natural” or not. That goes for food, supplements and prescription drugs.
I’m not trying to give advice. There is a lot of terrible advice on the internet already.
I’m offering open and honest discussion about my experiences. My hope is that you can learn something from what I share and make more informed decisions for yourself.
Now let’s get started.
The first smart drug I’m going to talk about is Adderall, because it is the most common.
I never had an interest in taking Adderall when I was in high school. I wasn’t interested in it during college at first either. It wasn’t until towards the end of my college career that I decided to cross over to the dark side. Those last few semesters I was working 30 hours a week and taking 19-21 hours a semester.
I was struggling to keep up with my classes.
Anyone who’s been on a college campus knows that it’s harder to get an ibuprofen for a headache than it is to get Adderall. Doctor’s prescribe that drug so liberally you’d swear it prevented cancer.
Now I want to go on record saying right from the start that I DO NOT recommend Adderall. I think it’s a nasty drug and personally I would never take it again. That being said, let’s get into the details.
Also, I’m not going to list these based on what I read on WebMD or anything like that. These are based solely on what I have experienced. They could be different from what you or other users experience.
- Increase in focus
- Increase in energy
- Increase in attention to detail
Adderall Side Effects
- Decrease in appetite
- General hangover feeling when the drug wears off
My Take on Adderall
There’s a reason college campuses are flooded with this stuff, it works. When I took notes in class, I would jot down a few things here and there. However, when I took notes in class on Adderall – my notepad looked like the work of a mad scientist. What would maybe be half a page of notes turned into 3 pages with notes all along the sides and annotated footnotes.
With Adderall I could study for hours on end without even thinking of taking a break or slowing down.
That being said, I don’t think the benefits are worth the side effects. You’ll understand why I say this more when I talk about the other cognitive enhancers.
I always became dehydrated and experienced bad headaches with it. In general, it made me feel like crap and that’s why my use was limited to maybe 10 times max.
People often refer to Adderall as smart pills, but they do not actually make you smarter. They don’t increase your ability to memorize information.
Adderall is an incredibly strong amphetamine. The reason you can study for hours on end is because you are using a very powerful stimulant. I never felt any smarter while using it, but I didn’t feel any dumber either.
Knowing that I was basically taking Meth in a pill makes me feel foolish though.
You already know my stance on Adderall, but I know there’s a good chance you’ve made up your mind that you’re going to use it anyway. So I’m going to share my experience on dosages and you can do what you want with that information.
There are two types of Adderall – the instant release tabs and extended release capsules (known as Adderall XR). The XR capsules are much stronger and the effect typically lasted between 8-12 hours for me.
These gave me the worst side effects though. I felt miserable when it wore off. I really don’t see how people take those on a regular basis.
My preference was the 20 mg tablets that you could break in half. The tablet lasts about 4 hours.
I’m a big fan of the minimum effective dose theory. That means I prefer to take the lowest amount possible to achieve the desired effect I’m looking for.
So for a shorter study session I would just take half. Then if I wanted a longer study session, I would take the second half about 3.5 hours after the first one. I found that to work best to avoid any spikes or crashes in focus or energy.
The side effects with the tablets were much less pronounced for me. Also, because you can break them up I felt like I had much more control over the timing of the positive effects. (Yes you can split the capsules open, but dealing with those beads is a pain in the ass)
Whichever you decide to use, be sure to stay hydrated. I found that when I drank lots of water and some Gatorade that the side effects were minimized.
I don’t think you should use Adderall on a regular basis. I know that’s not what the drug dealer (or doctor, as they are commonly known) will tell you, but that’s my take.
Health risks aside, I’ve yet to see someone use it on a regular basis and not become somewhat dependent on it. That defeats the purpose in my opinion.
Also, if you are in college there’s a good chance you consume alcohol. Adderall and alcohol is a bad combination. When you mix alcohol with any amphetamine you are risking death, even if they aren’t consumed at the same time. It’s not worth the risk.
Personally, I would never use Adderall again and I don’t recommend it. However, I can’t deny that it is cheap, readily available and effective for what it does.
Just know what you are getting – increased alertness, energy and focus – not increased motivation or memory retention/recall.
I don’t think the general public is very familiar with Modafinil yet, but I predict that this drug will replace Adderall on college campuses in the next 5-10 years.
The story of how I discovered this wonderful cognitive enhancer is similar to others I’ve read online.
It started a few years ago when I watched the movie Limitless. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick synopsis:
The main character, Bradley Cooper, is given this secret drug called NZT-48 that allows his brain to function at a higher capacity than humanly possible. This gives him the ability to recall memories from any book, movie or conversation he ever had in his life. Also, he is able to read, learn and think at an accelerated rate. This results in him using his intelligence to completely transform his life – going from being a loser to an overnight success.
Like most people who want to improve mental performance, I was fascinated by this imaginary drug NZT-48. So, of course, when I finished the movie I went straight to Google to find out if something like it existed.
It took some investigating, but I eventually found it – Modafinil!
Not really as powerful as NZT-48, but the closest real-life equivalent.
Unlike now, there was very little information available online about Modafinil. The information I did find made me skeptical. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Not only that, but it was harder to get at the time. Doctors were reluctant to prescribe it and even if you got a prescription it was very expensive. Most docs will prescribe the brand name Provigil (Modafinil is the generic) and it is most commonly prescribed for Narcolepsy.
The alternative would be to order Modafinil online from a sketchy foreign pharmacy, illegally.
So decided it wasn’t worth it and moved on. I had almost forgotten about it until late last year. I was talking to my girlfriend about that movie and I mentioned that there was a real life NZT-48. I couldn’t remember the name, so I looked it up again.
Well, a lot had changed since the last time I read about Modafinil. There was a lot more information available. That’s when I decided to make my first Modafinil purchase.
- Increased focus
- Increased motivation
- Increase resistance to fatigue
- Improved brain function
Modafinil Side Effects
- Lack of appetite (I’ve only felt this mildly)
- Insomnia if taken too late in the day
- Increased irritability
- Nausea (I’ve never experienced this)
My Experience With Modafinil
First I’ll address what most people are concerned about, the side effects.
I have really only experienced a couple of side effects from Modafinil.
The first one is a headache that comes after the drug wears off. I’ve found this happens whenever I’ve been working at the computer all day or on days where I didn’t drink enough water.
I don’t see a significant decrease in appetite. Sometimes I become so laser-focused on what I’m doing that I don’t think about anything else, including eating or drinking. However, I have a tendency to do that with or without Modafinil. I have no problem eating normal meals while on Modafinil and getting right back to work.
I also haven’t experienced insomnia from Modafinil because I always take it early in the morning.
The most common side effect I experience is increased irritability, but it isn’t general grouchiness. It is very specific.
I am agitated very easily by anything that gets in the way of me getting work done. I typically don’t like when people or random events distract me, but it’s on another level with Modafinil.
If someone is wasting my time, even for only a few minutes, it pisses me off! Which leads me to the good parts of Modafinil.
The focus and motivation while on Modafinil is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Many people take the full 200 mg dose, but 100 mg is all I’ve ever taken. Again, this goes back to working with the minimum effective dose. Even 50 mg is enough to get a slight boost, but I prefer 100 mg to get the effect I want.
I don’t ever take Modafinil on back to back days. I’ve found that you build a tolerance quickly and I don’t want to have to increase the dose. If I want to use it throughout the week, I take it on a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule.
I’ve read through many Modafinil reviews online and have found that most people share the same experience that I have regarding tolerance.
Typically I take 100 mg before hopping into the shower. By the time I get ready and sit down at my desk, I’m ready to go! It’s not a central nervous stimulant, so it doesn’t kick in abruptly. When it kicks in though, you feel it.
For me I get an incredible amount of focus and motivation. My mind is operating on all cylinders. I’m clear minded and recall memories easily.
I would describe the energy boost as more of a feeling of being awake and well-rested, not super energized. This is one big benefit in my opinion. It’s smooth, consistent and predictable. Exactly what I want.
When it starts to wear off, it gradually fades away for me. No crash. Only a slight headache afterwards sometimes, depending on what I was doing while on Modafinil. Staring intently into a computer screen for hours on end will give you a headache no matter what.
The downsides to Modafinil are that it is expensive and hard to get. Some doctors are reluctant to prescribe it because there were instances of Olympic athletes using it as a performance enhancing drug in the past. Technically, they are only supposed to prescribe it if you have Narcolepsy I believe.
However, if you find the right doc they will prescribe it if you complain about fatigue. I recommend you get Modafinil from a doctor, because it is illegal to possess without a prescription in the United States.
That being said, I can’t stop you if you are going to find other ways to acquire it.
I have to say, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with Modafinil. The positive effects far outweigh the negative effects and I’ve seen no signs that it would be habit-forming. (However, I’ve never found any substance addictive so I can’t guarantee how it will affect you)
In fact, I’m on Modafinil right now. I don’t take it 3x a week anymore, just on days when I want to be most productive.
Although Modafinil is a nootropic, I want to talk exclusively about the stuff you can legally buy without a prescription.
These are my go-to cognitive enhancers. I take some form of nootropic on most days. If you aren’t familiar with nootropics, I wrote an introductory article you should check out.
Nootropics are a class of drugs and not one specific thing. They range from herbal extracts to amino acids to synthetic compounds.
In my opinion, over the counter nootropics are the best place to start if you are interested in furthering your personal cognitive enhancement research.
Benefits of Nootropics
- Increase in focus
- Increase in memory retention and memory recall
- Protect the brain against various physical and chemical injuries
- Decrease in anxiety
- Decrease in stress
- Extremely low toxicity
Side Effects of Nootropics
To be classified as a nootropic, the compound must technically have very little to no side effects. The only side effects I have ever experienced are mild headaches. Again, I’m not sure if this is from working in front of a computer for hours on end or from the nootropics.
Please note, nootropics are relatively new and have not been studied extensively yet. There’s not enough information to guarantee they are 100% safe. Just because I haven’t experienced any bad side effects, doesn’t mean you won’t. Please be responsible.
My Experience With Nootropics
I’m a big fan of nootropics. As far as we know, they are safe and they work.
More importantly, there is a nice variety of what you can do with them. As far as cognitive enhancement goes, there is a nootropic for everything.
There are specific nootropics that aid in focus, memory retention, anti-anxiety, relaxtion, and just about anything else you can imagine regarding cognitive function.
There’s an awesome guide on Reddit that goes into great detail about nootropics. I suggest you go there if you want to really learn all of the details about these smart drugs.
Most people buy Nootropics in bulk powder form and make their own custom “stacks”, or blends.
If mixing powders isn’t your thing, you can always buy a pre-made formula. There aren’t very many good ones out there to be honest. I like Alpha Brain best, if you’re looking for an alternative to Adderall or Modafinil. Alpha Brain is very mild in comparison to those drugs and frankly, is mild in comparison to making your own nootropic stack. However, it’s convenient.
If you really want to experience what nootropics have to offer, you need to make your own custom stacks. I’ll share a few to get you started.
Beginner Nootropic Stacks
These should be a starting point for you. To get the most of these compounds you need to experiement with different doses and take notes. Find out what works for you. I suggest you always start with a low dose and increase it slowly to find the sweet spot.
Don’t start out with 4-5 different compounds at once either, or you won’t know which compound is doing what. Start with 1-2 and find the dose you like with those. Then add 1 at a time. Always do your research to find out how different compounds react with each other.
Caffeine and Theanine – For a Quick Boost in Energy and Focus
This is the most basic stack for increased alertness and focus. It’s affordable and effective.
You want to keep a 2:1 ratio of Theanine to Caffeine.
Dose: 100 mg Caffeine, 200 mg Theanine. That’s a good amount to start with, then some people will choose to double that dose.
These compounds work well together because Theanine decreases the negative side effects of Caffeine. Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in tea leaves that has an anti-anxiety effect and helps prevent the “jitters” and increased anxiety from Caffeine.
Aniracetam and Alpha GPC – Get a Mental Edge and Boost in Mood
Combining a Racetam and Choline source is one of the most popular stacks. The Racetam and Choline source you choose is up to you. Everyone reacts differently to Racetams, which is why you should experiment and start with small doses. I like Aniracetam best of the Racetam family and Alpha GPC for a choline source.
Dose: 750 mg Aniracetam, 300 mg Alpha GPC. Most people will move up to 1500 mg of Aniracetam. You’ll also need a fat source because Aniracetam is fat soluble. So you can either eat a fat source around the same time or take a couple of Fish Oils.
Aniracetam is great because it:
- Has an anti-anxiety effect that boosts mood
- Promotes the formation of new synapses
- Increases memory retention
- Boots creativity
- Makes vision more clear and vivid
- Is great for social confidence because it improves verbal fluency
Alpha GPC benefits include:
- Improved memory and learning
- Enhanced concentration, focus and clarity
- Increased mental energy and sharpness
- Protects neurons in the brain from damage
5-HTP , Valerian Root and Melatonin – To relax, ease stress/anxiety and promote higher quality sleep
5-HTP alone is great to relax and boost your mood. However, if you want to boost your sleep quality and fall asleep faster then adding the other two compounds can be very beneficial.
Dose: 100 mg 5-HTP, 20 mg Valerian Root, and 5 mg Melatonin. You will need to experiment with timing to see what works for you. I take it about 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
You can take the 5-HTP and Melatonin anytime to relax and ease stress without falling asleep. However, the Valerian Root is more sedative and can make you drowsy.
I’m a big fan of 5-HTP for its anti-stress and anti-anxiety effects. 5-HTP is a direct precursor of serotonin, which aids in a positive mood and relaxation.
Those should get you started. I’ll do more posts on specific stacks in the future so stay tuned.
My Preferred Nootropic Source
The source I use is PowderCity.com. (Formally known as Health Supplement Wholesalers.)
The most important thing to me is that they do 3rd-party lab testing on all of their Nootropics. This is crucial because there are a lot of sources that are not selling what they claim to be. Top notch quality is absolutely mandatory for me.
I’ve found the customer service to be great – never had any issues with an order and they always ship quickly. I haven’t shopped around in a while, but I’ve found their prices to be the best or among the best for everything. So that’s a plus.
Everyone always wants to know how each of these smart drugs stack up against each other. Every person’s experience is slightly different, but I’ll compare them based on what I’ve found.
Adderall vs Modafinil
It bothers me that these 2 drugs are compared so often, because I feel they are very different. Adderall is just a dirty drug in my opinion. It is harsh on the body and it feels harsh on the body.
When Adderall kicks in you feel a strong Euphoric rush that is followed with several hours of feeling wired. Then when it wears off, there is a hard crash.
Modafinil kicks in smoothly, stays consistent throughout the day and ends with a soft landing. While on Modafinil I actually feel better. It gives an overall feeling of well-being. It’s the complete opposite of Adderall in that regard, for me at least.
Adderall might be cheaper and easier to obtain, but that is irrelevant to me. I care about what the substance is doing in my body.
So, for me, there is no comparison. Modafinil wins, hands-down.
Modafinil vs OTC Nootropics
Modafinil is called the “King of Nootropics” for a reason. It really is the best – if you are trying to improve mental performance throughout the day.
A good Racetam and Choline stack can provide a similar experience, but it doesn’t last as long and takes a little bit more work.
Then there’s the issue of buying Modafinil. Getting a prescription can be tricky sometimes and it is very expensive. Of course, there’s the illegal route (buying from an overseas pharmacy) that many people simply won’t feel comfortable with. This is why Nootropics make a great alternative to Modafinil.
Also, you can do a lot more in terms of what benefits you are looking for with Nootropics. So for me this is a tie. It’s not like you have to pick one or the other. Most people that start experimenting with cognitive enhancement like to use both at different times.
If you’re like me, you want to push yourself and have an edge over the competition. That’s awesome! Just remember to be safe and be smart. Do your research! I’ve provided a lot of information here, but there is much more to learn.
If you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email. Also, if you head over to Reddit there is a great Nootropic community with plenty of people willing to answer specific questions you might have.
Remember to start small and work your way up. Always opt for the minimum effective dose. When you find what works for you, stick to it.
Until Next Time,
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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