Why I Don’t Take Smart Drugs

smart drugs


While I’m all about self experimentation, one area that I don’t intend to explore is ‘smart drugs.’  I know it’s something that Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, and Ben Greenfield have all dabbled with, but the thought of pharmaceutically messing around with my brain is just more than I’m comfortable with.  I’m ok with coffee and tea and ketones… but that’s pretty much where I draw the line.

This article from the BBC details one journalists experience with ‘Modafinil,’

Modafinil was dubbed the “world’s first safe smart drug” by researchers at Harvard and Oxford universities who suggested its effects were “low risk” when taken in the short term. But side effects can include insomnia, headaches and potentially dangerous skin rashes, and there is a lack of long-term data.

He initially experience many of the positive benefits from the drug:

Before the pills, my attention was in the top 15-20% of people my age. After, it was in the top 5-10%.

I had certainly begun to feel more awake, and a bit less prone to frustration having taken the drug.

But then the side effects started creeping in.  He began to suffer from headaches, distractedness, loss of appetite, increased use of the bathroom, insomnia, skin problems, dehydration.  In the end he concluded that:

Overall, the negative aspects of taking the drugs far outweighed the positives – which could have been for a number of reasons.

People’s bodies react differently to chemicals and tablets, and – after speaking to my doctor – I was told my liver had released an enzyme aimed at flushing the modafinil out of my system.

Having purchased them on the internet, I could also have been taking dud pills – though Jason told me he had used the same supplier before.

In a way, I was disappointed not to have had the chance to feel the positive effects of modafinil I had heard about – but also felt a sense of relief knowing I had not been missing out.

The side effects and lack of productivity meant it was no wonder drug, and I would definitely not be tempted to try them again.

This pretty much sums up my concerns with experimenting with ‘smart drugs.’  I don’t think we know quite enough yet on how these drugs affect our brains or what the long term side effects are.  In fact that’s why I’m hesitant about taking any sorts of prescription medications now.  We’ve only just learned how damaging antibiotics can be to our gut biome… what else don’t we know?

Dave Asprey currently promotes various ‘nootropic‘ supplements that are marketed to helping the brain and cognition including:

And Onnit has a product called:

I’ve never been too interested in trying these things either.

I can’t quite explain why I feel comfortable tinkering with my metabolism, my hormones, and my gut biome, which can all obviously effect my brain, but I’m just very hesitant about messing directly with my brain.  I’m not sure if this is an entirely rational or irrational… but I’m ok with it either way.

Besides, in my experience, the most powerful and effective ‘smart drug’ or ‘nootropic’ is a good nights sleep.




3 Responses to Why I Don’t Take Smart Drugs

  1. Jasmine says:

    I’m with you, especially at this early stage of the game.

  2. Brandon Lutz says:

    My favorite nootropics are ones derived from amino acids.

    Carnitine, and Tyrosine are amazing imo.

    As far as “smart drugs” or substances that aren’t synthetic, I’ve tried Tianeptine and Phenylpiracetam. Tianeptine made me extremely flat in my personality and I don’t think I’ll be taking it again because, like regular anti-depressants, they alter serotonin activity. I actually became more depressed and felt depleted of serotonin over a few days. Phenylpiracetam had a subtle uplifting feeling and helped mildly with focus and creativity. It was nice, but your body develops a tolerance to it unfortunately.

    Out of everything that I have tried, Carnitine and Tyrosine are the best for me at improving focus, coordination, mood, memory, creativity, and cognition. The cool thing is that they are amino acids and don’t modulate neurotransmitters in weird ways but rather supply the brain with raw materials to work with.

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