SMART DRUGS: EFFECTS AND USAGE
WHAT ARE SMART DRUGS?
A smart drug can be defined as a pharmacological substance used for the induction of improvement in numerous cognition facets like memory and attention. A number of pharmacologic interventions have the purpose of bringing improvements in cognition, in particular, neurological and psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). As a consequence, enhancement of cognition leads to a better quality of life as the individual can improve his or her functional outcomes. For this reason, both young and aged healthy populations around the world are considering the attainment of enhanced cognition through the employment of smart drugs (Stolerman, 2010).
HISTORY OF SMART DRUGS
The history of smart drug’s traces back to thousands of years when they were used by the Chinese for the improvement of brain power and functionalities. Chinese made use of herbal tea, ginseng, gotu kala, and ginkgo biloba extracts for the libido enhancement. Such smart drugs in the ancient times enabled people to work for long hours and remain in a state of alertness (Alloway & Parker, 2011). Since those times, numerous substances are being used for the improvement of various bodily functions that the brain controls. On the other hand, the modern-day smart drugs have become renowned due to the groundbreaking efforts of a Romanian chemist and psychologist, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea. He was the pioneer of synthesizing Piracetam as the first smart drug of the modern times (Essman & Valzelli, 1981). Since then, a number of smart drugs have been developed for boosting brain functions. These include Adrafinil, Modafinil, Armodafinil, Noopept, Choline, and Aniracetam (Partridge, Bell, Lucke, Yeates, Hall & Ross, 2011).
USE OF SMART DRUGS
In general, smart drugs are used for increasing the ability of learning in health individuals. In addition, it is also used for the induction of keener observation and insight, improvement of memory, concentration sharpening, and intelligence increase. A majority of people who take smart drugs are courageous, motivated, and healthy young individuals who yearn for increasing their mental powers. Most of the smart drugs are also called cognitive enhancers when they are used for clinical purposes for the improvement of cognition in human beings suffering from numerous medical conditions. A subgroup of smart drugs is known as nootropics, which are employed for the improvement or activation of the natural cognitive processes. They are safe to use as these particular smart drugs do not possess stimulant, narcotic, or other sopoforic consequences as the conventional psychotropic drugs that have medicinal use (Wills, 2005). For instance, Piracetam is used to enhance human beings’ memory. Aniracetam is used for increasing the overall capability of human beings to learn and memorize. Thus, a lot of people in the modern times are considering smart drugs’ intake as these brain pills “work by increasing oxygen supply to the brain and stimulating different neurochemicals for efficient cognitive functioning” (Alloway & Parker, 2011).
BENEFITS OF SMART DRUGS
Smart drugs or cognitive enhancing drugs are beneficial as they are used for the treatment of cognitive impairments and the improvement of the functional result, comfort, security and quality of life. In particular, they are known for their effectiveness for patients suffering from brain injuries and neuropsychiatric disorders. In diseases that are neurodegenerative, smart drugs are advantageous in compensating or slowing down the cognitive decline and behavioral performance that set apart such disorders (Stolerman, 2010). Smart drugs or neuro enhancers are beneficial for millions of patients who suffer from various neurological diseases. The most renowned smart drugs are “modafinil (Provigil or Nuvigil) which is indicated for the treatment of narcolepsy; psychostimulants that are used to treat ADHD, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), or mixed amphetamine salts, including dextroamphetamine (Adderall); and drugs such as donepezil that are used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease” (Partridge, Bell, Lucke, Yeates, Hall & Ross, 2011).
CONS OF SMART DRUGS
Smart drugs are also criticized, and a lot of people regard them as drugs of abuse. Even though smart drugs do not incur psychoactive effects or deviant attitudes, they have a number of characteristics that are similar to the traditionally defined abusive drugs. First, some cognitive enhancers are active substances that are not taken due to a medical condition. Instead, they are taken for the improvement of personal functioning. In many cases, people take smart drugs as well as anabolic steroids for increasing mental performance as well as physical performance respectively. As both drug groups are taken with the intention of social prowess enhancement, opponents of smart drugs consider them to contribute in abnormal and nonstandard attitude. Second, a lot of people do not appreciate the potentiality of side effects associated with smart drugs. This is because there is no apparent evidence concerning the long-term consequences of smart drugs on an individual’s mental capability (Partridge, Bell, Lucke, Yeates, Hall & Ross, 2011). On the other hand, supporters of smart drug administration encourage the idea of using prescription medicines as smart drugs. However, it is crystal clearly a dangerous attempt (Wills, 2005). Moreover, cognition enhancement drugs may have harmful side effects such as psychological dependence, physical dependence, or toxicity. Long-term usage of smart drugs may exacerbate such risks as people may prolong the intake of smart drugs for the achievement or maintenance of the preferred enrichment and improvement effect (Mehlman, 2004). Intense personal intake of smart drugs may lead to significant safety, financial, and social consequences for the individual. In addition, if there is a prevalent trend of using smart drugs in a population, the society can face similar effects regardless of the fact that their usage produces the desired results or not. It is, therefore, needs to be understood that long-term use of smart drugs may not be beneficial for everyone.
To cut a long story short, smart drugs are widespread and their use is particularly apparent in student populations, aged individuals, and athletes. Their use has recently become a hot issue as smart drugs are questioned for their vague long-term effects and consequences. It is the need of the time to conduct more research and investigation on the subject in order to let people know whether smart drugs are actually effective or their prolong use may bring severe results in the long run (Partridge, Bell, Lucke, Yeates, Hall & Ross, 2011).
Smart Drugs for Thought (2015). Smart Drugs: Effects and Usage