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Ask HN: Do you take nootropics?
155 points by rayalez on Mar 21, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 219 comments
What do you think about them?

Which ones do you take?

Not a nootropic per say but I've noticed a huge difference since focusing on my general health;

1) 7-8 hours sleep per night.

2) 1 hour of exercise per day (some days cardio, other days weights(focus on compounds; squat, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press, pullups, rows))

(for people thinking "I'm too busy to spend an hour of my day exercising". I think the productivity increase of clearing your head doing this exercise more than makes up for the hour it takes.)

3) balanced diet consisting of fresh natural foods. (fruit, veg, meat, fish etc. not frozen meals, microwave food where your not quite sure what's in it)

Found I've lost weight, cardiovascular endurance has increased, I'm stronger and just feel a lot better.

So my advice would be try and do all the above before taking any drugs that aren't very well researched and could cause long term issues.

> for people thinking "I'm too busy to spend an hour of my day exercising"

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a great quote here (paraphrased): "If the President of the United States has time to workout, _you_ have time to workout."

the President has a monumental staff to deal with every part of life that doesn't directly involve his job, most people do not.

the NSA is now following you.

Why no frozen meals?

Most commercially packaged frozen meals have lots and lots of sugar, salt and oils added to low quality (cheap) ingredients to make them palatable.

Some people think freezing food destroys its quality, but I think that the evidence for that is weak and fails to regard the loss of quality that comes from keeping things in the fridge for another day.

When I stopped eating ready meals I lost a kilo in a week, I believe (believe) that happened largely because I dropped so much salt out of my diet and therefore I was retaining much less water.

Buy things fresh, make meals and freeze them. This will allow you to cook good things quickly in the evening. Spend an afternoon and make a chicken casserole, a beef stew, a lasagne, a cottage pie and a fish pie. Freeze in portions (aim for five from each) and you have weeks of quick, nutritious and delicious food that means that you will not be stuffing yourself with rubbish.

But also buy a steamer and make sure that you have a large portion of steamed green veg every day. You're five a day can have one orange juice and a couple of bits of fruit, but a decent wodge of green is really important. Tender stem broccoli, greens, cabbage, peas, beans... all take about 30 seconds to prepare and 3-4 minutes to stem (tip: only put a mugful of water in the steamer, it will boil fast and then cook the greens just as well as 4 inches would).

Sugar and salt I understand. Do you have more info on the oils? Have not heard that before.

Nutrition is poorly understood, but we do know that seed oils have a different profile than what people used to eat, and their high omega-6 fraction promotes inflammation. On the bright side there seems to be a reduction in heart disease (with some of them like olive oil) from their polyunsaturated fatty acids, which however doesn't improve all-cause mortality.

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/seed-oils-and-... gets into a little of the picture.

Personally I take a flaxseed oil supplement (for high omega-3), often fry in olive oil, and try to minimize seed oils otherwise. (I don't try that hard, but my intake has changed since learning about this.)

Salt intake I wouldn't worry about unless you have a specific issue making it a problem.

Disclaimer: layperson.

A ton of cheap food uses hydrogenated oils, which have been shown to have negative impact on your circulatory system.


Oh yes, I forgot to even mention them because they're an automatic 'no' to me.

For me, a lot of frozen meals and processed foods in general have insane quantities of sodium. Seriously, check the labels and make sure to do the math on what you would consider a reasonable portions (they like to play games with portion size to bring daily percentages down).

Other than water retention, are there any other reasons sodium is bad?

Frozen foods are cheaper but less tastier, less nutritious, and harder to eat. They don't give you positive-reinforcement.

the point is to avoid highly processed/prepared foods.

Seems like the main point is to only eat foods that are foods, not chemicals.

I took piracetam years ago when I was considering a career change and prepping for the LSAT exam. I believe that its legal history is somewhat similar to ephedra... 10-15 years ago you could buy it over-the-counter or online, but since then it's been taken off the market in the U.S.

Regardless, my experience was that its only value is the placebo effect. If a substance actually does anything real, and there is potential for a pharmaceutical company to patent and profit from it, then you can generally rest assured that it will be scheduled to require a doctor's prescription. For just about everything, the over-the-counter options consist of vitamins and quackery. So either blatantly break the law, or don't.

As an aside, what is the point of taking a serious nootropic for software development? Typically, a coder's problem isn't failure to get into a groove once they have uninterrupted time. The typical problem is not having uninterrupted time in the first place. Like most people here, probably, I work in an open floor plan environment. I'm subject to constant "drive-by" interruptions that could have been handled better via email, and a neverending roar all around me as colleagues literally scream at each other about Reddit memes or video games or the latest superhero movie.

Do you have a drug that would allow me to completely shut off my hearing, peripheral vision, and other sensory input? So that I can work without having to blast music through $300 noise-canceling headphones (which itself impairs focus, but is the lesser of all evils)? If so, then I would gladly break the law to find a pharmaceutical escape from contemporary office plans that sacrifice productivity for the ability to squeeze headcount into the smallest possible space.

>Regardless, my experience was that its only value is the placebo effect. If a substance actually does anything real, and there is potential for a pharmaceutical company to patent and profit from it, then you can generally rest assured that it will be scheduled to require a doctor's prescription. For just about everything, the over-the-counter options consist of vitamins and quackery. So either blatantly break the law, or don't.

Just a counter-point. Melatonin is OTC in the US (sadly not where I live) and the efficacy of melatonin on sleep quality is pretty hard to dispute. It's not what you'd normally call a nootropic maybe, but having melatonin on hand has significantly improved my life

Edit: oh. Yeah. Of course, Adrafinil is OTC in the US too and that's the prodrug for Modafinil. Definitely not placebo either

Melatonin and DHEA are hormones and are OTC. But just because they're OTC doesn't mean they should be taken lightly. Hormones are highly regulated in our bodies and taking extra can cause decreased natural production.

Adrafinil is not OTC, it is unregulated. That means you can sell it in the "research chemical" grey market but not as a drug.

You have to distinguish hormonal regulatory mechanisms that are externally vs internally triggered if you're going to discuss decreased natural synthesis.

Oral testosterone? Pituitary measures it and says to the testicles, "we're good here" and testicles atrophy. Oral prednisone? Pituitary says to adrenals "we're good" and adrenals shut down cortisol production.

Melatonin, however, is externally regulated through blue light suppression. So taking it doesn't engage any feedback inhibition, it just increases blood concentration.

> Hormones are highly regulated in our bodies and taking extra can cause decreased natural production.

Normally true, but that doesn't apply to melatonin, it has no such down regulation mechanism.

I have a weird experience with melatonin. It puts me out quickly, but I wake up about 4-5 hours later in a half drugged state. For the next few hours I'm awake but drowsy.

If you haven't yet, I recommend experimenting with the dosage. Most companies sell melatonin in dramatically higher doses than is necessary. I take 300mcg, but often see it sold in doses an order of magnitude larger than that. Effective dose seems to vary somewhat widely from person to person.

I've been taking 1 or 2 5mg tablets. 2 tablets definitely seems like too much.

Yeah, 10mg is a crazy dose, even 5mg is far more than most people I know take. I would try out doses in the 100mcg-1mg range and see how they work.

Some people reckon that a lower dose (1mg) is more effective than 3 or 5mg. Its gotten a bit too popular, and there is tons of conflicting advice on using it.

you might try adding 5-HTP to the mix. i had the same issue, after taking melatonin – i'd fall sleep, but wake up a few hours later. pretty much every night.

right now i take 1/2 of 2.5 mg melatonin (sublingual) with 50-100 mg 5-HTP, ideally 30-45 min before going to bed.

adding 5-HTP was A MIRACLE ! after just a day or two i slept very soundly and had AMAZING dreams – we're talkin 2160p 10.5 THX Lord of the Rings epic trilogy with you playing lead role. those first few weeks i even went to bed earlier just so i could dream longer. :) prior to that it had been decades since i remembered having any dreams. (warning though, i've told several friends about it – after they tried it they had to stop because the dreams were too intense.)

i read about 5-HTP in this book i borrowed from my chiropracter: http://smile.amazon.com/5-HTP-Natural-Overcome-Depression-In... basically it states that melatonin is only part of the sleep equation, seratonin is the other part. your body can produce seratonin from 5-HTP (which is the chemical in turkey which makes you drowsy).


staring at a computer screen can really mess with your sleep – due to chemical imbalance with these hormones. to help as much as possible, i installed F.lux on all of my computers.

i also recently added Modalert to my daily routine, but that's another story...

I can vouch for F.lux. Its such an essential tool for me now and I have made it a point to get it on all my devices. Apart from the advantages it has in not disrupting my sleep cycle, I actually enjoy the warmer tones. Even when it comes to home lighting, I have always preferred the yellow shades over the incandescent whites. Never tried melatonin, either stand alone or coupled with 5-HTP. Let me read a little more. Thanks for the pointers.

As an aside, I would definitely say get your sleep cycles right and more disciplined definitely puts you in a much higher efficiency bracket. Coupled with some simple lifestyle hacks ( playing a team outdoor sport, if you are not the workout type, no devices in bedroom rule, boring but informative tech talk to go to sleep, light and early dinners, no coffee post sunset) you would be surprised how many extra hours of high concentration work you are capable of.

Never heard of F.lux before.. I just installed it and it looks great!

Like others said, play with the dosage. First time I tried it, I had 2.5mg (or maybe 3mg I forget) tablets. I had a somewhat similar experience, I'd get drowsy, but when in bed I'd feel cold and couldn't sleep very well at all.

The next year I got 0.1mg tablets, experimented a bit and found that 8 of those (0.8mg) was the sweet spot for me (taken about 2 hours before I want to sleep). I generally used it in the winter, when it gets dark at 16:00, which apparently can throw my cycle a little out of whack if I don't pay attention, the melatonin seemed to help to fix this a bit.

I have to say, I've never noticed really strong effects like "puts me out quickly". Just a general feeling after an hour or two, that "yeah I could sleep". If I listen to that feeling, I sleep very well. If I stay up anyway, it goes away again, and I don't really get the benefits.

One thing I noticed, after a few weeks, was when I knocked over and broke a glass of water for the third time. I wondered, "hey that seems to happen quite a lot lately..". And always in the evening after I had taken the melatonin, so I guess it does do something to my coordination or perhaps alertness. This was easily solved by taking a bit more care where I place my drinking glass after taking melatonin :)

Did you try going back to sleep after you wake up?

Yes but its very poor quality sleep, I'm tossing and turning and not sure whether I'm awake or asleep.

> Melatonin is OTC in the US (sadly not where I live) and the efficacy of melatonin on sleep quality is pretty hard to dispute.

The Mayo Clinic's website doesn't quite feel as strongly as you do about Melatonin:

> The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep — although the effect is typically mild. Side effects can include headache and daytime sleepiness. [0]

Another page from Mayo Clinic's website:

> Melatonin might also reduce the time it takes to fall asleep — although this effect is typically mild. [1]

I wouldn't tout Melatonin as the great counterexample of a nootropic that's OTC, considering it's questionable value and limited long-term use.

    [0] - http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-aids/art-20047860?pg=2
    [1] - http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/melatonin-side-effects/faq-20057874

I trust gwern's in-depth analysis significantly more than I trust a blurb from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.gwern.net/Melatonin

The worst part about melatonin is the lack of regulation. When people test the pills available they often find different doses, or even no dose at all.

When compared to placebo, Melatonin has no significant side effects[0]


for someone who likes melatonin but wants something stronger to aid sleep that's not medication/pills I recommend valerian root, it'll put your right to sleep reset your stress, like clearing your bodies ram.

Everything I've been able to find about valerian says that the effect is basically placebo. I got a bottle of (big-ish smelly and brown) valerian pills one time, really didn't do anything for me.

Prilosec as well. Works remarkably well, for an OTC solution.

> As an aside, what is the point of taking a serious nootropic for software development? Typically, a coder's problem isn't failure to get into a groove once they have uninterrupted time. The typical problem is not having uninterrupted time in the first place.

Procrastination can also be a pretty big problem for a coder, and theoretically a drug could help there.

There are plenty of process oriented methods for solving this one e.g. pomodoros and outside-in development.

Yes, and in my personal experience they're more effective than drugs alone.

In fact, with out a process or at least a process-oriented approach in place, ADHD medication or other stimulants alone can create hilarious-but-frustrating situation where you're all hopped up on meds and your laser-like focus gets "locked onto" something totally useless, like reorganizing your music collection instead of completing the programming task that really needs to be done.

However, medication (for those that need it) plus a process-oriented approach (or at least a solid task list) is the most effective combination of all.

Yeah, but next time think of how quickly you'll be able to cut right to the work because of how organized your music will be!

Haha. The sad thing is that's kind of what I tell myself.

10% of my brain: "I know you have a couple hundred lines of code to write before tomorrow morning, soooooooo let's make a playlist! The ultimate programming playlist!"

90% of my brain: "That is the stupidest idea ever. You should really just get your work done and then you can relax, and maybe put a playlist together for next time."

10% of my brain: "Whatever lol I have veto power"

Annnnd this is why ADHD is classified as an executive functioning disorder and I have no problem believing it's a distant cousin of OCD.

A lot of the more effective nootropics like semax, phenylpiracetam, noopept and cerebrolysin were developed by Russian pharmaceutical companies and are sold as regular pharmaceuticals in Russia. Why is Russia so interested in developing brain drugs? A lot of studies with these drugs are related to fixing brain damage from alcoholism.

That's so true about the other factors that sap productivity - it's a rare moment when our brains are the limiting factor, rather than the thousands of distractions tugging us from every direction.

It's also true, though, that there are things that help us deal somewhat with the distractions - both directly (various ADHD medications, stimulants) and indirectly (getting great sleep, exercise, happy home lives, etc).

And, of course, anything that would actually help us during those brief blessed stretches of uninterrupted work would be wonderful as well.

  > If a substance actually does anything real, and 
  > there is potential for a pharmaceutical company 
  > to patent and profit from it,
Well, maybe not?

There's two things there - efficacy and potential profitability. There's a whole wealth of substances, from vitamin supplements to aspirin to melatonin, that are quite effective but not overly profitable... at least not on the scale of a blockbuster, patented drug.

I don't think there are any magic cures for cancer that fall into the category of "effective, but not profitable" but I do think there's hope that there are substances that might boost brain function by... let's say 5% or 10%, or some other modest but useful amount.

>> So that I can work without having to blast music through $300 noise-canceling headphones (which itself impairs focus, but is the lesser of all evils)?

Rather than listening to music, you can listen to brainwave entrainment audio (Neuro-Programmer 3 is a good program to generate these). The lack of words prevents distraction, and the audio can entrain your brain to whatever frequency is best for what you are doing (focus, brainstorming, etc). There are videos on YouTube that show EEG readings changing to match the frequency of the audio.

Also, Cerebrolysin or Fasoracetam + Coluracetam (especially when combined with exercise and keeping the body in ketosis) are much more likely to be effective than Piracetam.

>> So that I can work without having to blast music through $300 noise-canceling headphones (which itself impairs focus, but is the lesser of all evils)?

I have seen people mention noise-cancelling headphones in the context of noise and open offices. Don't anyone use noise cancelling ear muffs? I am sure listening to music 6-8 hours a day is not good for your ears.

I think people might feel that they look silly with the noise canceling earmuffs - don't they tend to be big and industrial looking?

Anyway, good noise-canceling phones can actually reduce the amount of volume you need. Sometimes I just turn the noise canceling on and enjoy the reduction in noise, without even playing music. Or I can play music quietly to mask the background noise, instead of blasting it.

Pretty comprehensive review of the market leaders. There's really only one brand of headphone that has solid noise canceling.... http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-noise-cancelling-headp...

I am should have mentioned that I use an earmuff at work. I do look dorky but it does help.

I saw someone using ear muffs once, and I thought it was a good idea. I like brainwave entrainment (maybe lower the volume, and use passive noise cancelling headphones), as it entrains the brain to the appropriate frequency to help maintain focus, relaxation, creativity, or whatever else you're pushing for. Then again, the only frequency that's "safe" to be listened to long term is 10Hz, and entraining to the other ones take less than 1 hour.

> and there is potential for a pharmaceutical company to patent and profit from it, then you can generally rest assured that it will be scheduled to require a doctor's prescription

Guess what? Belgian company did this, it is sold under brand name Nootropil in many countries. The patent is already expired, so there is probably little benefit in bringing it to the US market.


I'm sitting in my camper near Tafraoute, Morocco -- near the painted rocks. There is nobody around for miles (kms actually). Somehow there is 80ms ping 3g internet here.

Finally I can concentrate! I'm so happy I don't work in a shared office space -- but they sort of all are shared office spaces. I think my hatred of all that drove me so far away to this place!

have you tried listening to white/pink/brown noise instead of music? it works wonders for my concentration. there are numerous noise generators online, i like this one: http://www.simplynoise.com/

No. Don't use music or any other form of noise to drown out ambient sounds at work. It causes slow but irreversible damage to your hearing. In game theory terms, such an act constitutes rewarding defection (employer insisting on open plan office) with cooperation (harming yourself in an attempt to help your employer) - always a bad move.

Can you provide some citations for this? At acceptable decibel levels I have a hard time believing this would be the case.

I don't have any citations ready to hand but it's not a controversial claim; a Google search should find some. Intuitively, think of it this way: 'acceptable decibel levels' are what the human ear is optimized to receive at intermittent peak, not constant all day every day.

I didn't know white noise causes hearing damage, sounds plausible, it's mildly annoying; the brown noise though sounds more like a waterfall and the effect is really mild and calming. In my case, we don't have an open plan office, just 3 chatty colleagues in the same space :D And they don't seem to get the headphones-on gesture.

I'm a guy who likes music LOUD. Like, walking to class with my Walkman in college would cause people I'd pass to stop talking and stare at me. I've bought new players because they weren't loud enough. I didn't like my Nexus phone (in part) because it wouldn't play music as loud as the iPhone. I'm 46 now, and setup and manage the sound system at my church, where we like it, er, noisy. I can say with confidence that I'm the second-best set of ears in the house (behind the pastor, who has perfect pitch), and that I've lost nothing of my hearing over my lifetime.

Additionally, I say that as someone who has had to -- at various gigs -- listen to music in headphones to drown out office noise while I programmed and sysadminned. I know the "loud music causes hearing loss" is a popular thing to say -- I've heard it my whole life, just like "sitting too close to the TV causes vision loss" -- but I just don't think it's true, or at least conflated with normal loss with age (which my wife is finally admitting to).

That being said, I've recently started trying various tricyclic antidepressants for migraine prophylaxis, and I've found that they can have quite an influence on concentration. Amitryptilene had a small-but-noticeable effect. Nortriptylene had a PRONOUNCED effect. It was like that movie with Bradley Cooper. I just zoned in for the whole day. I LOVED it, but it was making me (an INTP) completely manic. I'm now trying Desipramine, and it, too, has a small-but-noticeable effect. I'm trying to live with its side effect (itching) by cutting the 10mg pills in half, but it's getting worse again, like it's building up in my system or something.

When I'm on these drugs, I don't WANT to listen to music. I find that I _notice_ that it's a distraction. It's been a habit, but I work at home most of the time, and, when my concentration wavers, I stick through the issue by "ducking" it out loud, to myself.

So, IANAD, but it seems to me that a low dose of a TCA could be considered a nootropic. There are, like, 9 different drugs in the class, all with varying side effects. I wish I could talk to an expert to correlate the various known brain-chemical effects with the various cognitive and side effects, so that I could chose the best one for me after trying 3. Seems like that ought to be enough information to zero in on the right dopamine, seratonin, et. al. profile for me. If seratonin is the MAIN chemical involved with the concentration side effect, then there's a whole class of SSRI's to deal with. But I don't know.

Piracetam is not scheduled and can still be ordered. I've tried it and noted some mild apparent positive effects, and there is some study data backing this. The effect is not dramatic.

I've never heard of this before. To save you some time:

> Nootropics, also referred to as smart drugs, memory enhancers, neuro enhancers, cognitive enhancers, and intelligence enhancers, are drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals, and functional foods that improve one or more aspects of mental function, such as working memory, motivation, and attention.


Every day I take a significant dose of one of the ones that you've heard of, for "ADD". I started doing so because of non-coding reasons but reading the Wikipedia article it is listed on that page.

I'm concerned about the long term effects of taking a psychoactive substance every day. However the one that I take has been used for a while so the long term effects are probably more well known that some of the new ones like Modafinil.

I would be extremely careful and think twice about going down this road unless you absolutely need to. I have a lot of experience fiddling with my body chemistry and usually I decide to stop after a while.

IIRC Sigmund Freud had a similar experience, where he injected himself with cocaine 3 times a day for ten years and wrote about it... then after he stopped came to the conclusion that the cocaine was distorting his perception and that he was actually full of shit. Cocaine is not too different from many of these substances.

Enjoy and be safe!

EDIT: bonus reading for the weekend: http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/weaknesses.html

I tried something called Alpha-Brain by Onnit Labs based in Austin. The main ingredients of which are tyrosine, theanine and a bunch of other stuff. It is marketed as improving focus/memory.

I used it for a couple of weeks and saw no benefits. The only noticeable change was my dreams got vivid when taking it (which is also claimed by them). When taking it, I also had short episode that felt like onset of a sudden dementia, I could not remember anything. Example: I couldnt remember where my car was parked when I was standing right in front of it. I dont know if it is caused by Alpha-Brain, but I was not taking anything else during that period. I stopped taking it soon after.

Like they say, there is no biological free lunch. I would say the safest way is probably good nutrition, enough sleep and exercise.

theanine appears naturally in green tea


Similar experience with trubrain ( https://trubrain.com/ ).

Didn't notice a thing.

Thanks for the report. Joe Rogan's podcast had me tempted into trying it but I'm glad I didn't!

I've been tinkering with nootropics for several years. I've found over that time some things that work for me, and many things that don't. While not all of the following are strictly speaking nootropics, they all contribute to my overall mental state:

- Aniracetam. Helps a lot with my concentration and working my way through problems logically.

- Caffeine/L-theanine. Caffeine is a no-brainer, but l-theanine is amazing in that at a 2:1 ration of l-theanine to caffeine it removes essentially all the jumpiness of the caffeine.

- Tianeptine. This is an anti-depressant that also helps a bit with my anxiety.

- Noopept. This one helps with my concentration quite a bit, and also makes my vision more vibrant. The vision thing doesn't matter so much, but it's pretty neat.

- Rhodiola. This helps tremendously with my anxiety and stops me from ruminating.

- Taurine. Another one that helps me with my anxiety, and has the added benefit of helping with blood pressure. Though I've had my blood pressure under control for years, it's never bad to have a helping hand.

I've been taking vyvanse(before that adderall) for the past 10 years. I wouldn't have been able to graduate from highschool without it, I can barely function at my job(devops) without it.

I haven't noticed any long term affects, it definitely works though. It's scheduled so it's not easy to get but it definitely works compared to some of the more hit or miss OTC nootropics.

I'm willing to answer any questions if anyone is interested.

I too take Adderall for ADHD, and it's been crazy how useful it has been. It lets me actually control where my concentration is spent, and the ability finally follow through on plans pretty nice. I can also access my long term memory more readily, and don't run into corners continuously.

I don't get any of the "high" effects - no endless reserves of energy, no hyper-focus, no mood swings. I do become fairly dehydrated on it, so I end up drinking more water than usual.

All that said, if I didn't have to take it, I probably wouldn't. Stimulants can be pretty hard on the body, and being dependent on a stimulant is not a state I enjoy being in.

Okay, so I'm a college freshmen who graduated high school in three years but did that in a combination of excelling and getting absolute 0's in classes because I'm not able to concentrate. I believe I have adhd, for many reasons, how realistic is it getting diagnosed at 18?

Also, is there really not many noticeable long-term side effects, because I took vyvanse once and holy god it was the first time I was able to sit down and work on something straight for more than three hours without getting distracted other than things that I would naturally get in the flow with.

I'm 30 and in med school, had a similar experience in high school, and my first attempt at college wasn't too different. I couldn't have changed gears without the right diagnosis, support and medication (though medication is truly just one aspect of it).

I was diagnosed in my 20s. If you go to a therapist/psych to talk about your issues you have a good chance of working them out and getting the support you need. the first psych to dx me was through the university health department, don't be afraid to use the services that are available for you.

  > (though medication is truly just one aspect of it)
Yes, this is so true. The major pieces of the puzzle for me ...from most to least important... are: good sleep, proper environment, exercise, nutrition, medication.

When I say "nutrition" I don't even mean a strict diet. The most important part there for me is simply avoiding big doses of sugar and carbs. Those leave me drained.

I've been on these drugs for at least 10 years and there are no noticeable long term side affects. The only thing you have to worry about is that they do kill your appetite so if you're taking them on a daily basis you'll have to force yourself to eat sometimes or risk being underweight.

> I believe I have adhd, for many reasons, how realistic is it getting diagnosed at 18?

I was diagnosed as a 32 year old.

In France ADHD is not in the book of diseases for adults, so the psychiatrist didn't even want to try a diagnostic (and I guess he didn't have the standard tools to do it).

You sure your high does not come from clearing out your withdrawal effects? To elaborate, smokers seem to be anxious before they get nicotine, but to what I understand the relief itself does not really come from nicotine, but because your brain is not used to not have it on hand.

Speaking for myself, there is no high. There's coming back up to normal. And yes, the positive effects to those with ADHD is 100% driven by the drug itself.

I have 36 years of managing ADHD with coping mechanisms to compare the effects of medication against, and gods below I wish I had gotten help sooner.

I was not aware that some nootropics could be used to treat conditions like ADHD. I personally use 2g dose of taurine every now and then for mental boost, but it is basically just placebo compared to what you must experience. Great to hear though that you've found a cure - I happen to have restless leg, which has been enough to shake my mental sanity, as I have been unable to focus on anything. Having that inside your head must been quite harder to cope with, so kudos for you.

There's really no high, there's basically 0 recreational benefit to vyvanse (at least at the dosage I take).

I just started adderall for add-inattentive. So far I don't notice a pronounced effect. I've tried Modafinil in the past and 10mg of Adderall 2X daily doesn't really compare.

From what I understand, the effect should be something like putting on glasses when you have myopia.

What was your experience with Adderall and why did you switch? Vyvanse is an all-day dose, right? Did it affect your sleep?

Adderall worked well but gave my headaches and some other minor side effects, my doctor recommended Vyvanse and it worked pretty much the same without the headaches. It does not affect my sleep at all.

> From what I understand, the effect should be something like putting on glasses when you have myopia.

Yes and no. I'm myopic and have been since I was a small child I was also diagnosed with ADHD a year ago at age 35 and have been medicated for the last year.

Without glasses I'm basically blind. I can put them on and see, take them off and I'm back. I have control.

Without my medication if I go into a crowded room I am listening to a dozen conversations at once, giving each speaker the same amount of attention even though they are speaking at the same time and not to me. With my medication (40mg Vyvanse) I can go into a crowded room and hold a coherent conversation with someone and ignore the other conversations around me for the most part. I hear them but I can essentially choose to give most of my attention to whom I want.

Without the drugs I slip into hyper focus on things like a good book or a video game, completely losing track of time and actually not noticing when someone comes up and talks to me or interrupts me. This was really bad when I was a teenager and I'd read 700-800 pages when I should have been sleeping but I would have no idea how much time had passed. This still happens with the medication but it's easier to break away. With the medication I have more control over what I'm focused on but it's just a drug, if you are focused on the wrong thing it doesn't care. That being said it's not like people without ADHD describe where they lock into cleaning their house when they meant to be working. More willpower and impulse control are things I'd say I have when medicated.

I have more control but not complete control. I can't turn it off until it runs its course unlike the glasses that I can take off any time I want. With glasses it's simple, I can see or I can't. With the drug it's not simple at all. Things are better but it's not a silver bullet and the wrong drug or the wrong dosage can have no effect or a negative effect.

I took ritalin initially but it just made me angry, sweaty and made my heart race with the bonus of terrible crashes in the early evening and no impact on the actual ADHD issues. With Adderall I needed to be working on what I wanted to before I took it because it kicked in fast and hard, it was effective to an extent but it wasn't great. With Vyvanse I'm taking a similar drug but it's uptake is slower and the comedown is slower I can ease into my work day, I tend to be more able to easily pick and choose which things I focus on and I'm much less impulsive. None of the issues are gone but like the glasses for my myopia the fog is lifted a bit with the effect of the amphetamines. Before I took them I just assumed I wasn't as bright as everyone thought and that I need to work ten times harder to produce the same output. Since I've been medicated I feel normal for the most part and it's allowed me to have a more normal work life balance as I don't constantly feel like I'm behind or that I can't get things done. This is largely because I'm more effective when I am working where as before I was distracted but didn't really realize it or explained it away as multitasking.

> Vyvanse is an all-day dose, right? Did it affect your sleep?

It is an all day dose, 12-16 hours depending on the literature but I find it lasted about 6 on my first dosage and I get about 8 with 40mg. I can probably go up to 50mg but I'm happy with where I'm at. I don't feel a big difference when I'm on the drug like I did initially but I'm still better able to handle the day and my tasks than I am without it. Normalcy was what I was really looking for. I don't take it on the weekends which has helped a bit with tolerance and taking a 10 day break over the Christmas holiday really showed me how much tolerance was becoming an issue for me. An alternative to a bigger dose if it doesn't last all day is to get an instant release secondary drug for the second half/end of the day. That way you can control when you take it and have a reasonable expectation of when it will wear off.

As far as sleep goes if you don't take it too late in the day you are probably fine unless you have sleep problems to begin with, which of course are common for ADHD affected people. I am lucky in that my sleep issues were essentially conquered when I was between the ages of 8-10 since I could never sleep and my mother helped me figure out techniques to do so. Combinations of breathing, clearing my head, picturing myself descending into darkness etc. The only times I have trouble sleeping now are when I'm stressed, stay up too late, or stay up too late and try to sleep when I still have an obsession with a problem or task as I'm then unable to stop thinking about it. Ending my work day earlier helps prevent that.

The worst side effects for me are physical. I have to put on deodorant in the middle of the day and god forbid I forget to put on any at all. Dry mouth was absolutely awful until I started to build up a tolerance, now it's not a huge issue. A few other minor things but nothing that I would stop using them over.

Why'd you switch from adderall to vyvanse? I've been thinking about going to see a doc about getting back on something like that for a while now. I've... not been so well since I stopped. (fellow SE Michigander here)

Vyvanse was similar but with far less negative side effects. I used to get headaches and felt generally unpleasant on adderall.

How do you feel at work when you don't take it?

Very unfocused, I can't spend more than 5-10 minutes on any single task without getting distracted. It is almost impossible to get "in the zone" without my medication.

As a fellow devop, I say that you shouldn't need drugs to do your job. IF you have to stay that late all every day, its time to rip it all out and start again...

to quote from drugs.com:

"Lisdexamfetamine is a drug of abuse and may be habit-forming."

But that said, you've heard these all before.

To new users; Long term use usually requires higher doses, the longer you're on them the worse the withdrawl symptoms. The majority of these drugs work in a similar way to coke, with all the either positive/negative personality changes that come with them.

> As a fellow devop, I say that you shouldn't need drugs to do your job.

You need to learn about mental health and, in this case, ADHD. You can't just wish mental health issues away.

No, as someone who has had depression a job either makes you worse or better.

If your job makes you worse, you must change.

As someone who has sprained my ankle I now have expert authority on your mental condition.

I've never had to change my dosage of vyvanse for the past 4 years and have 0 withdrawal symptoms (I don't take them on the weekends or holidays, i've stopped for over 3 weeks before with 0 withdrawal symptoms).

You have no idea what I go through when not on my job, you obviously don't understand how ADHD works.

Also I've been taking these drugs for almost my entire life so I think I'm a better judge of what I need to do my job than you.

I was prescribed Ritalin and later Adderall from 3 years old until I was 24, when I quit. They did the job they were prescribed for: I was focused. I found Adderall to be "cleaner" feeling, and it had less of a negative effect on my personality. That said, both of them made me much more angry and type A. There is no doubt in my mind now that my dosage was too high, but back in the 80s and 90s, I don't think anyone really understood what constant stimulant overdoses in children looked like. This stuff has irreversibly shaped who I am for better and worse. I can't really recommend either one to anyone unless they really need it.

On the topic of more accessible nootropics, I have worked with a number of the "racetam" substances, which tend to promote acetylcholine use in the brain. Because of this, all of them were taken with copious amounts of choline. I took Piracetam for about 2.5 years. It worked decently well early on at enhancing my focus, but towards the end, I questioned its benefits and quit. During that time, I also added in splashes of Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, and Pramiracetam. Oxiracetam is hands down the best of them all. It was made for hardcore analytical thinking. I used it primarily when I had exams or when I was more exhausted at work right after my daughter was born. It tends to tire the brain as it wears off and lead to some headaches though. Overall, it was a very useful tool Pramiracetam just gave me an instant headache the couple of times I tried it. Aniracetam is suggested to be more creative and anxiolytic. I felt a little calmer, but not enough to warrant consistent use.

Quitting caffiene was really helpful for me. I know that's close to heresy among developers, but I wake up feeling a lot less crappy.

Lately, I've been just taking Huperzine A, which acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. I feel like I get something similar to the performance of Piracetam, but without the need for the choline supplement to prevent headaches.

No, because Adderall messes with my creativity.

I was doing a math major in college, and whenever I took adderall (legally prescribed) before doing a p-set, I always came up with a long and unelegant solution to a problem. It seemed to motivate me to work very hard, but not to work smart.

No idea if this was just something I had in my head or there is some neurochemical basis for it.

I have the exact same problem when taking Adderall/Vyavanse/etc my creativity and memory retention is horrendous. Creativity is such an important feature to your personality and taking it away makes you so robotic and boring that I'd rather have the AD/HD and my normal, fun self than a foggy head all the time.

I have experienced the same thing, but it was primarily because the dosage was too high. I have taken Adderall for years, being initially prescribed 5mg and now, 5+ years later, taking 15-20mg per day. I take "drug vacations" (no Adderrall) on most weekends, to help keep my tolerance low. Personally, I find amphetamines very useful. :)

For comparison, my friend was prescribed Adderall, but his initial dosage was 40mg per day. He did not enjoy it. I do not understand the (poor) reasoning for prescribing such a high initial dose.

I use to joke a lot of the code I saw recently bears the distinctive mark of Adderall-induced creativity.

OTOH, lots of Lisp or Smalltalk code I saw earlier could be attributing to LSD or psilocybin.

Adderall is not a nootropic

Modafinil. Works great (14 hours of focus and productivity). At $5 a pop it's not something I can afford daily.

If something cheaper becomes available I'd use it.

That doesn't seem that expensive, I know some people spend this much for a single cup of coffee.

It's all relative.

For a chunk of humanity $5 is their entire discretionary daily spend (and for some it is their entire daily spend).

You shouldn't take modafinil daily though as you can develop a tolerance. You should take it 3 consecutive days and then rest the other 4 days of the week. Also extreme focus kills creativity so the rest days allow for a productivity/creativity cycle.

Can you elaborate on this? What are the specific positives of cycling Modiafinil, instead irregular single use?

ModafinilCat is well regarded and stocks the gold-standard Modalert for $2 a pill.


I've been taking ~50mg modafinil 5 times a week for years. Last batch I bought was 2 years ago on the grey market (an online indian pharmacy) in 200mg pills form (so I divide them in 4 for a daily dose).

I don't take any on weekends or on holiday, and sometimes I take 100mg if I'm going for a long car journey or something else that requires complete attention...

The effects are very subtle but noticeable: more alertness and concentration, and a more positive outlook on things. I found it's also pretty good at keeping depression at bay.

Have you tried not taking it in a while?

I found that modafinil sped my mind up too fast to figure anything out. And I was taking even half what you are taking. Just 25mg.

I've heard that armodafinil has a less pronounced effect- not as sped up and a more pronounced return to normality when it wears off. That's the thing that freaked me out about modafinil- it really seemed to last for ages.

I stopped for 6 months a few years ago when I was on a sabbatical, no problem. I still need a morning coffee to feel awake even on holiday though!

I've taken L-Theanine with my coffee for years. The effect is subtle, but it's remarkable - I just look back over the last few hours and realize that I was distraction-proof.

I haven't dabbled in anything else because I don't really like the idea of messing with my brain chemistry too much. Theanine gets a pass because it's just an amino acid, is naturally present in green tea, and is considered extremely safe.

I'll happily recommend it to anyone looking to experiment without too much fear of side effects.

I was taking L-Theanine (capsules) regularly a couple years back and I found that I built up a rapid tolerance to it after about a week where it stopped being effective. I had to cycle off every few days. I'm curious if anyone else has encountered this.

I am taking something else but I think I noticed the same thing. I took only for 1 month of pills to try it out, so I don't really know if this is what happens in the long run.

I feel the same way about small amounts of psilocybin.

I use Modafinil (Modalert) once a week. It allows me to work with 100% focus and productivity for 24 hours... so my week is like this: Mon. to Wed. = meetings readings, learning and planning... then I take a pill and execute hard.

Let me get this right. You pop this pill and then work for 24 hours straight? How do you feel the following day?

It's like caffeine without side effects. Front end of the 24 hours you can be productive with detailed tasks but towards the latter part you're best with menial tasks, like cleaning.

no headaches?

How do you obtain it? (I understand you might not be able to be specific)

I've heard of it being prescribed off-label for people with ADHD diagnoses.

The best nootropic for me is bicycling into work.

Also, after years of experimenting with caffeine I'm convinced that for me, one cup in the morning is close to ideal. Caffeine stays in the body for many hours, so it's all too easy to fall into the trap where you're tired, so you drink more, &etc.

Not a nootropic as such, but fuelling my brain on ketones rather the glucose has made an incredible difference in concentration and cognitive ability.

(Ketogenic = High fat, carb restricted diet)

Having been burning Ketones more than Carbs for more than 2 years now, i can absolutely attest to that.

Previously i had to use Caffeine and occasionally Ephedra to stay properly focused on programming tasks. But the people around me often thought i was angry and annoyed easily, that is completely the opposite now that i'm "on" Ketones.

Its unlikely that depriving your brain of fuel is having a positive effect on concentration, but since eating carbs triggers insulin, which supresses the effects of adrenaline, you might just be experiencing the benefits of not saturating your diet with sugar.

The brain is not being deprived, rather it's deriving it's energy from a different source -

> the brain starts burning ketones in order to more directly use the energy from the fat stores that are being depended upon, and to reserve the glucose only for its absolute needs [1]

Additionally -

> Because the brain can only power 70% of its action on ketones, glucose will have to be used no matter what. However, because glucose can be derived from non-carbohydrate sources such as protein, a low carb or no carb diet does not starve the brain of its required energy. [2]

And your absolutely right in regards to experiencing the benefits of removing sugar from the diet.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketosis

[2] http://www.nootropicmind.com/better-brain-fuel-source-carbs-...

I meant to say it's primary fuel source. Will look into this more, but I would think avoiding suppression of epinephrine has to account for some of the effect of cutting to a no/low carb diet.

Good luck with your research! Peter Attia could be a good place to start -


Try it. Switching your brain to keytones definitely has a zen-like effect.

How large a difference? I'm willing to try anything that gives me the focus of Modafinil without actually taking drugs.

Good sleep and exercise will do that for you (speaking from experience).

For me personally - a significant difference. My productivity has increased due to rarely incurring cognitive fatigue due to fluctuating energy levels (i.e that afternoon slump after lunch goes away, skipping a meal has little or no consequence). I can code for 8 straight hours without having to eat where before if I skipped a meal I'd start getting hazy.

Additional benefits include weight loss while eating as much as you want, never getting hungry, being able to do a 10km run on an empty stomach and still be full of energy ..

Depends. I find myself more alert for some stints of time while in a ketogenic state, but on the other hand, have difficulty falling asleep (as in, normal day I'm drop dead asleep at 11-12pm, while in keto, I'm sleepy (very sleepy, groggy) but it is common for me to be awake at 2-3am. Wake up times is the same.

Not sure what is best to be honest since lack of sleep brings a lot of problems by itself.

No, what is making the difference is the boost of cortisol and adrenaline levels caused by HF/LC diets.

I take Ritalin, prescribed for ADHD-I. It's made a positive impact on my life.

From time to time I am able to actually get stuff done.

I also trialled dexedrine (which made me behave like a ... not nice person) and strattera (which did nothing for me).

You should try vyvanse, I used to take Ritalin and then my doctor trailed me on vyvanse and it lasts the entire day with far less negative side affects than Ritalin. I immediately fell in love, it's still patented though so it isn't cheap without insurance.

There is also Concerta - which is basically a mechanical pump contained in a pill that delivers Ritalin spread over 8 hours. They aren't under patent, but the extra mechanics built into the pill still drive a generic 30 day prescription into the $200 range (pre-insurance).

It isn't mechanical. It's osmotic. This blog has a nice illustration of it:


More here (pdf):


(osmosis is the movement of water across a semi permeable membrane, roughly speaking, the pill is arranged so that water is drawn into it, creating pressure that pushes the drug out of a small hole.)

The particular mechanism used in Concerta does appear to be under patent.

Mechanical delivery means does not exclude using osmosis to provide the pressure. Since the drug itself doesn't travel across an osmotic barrier, calling the delivery mechanism osmotic doesn't explain the mechanism very well.

That said, I didn't know that the generic versions used a completely different delivery mechanism; thanks for the links!

I didn't mean to argue about the words. I read "mechanical pump" and simply didn't believe it, and went and tracked down the above. So for my ears, "mechanical pump" wasn't the right description. I assumed that others might have a similar experience and so I posted what I had found.

I could only trial the drugs that are approved in Australia, because that's where I lived when I was diagnosed.

My plan is to talk to a psychiatrist about trialling some of the other drugs approved in the USA; we'll see how it goes.

Dexamphetamine. 1*5mg = 3 hours of uninterrupted coding, with maybe 1 minute total spent looking away from the screen to rest my eyes.

If no one walks up to me or calls to interrupt me, my everyday routine is that level of focus. No drugs beyond a couple of morning coffee cups needed.

One of my coworkers is normal, not like me. When he works in the office there's a lot more socializing, which is great, but it always makes me feel terribly non-productive.

Uninterrupted activity: the best nootropic.

The replies on this thread are very surprising... It seems everyone has tried them!!

The question you should ask yourself is why you would need to take pills to alter your normal brain function in the first place? Do you really need to be more focused / more relaxed? Where does the urge of being more productive come from? What is your end goal? Is that goal really going to make you happier?

It isn't as surprising once you realize tea (L-theanine & caffeine), coffee (caffeine) and cigarettes (nicotine) all are nootropics. :)

More information: http://www.gwern.net/Nootropics

> The question you should ask yourself is why you would need to take pills to alter your normal brain function in the first place?

Many medicines alter your "normal" brain function. So, why do we take medicines? Because "normal" can often be very shitty.

A huge percentage of the population drinks coffee and alcohol, so it's not that radical. And not everyone's normal is optimal. I have pretty severe ADHD and would kill for medication.

I take Piracetam, I'm not sure if it works, I'd say no so far (half a year). I'm very interested in nootropics that would work long term (whole life, all the time). Unfortunately most that have a profound effect seem to level-off etc (say Adderall). So I don't think I'll ever try that kind.

Here's an interesting post someone made cataloging all the different nootropics they've tried.


And here's one specifically about modafinil:


I've tried modafinil a few times. It helps me a little with alertness, but not much - I can use it for long drives, but it didn't particularly help with programming. I sometimes get a side-effect from it that makes it something I can't take at work: I get super cranky and easily angered, like shouting-argument angry. It's out of character for me, and really weird.

I took piracetam for a few months, and I thought maybe it was helping my focus and short-term memory. The side effect of that one, though, was even weirder: recovering sense memories of being a little kid. Like, flashbacks of the physical pain of the first time I had a bad injury. Vivid recollection of my adult teeth pushing my baby teeth out of the way. Even sensations of being an infant with no body autonomy at all.

Worth experimenting with? Absolutely.

Magic bullet for superhuman productivity? No way.

I've had interesting and unexpected results taking Lecithin supplements. There is a stimulating effect similar to caffeine or a B12 shot, and there is also a focusing effect where I could not stop fixating. I can have a tendency to day dream but not on Lecithin. It makes your train of thought very hard to derail. I still take it sometimes but not regularly. It hurts my stomach and can be a bit too much sometimes.

As far as I understand, lecithin breaks down/converts to choline an inositol, and it's these which are causing the mental effect. Since it's a food, the effects aren't as immediate. You'll notice it more on day two.

Only references to Lecithin as a supplement I found were Soy Lecithin, is this it?

Yep, that's it.

I used to take a wide array of cognitive boosters during higher education and piracetam is one I know quite well personally. To make this short:

It works for some things (like reading for hours at a time) but it has made me sometimes feel "foggy-headed" and less productive/creative. The effects it has on my GI tract have been problematic at times (causing gas) and it tends to make my blood sugar crash at T+3. Plus with the massive amount of choline you have to take alongside the product, it became an inconvenience rather than an aid.

I would recommend sulbutiamine over piracetam if you want to "get things done".

I take Modafinil every now and then. It's very powerful and can give me an amazing level of focus.

Even though research suggests that they have little negative long term side effects I do worry about taking them and would prefer a more natural method to get the same result.

Basically it's like this; If I get home from a 10 hour workday almost falling asleep, I can take one pill and suddenly it's like the day starts over again as my focus has returned. At the moment I feel like I need to do it as I have projects I work on in the evening that are important for my career progression.

Health is your biggest asset. No career will be fun if your health is ruined. Be careful and treat your body well!

Never took any drugs. Found that hot chocolate worked better for me than coffee to wake me up. However, the one safe drug I keep hearing about is modafinil. How safe? I don't know.

All it takes for me to get focus when I'm sleepy is the glow of a computer screen. It turns out that light hitting your eyes tells your brain it's not time to sleep.


Be careful.

A lot of the drugs with strong effects necessarily have long term consequences from repeated use owing to their mechanisms of action.

You risk making yourself 'dumber' over time with prolonged use. Especially, with the amphetamine based crap that US doctors seem okay to use for medical purposes despite most of the developed world not doing so, and using safer alternatives.

It's working out great for those "developed" countries - they'd rather let people suffer from their inability to learn/work/live than give them something that works, even if it has side effects. The doctors must've taken the Hippocrites oath.

Out of curiosity, have you heard of any negative long term side effects from Modafinil and it's derivatives? (I don't think they are based on 'amphetamine')

Correct, Modafinil is not an amphetamine. It is distinct from other psychoactive substances, and we don't fully understand its mechanisms of action, how it affects the brain, or why it works. It's normally classed a 'eurogic' or 'wakefulness-promoting agent', and it (+derivatives) is the only drug of that class.

Long term effects are tolerance, and.. not much else. It has to be cycled regularly. If you abuse it or fail to socialize/have fun enough it'll end up making you feel like a zombie. It's been in regular use for a decade and a half, I haven't heard of any serious issues.

The main risks are the first time you take it. If you're allergic you can have some very serious reactions. In addition, if you're in a high-risk group (low immune system, etc.), you want to avoid the slight risk of SJS/TEN is can cause. SJS/TEN is probably the most terrifying risk, although it's extremely rare, and hundreds of other drugs can cause it too.

Each of these substances are amazing, but not without some danger.

I have a friend who has taken it every day for the last 2 years. No negative side effects except when he doesn't take it, he feels like he is not performing at his best.

The major concern with Modafinil is that we just don't know what the long term side effects are. That's the risk you take.

That is exactly why I've never tried it. I'm afraid it will work, and then I'll want or need to use it all the time. Then who knows what will happen years from when I begin.

You are making some broad statements that could benefit from link to a study. And what would you consider safer alternatives?

I've taken Aniracetam for a while. It didn't make me as nervous as Piracetam.

Went on and off and noticed some memory improvement.

I take Google constantly. The way it works (for me) is amazing. Basically whenever I have a hard problem I can just wiggle my fingers, stare at the screen for a few minutes, and then BAM! I know how people usually solve that problem. Its like my mind has expanded and tapped directly into other people's experiences.

L-theanine has been a miracle drug for me. Took away a lot of my depression/energy issues.

I take piracetam/pramiracetam/noopept on and off and cycle between caffeine+l-theanine and nicotine. Some non-nootropic supplements I take are fish oil, Vitamin D3, and melatonin. Here are some of my anecdotes.


I haven't been able to get very consistent results with piracetam, but it's definitely not placebo. I've found that piracetam is hit-or-miss for a lot of people. Some are very sensitive and only need 500mg, while others, like myself, need somewhere around 10g, and it just doesn't work for others. When I started, the effects were fantastic: I had increased focus, more vivid dreams, and was more outgoing and personable when I'm normally introverted. However, after about 2 weeks of regular usage, much of the effect went away. This seems consistent with some other peoples' experiences with piracetam on the web. It seems to be having more effect now after a 2 month break, so it may just be tolerance. Also, @StevePerkins implied that piracetam is illegal to purchase in the US, but it is still unscheduled and legal to buy in most countries.


These are much less subtle than piracetam.

I usually take between 200-500mg pramiracetam and it has the same focusing effect of piracetam, but with a stimulating effect as well. I haven't noticed any tolerance issues, even with a period of regular use.

With noopept, I only felt any effects when consuming around 5mg sublingually. It's not a racetam so it's a bit riskier, in my opinion. I felt focused without any stimulating effects and I found it helpful for exams. Some people have reported short term memory issues with higher doses.


This really is one of the best nootropics around if you can reduce your tolerance. Just caffeine makes me feel jittery, but taking it 1:1 with l-theanine makes me feel calm, focused, and energetic.


I cycle this with caffeine to reduce tolerance. I use 2mg gums, and it works pretty well. It feels like caffeine with the edge taken off.

Like others have said, the benefits of nootropics are marginal compared to the low hanging fruit of sleep, exercise, and diet. If you're interested, just do your homework beforehand and balance the risks with the benefits. Everybody's different; find out which ones work and don't work for you, at what dosages. I think the racetams are relatively less risky, but they are psychoactive at high dosages, and there have not been studies on their long term effects over several years.

Caffeine and L-Theanine work well together. The effects and mechanisms were well enough understood for me to feel comfortable trying this out.

I take nicotine. I am not a coder; I write non-fiction. I figure it was good enough for Mark Twain, it is good enough for me.

"I had not smoked for three full months and no words can adequately describe the smoke appetite that was consuming me. I had been a smoker from my ninth year--a private one during my my first two years but a public one after that--that is to say, after my father's death. I was smoking and utterly happy before I was thirty steps from the lodge door. I do not now know what the brand of the cigar was. It was probably not choice, or the previous smoker would not have thrown it away so soon. But I realized that it was the best cigar that was ever made. The previous smoker would have thought the same if he had been without a smoke from three months. I smoked that stub without shame. I could not do it now without shame, because now I am more refined than I was then. But I would smoke it just the same. I know myself and I know the human race well enough to know that."

He smoked the stub without shame.

in what form?

I am not the commenter you're replying to. But I wanted to add that I am a coder and use nicotine extensively. That plus moderate amounts of caffeine.

I use either electronic cigarettes or snus. I figure both are at least safer than cigarettes. However I am concerned that both the hardware and liquid for e-cigs is of unknown danger.

The hardware, which heats the liquid you inhale, has metal parts. There are no regulations in place about what metal they use.

Regarding the liquid, I ended up finding one manufacturer who used all USP certified ingredients (except where not applicable such as with flavorings) and tested them for numerous known toxicities. However, PG and VG (the two main carrier liquids) have never been tested for safety in regard to long-term inhalation (even though they're GRAS). Same goes for inhaling those natural and artificial flavors.

At least with snus, although it is tobacco based, the people of Sweden have used it for a long time and studies have been done to assess its safety. One study showed only a very small increase for some cancers. My main concern is gum loss or similar. However the safety of snus is associated with how it's manufactured, so like e-cigs that's kind of a wildcard.

Anyhow, as far as the mental effects, it's kind of hard for me to comment since my entire teen and adult life has been spent using nicotine. However, I believe it prevents boredom with my work and helps to keep me somewhat engaged. Probably not much different than how your favorite music makes you feel when exercising. Also it slightly improves mood like caffeine.

The closest I get is I occasionally take creatine. I'm vegetarian, I think the studies go either way on if the low creatine in a veg diet matters for mental acuity or not. I'll take 3g daily for a month, then forget about it, feel like it does nothing, etc. I notice small benefits re: muscle size, but never anything mental.

For those of you who do take them: Aren't you concerned by side effects and/or long term health effects? Not judging, just genuinely curious; I've looked into them but it seems the general consensus is that their effects, both short and long term, are not very well understood yet.

I use Armodafinil/Modafinil 4-5 times per week, cycling for a few days here and there.

I've considered a lot of others as well (e.g. *racetams - avoided on reports of 'brain fog' and a few of mental impairment - scary!). However, out of the dozens(?) I ended up considering, Modafinil was the only one I ended up deciding to try and ultimately take regularly.

I've read enough studies (and try to keep up to date) to know what our current knowledge about it is. In almost all of the studies, side-effects have been fairly standard (headaches, a few people getting sick, etc.). It's been used on-prescription for the past decade without seeing any uproar.

In the long-term, I consider the risk of unknowns worth the reward. Most evidence points to it being fairly safe, if not, that's a gamble I might pay for.

I drink alcohol to have fun, often to excess. I eat junk food. I actively choose to do a lot of things that shorten my lifespan for negligible returns.

If this little magic pill, which costs the same as a bottle of coca cola, makes me feel motivated and alert for 14 hours a day, I'm going to take it until I find a reason not to.

Happily, I'd say the answer is "yes."

In the hacker community, I've never seen a article/discussion on the benefits of these substances that didn't include a healthy dose of skepticism coupled with lot of concern regarding the side effects.

i tried piracetam but unfortunately it didn't have any effect on me. more recently i've been taking modafinil which has helped a lot – not necessarily with focus per-se, but being able to get through any drowsiness or that "wall" of just getting something started.

though i will add my lifestyle is pretty clean, i would probably work on that first if yours is not.

i recently changed my diet to mostly paleo but do include rice and beans. i use a nutribullet everyday to make my breakfast. i avoid processed foods, those with preservatives, etc. and cut down considerably on alcohol intake. i exercise a little bit (cardio mostly).

adding paleo was great in that i no longer experienced the crash after eating a meal. about a year ago it was necessary to take 1-2 15 minute naps per day. now i can go 14+ hours without issue.

L-Theanine. Recently went through an interview spree. Helps me get rid of nervousness and focus on solving problems. Naturally found in tea leaves but obviously in small dosage. Can't confirm side-effects but sometimes gives me headache if I drink beer on the same day, particularly IPAs!

If you get good quality sencha, especially the (somewhat pricey) Gyokuro, you get a high dose of L-theanine and an absolutely delicious taste. One of my favorite pleasures in life!

Piracetam/choline/caffeine stack for about six months.

Would like to do another course at some stage. Mind was massively productive and I fleshed out several ideas over the period. Also got rid of the "mind fog" that starts to creep in from around 30 years old onwards.

Just caffeine and L-theanine. Mixture of coffee and caff/l-theanine pills.

I like the pills instead of all caffeine because I end up with bad jitters if I have too much caffeine in a day.

i've tried piracetam - the effects for me were borderline coffee + espresso for 30 minutes to an hour. it also seemed to stimulate my digestive tract. nothing extremely noticeable in terms of cognitive throughput, but I remember hearing about its increased memory effects in rats as a long term benefit.

I drink 2 -3 cups of caffeinated tea per day, occasionally I drink coffee. This is all I need.

I have started taking Bacopa from Himalays 2 weeks back. Hoping to see results in 8 weeks.

dark chocolate coffee coconut oil combo green tea and coffee chia seeds


I investigated nootropics extensively. If you want to know the fruits of my research:

* anything that "works" has a very pronounced psychoactive effect on the brain. Which is scary in the long-term.

* by far the biggest cognitive boost you can get is SLEEPING WELL! Do this FIRST! It's easy to fix and gives a huge boost in output.

* caffeine works as well as many nootropics, with little to no side-effects if taken sensibly. Also combine with Theanine if wanting to venture into the world of "probably works and has harmless side-effects".

> SLEEPING WELL! [..] It's easy to fix and...

I know you meant in the normal case, but it's definitely not easy to fix for some people, like with certain health problems.

Not referring to you in particular, but it just gets a little grating when so many people talk about a good night's sleep as if it was something that anyone can just get.

I can relate to this so well, as a person who has struggled with their sleep schedule since early childhood. People suggest going to bed at the same time every night, but I think those people have the ability to fall asleep when they're given no external stimuli. For me, no external stimuli means my brain starts working overtime, keeping me up.

The more common advice is to get up at the same time every morning, regardless of when you went to bed.


Does not work for me. I end up with a crushed soul and a complete inability to function.

Well, luckily there's a drug for improving sleep too


MIT has a patent on doses less than 1 mg and some(not exactly >1 mg) higher doses can have harmful effects.

PSA: http://smile.amazon.com/Source-Naturals-Melatonin-Liquid-Nat... is melatonin in drop form, with 3 drops being 0.3 mg.

See http://www.gwern.net/Melatonin for a good writeup :)

I think it's awesome that you linked to smile.amazon.com. Thanks for the reminder.

Source on the harmful effects? I have not seen any credible study showing any significantly harmful effects.

Did not know about the MIT thing. That explains why it seems impossible to find melatonin in reasonable doses. It took me a long time even to find something as low as 1 mg pills here in europe (why would anyone ever want to buy 8 mg melatonin pills??)

Trader Joe's sells melatonin that comes in does of 500mcg

It's a hormone so yes, taking it can have negative effects. It can lead to decreased natural production. You have to be careful with anything hormonal.

> It's a hormone so yes, taking it can have negative effects. It can lead to decreased natural production.

No, it can't, not all hormones work that way.

Personally noticed a substantial strain on my cardio after taking OTC Melotonin from GNS to sleep the night before.

biovea.com does 1mg ones in Europe.

It is possible to patent the quantity of dosage for a given chemical? There must be more to this than you let on, no?

The filing date on that is Jul 16, 1993, so it expired several years ago.

homoeopathy could crush the patent system!

>* anything that "works" has a very pronounced psychoactive effect on the brain. Which is scary in the long-term.

What are you specifically talking about? What do you qualify as a "very pronounced psychoactive effect" "on the brain" and how is that "scary in the long-term"?

Please don't just make blanket statements without qualifying them to the rest of us. Show some evidence or reasoning to argue.

You seem to contradict yourself, because caffeine is a nootropic.

That's not a contradiction, it's a context sensitive definition substitution.

I agree with you about sleep, it's very underrated for cognitive ability and memory development.

Did your research turn up anything negative about Modafinil?

I find Modafinil to be much more powerful than caffeine, however I do worry about long term side effects, even though my research suggests they are safe to use.

See my article on the topic for more detailed, in-depth view of modafinil and start-ups:


I've found this FAQ on modafinil, I liked it a lot. The whole site is brilliant, actually. http://www.gwern.net/Modafinil


I sleep 3 to 4 hours per night. Sleeping pills leave me groggy for days, so they are out. Every 2 or 3 weeks my mind and body give up and I manage to get maybe 7 or 8 hours sleep. Insomnia sucks.

Personally, I'm curious about other supplements that can improve my caffeine usage… e.g. prolonging effect, adrenal precursors, etc.

I totally agree with you on sleep, but I also found that green tea helped with my anxiety to the point I was sleeping well.

M-F I take one 200mg tablet of caffeine in the morning.

I also quit getting blackout drunk 4-5 nights a week.

While I wasn't getting blackout drunk repeatedly, I definitely had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and removing alcohol had enormous positive effects on my cognitive abilities.

I also do a heavy dose of caffeine in the morning.

Funny, but yes... even if I drink more than say... two glasses of wine, I am noticeably less alert, drowsy, and impaired the next day. So, not even "blackout drunk..." Better off waiting for the weekends for any alcohol.

My coordination improved when I quit drinking. I was a fairly heavy drinker, but not nearly to that extent. It used to be that when I dropped something, I would seldom catch it on the way down. Now I often or usually do. I didn't notice a commensurate improvement in code output or quality though, but it could have happened without me noticing.

Lots of compounds being discussed here - seems like some could be useful. But how do I know what is safe?

Piracetam, matcha, 5HE, dark chocolate. AT9PUiYE1X8FPWLUmo8aZKT7o7pS4Mmc4g

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