Nootropics: 1 Year

About a year ago I started experimenting with nootropics, also known as “smart drugs”. These seem to be a hot topic among nerds, but very few people I know have gone beyond reading an article or two about them. It’s understandable why as there’s a lot of confusing information on the topic. The information that’s out there is often contradictory, and definitely not easily understood by someone new to all the drug names and terms. Some of the best info you can find is completely anecdotal with little in the way of scientific backing. It’s hard to tell snake oil from something amazing, and like most drugs what works for one person may have no effect, or worse, have negative effects for someone else.

Basically I’ve come to the conclusion that for the most part nootropics are a good thing if you’re careful and conservative in their use. I’m certainly not an expert by this point, but I’m glad I’ve taken the plunge in experimenting with them. The “stack” I’ve been using can greatly enhance my focus and concentration. It by no means seems to make me a lot smarter than I am without, and the main benefits really seem to be from what feels like increased energy. It’s like what you might get from drinking coffee, but without feeling jittery and dehydrated, and usually a longer, more even energy increase. Plus I don’t really like coffee.

The powders taste absolutely disgusting, mostly metallic. So I quickly learned that mixing the powder into water was not going to be sustainable and I needed to put them into pills. I bought a little pill machine to encapsulate the powders and it’s pretty easy.

Here’s the stack and measurements I use to fit everything into the pill machine I got, which hold 24 pills (all measurements in milligrams):

Both Morning Afternoon Servings Per Batch Both Total Morning Total Afternoon Total
DMAA 40 8 320
sulbutiamine 500 4000
caffeine 100 800
choline 750 6000
aniracetam 1000 8 8000
pramiracetam 250 2000
oxiracetam 900 12 10800
PEA 500 6000
10800 10000 16800
count capacity total batch capacity
capsules 24 500 12000

That table might be a little confusing, and is mostly split that way to get the measurements to work out to fit in the pill machine evenly. Basically I want to measure out a batch by taking as much of each ingredient as I can evenly fit into 24 capsules, so about 12g worth of power. However, some powders have much different volume than others, so I can fit 16.8g of oxiracetam + PEA in 24 capsules, whereas in general I can only fit around 12g of other powders. Therefore those measurements took a little trial and error to get right for batch size.

According to the above plan, in the morning I take 6 pills (3 pills containing 40mg DMAA, 500mg sulbutiamine, 100mg caffeine) (3 pills containing 1000mg aniracetam and 250mg pramiracetam). Then in the afternoon I would take 5 pills (same 3 as before of DMAA, sulbutiamine and caffeine) (2 pills containing 900mg Oxiracetam and 500mg PEA). Really, I rarely take both morning and afternoon doses, and usually just alternate days taking the Aniracetam + pramiracetam combo one day and the oxiracetam + PEA combo the next day.

I bought all these as a convenient stack from Build Your Own Blend on Amazon. I originally stumbled across this product in a comment while looking into buying those little 5 Hour Energy shots online, and this turned out to be much more effective and cheaper per serving.

I tried using to see if I could measure the benefit of the nootropics. There was a small increase in some mental abilities, I think it was mostly due the fact that I would take tests before taking the nootropics, then do better on the next round of tests because I had practiced recently. I also played with some IQ tests, but as I said before, taking these drugs didn’t make me measurably smarter, just better able to focus. Focus isn’t usually a problem for me while test taking, so if it is for others they might feel smarter just because they can complete material quicker.

One of the best informational resources about nootropics I’ve found is on Reddit. There’s a lot of info there, so if it’s overwhelming just see the what to try first section.

Update June 2014

The stack I purchased on Amazon is no longer available. Amazon seems to have stopped letting people sell nootropics on their site. I’ve reordered individual ingredients from Nootropics Depot as I’ve run out.

Also, DMAA is no longer sold at all for health concerns. I never megadosed DMAA so wasn’t concerned, but I don’t miss it much from my stack. I’ve replaced it to some degree with noopept, which has similar effects to the racetams. Noopept requires much smaller dosing, even smaller than DMAA, so requires careful measuring.

I also sometimes skip caffeine from my stack since I need to drink a lot of extra water with caffeine, and I build a tolerance if used consistently. The choline + racetams + noopept seem to be the ingredients that have the most effect, and the other stuff could probably be left out without noticing much.

I often go months without using any nootropics, sometimes because I just get too lazy to encapsulate a new batch of pills and partly because I don’t want to become reliant on any kind of drug. When I do use it though I feel a lot more focused, productive and motivated still.