The realm of nootropic substances (aka cognitive enhancers or smart drugs), at the time around its conception, was reserved for the very select few who had access to these novel cognition-enhancing drugs. In recent years, nootropics have gained more widespread recognition, and are more accessible to average individuals than ever before, thanks to the rising number of online vendors and communities who make these substances accessible for all.
The term “nootropic” has been consistently more and more searched on google ever since 2011 (the year when the film Limitless was released) , and people’s interest in the subject will certainly continue to rise. Although nootropics still maintain a type of “fringe” status in the world of drugs, their infiltration into the mainstream is undeniable.
What is a Nootropic?
Corneliu E. Giurgea, the Romanian chemist who first synthesized piracetam, developed the concept of nootropic substance in 1972. It is a combination of the Greek words “νους” (nous) meaning “mind”, and “τρoπoς” (tropos) meaning “bend” or “change”. This is what nootropics do. Essentially, they positively alter the way in which your mind works.
Nootropic drugs are a specific subtype of psychoactive substances. According to Giurgea, in order for a drug or supplement to be considered a nootropic, it must adhere to the following criteria:
- Enhances learning and memory
- Enhances resistance of learned behaviors to conditions that will disrupt them
- Protects the brain against physical of chemical injuries (such as concussions or neurotoxic drugs)
- Increases the efficacy of cortical/subcortical control mechanisms of the brain (such as improving reaction time)
- Typically lacks negative side-effects (i.e. sedation), and possesses low toxicity
Though these criteria lay out the foundation for what a nootropic is, most modern definitions are much more general. As a more common definition, nootropics are chemical substances or herbal supplements that enhance cognition and mental function.
If we think in terms of this general definition, there is about a 90% chance you use a pseudo-nootropic substance regularly. Caffeine, the most popular drug in the world, is commonly classified as a nootropic, due to the fact that it is stimulatory and enhances attentiveness linked to cognition, learning, and memory.  
Certain substances that don’t explicitly enhance cognition are still sometimes grouped in with nootropics. This would include substances that improve mood, reduce anxiety, or promote an overall feeling of wellbeing. Some examples of these substances are phenibut, sulbutiamine, and ashwagandha. Even if these supplements don’t have mechanisms that directly improve cognition, their mood-improving capabilities will tend to lead to an enhanced ability to focus and think clearly.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Potential Antiepileptic Drugs Acting on Glutaminergic Receptors|
|2.||↑||Corneliu E. Giurgea – Wikipedia.org|
|3.||↑||Caffeine – Examine.com|
|4.||↑||Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy (2008)|