In the event you thought the trend of downing “cognitive enhancing” drugs was limited by college kids popping Adderall before their biochemistry final, you better think again. An Adderall-esque drug class called brain enhancing supplements is taking off among a certain Silicon Valley set, based on this Fusion article.
Programmers claim nootropics can increase productivity and focus but aren’t as intense as prescription psychostimulants. Users could make their own personal nootropics with powders purchased online or in supplement stores, or they can buy “stacks,” or pre-made doses, designed to produce specific effects.
Nootropics have been in existence because the 1970s, but apparently the Silicon Valley “biohacking” movement–through which workaholic techies attempt to optimize their health and basic functions, for example eating, for maximum productivity–has given these so-called brain enhancers a new life. As Fusion notes, “the nootropics community is surprisingly large and involved,” with a variety of online forums offering recipes and knowledge on users’ drugs of preference.
To be clear, the FDA does not approve most nootropics as brain enhancers, though many compounds within these drugs happen to be approved as dietary supplements. The writer of the Fusion piece, Kevin Roose, admits they have been taking nootropics off and on for a month, yet he isn’t totally sure they can be working. Nonetheless, even without having to be scientific proved, these drugs are becoming a cottage industry, consisting of nootropics-based startups such as truBrain, Nootrobrain, Nootro, and Nootrobox.
Nootrobox was started by Geoffrey Woo, a Stanford computer science graduate, and generates a stack called RISE. For $29 (plus shipping) the purchaser gets 30 capsules, each containing 350 mg of bacopa monnieri powder (a medicinal herb which is commonly located in South Asia), 100 mg of L-theanine (an amino seen in green tea), and 50 mg of caffeine (about the amount in a can of Diet Coke). As outlined by Fusion, the business is “selling ‘five figures’ amount of cognitive supplements 75dexjpky to customers that come with top Silicon Valley executives and Hollywood moguls.”
As the article quotes a number of individuals–coming from a financial analyst into a software engineer–who claim to have gotten success using nootropics, the scientific research on its long term effects remains to be thin. To believers, these prescription medication is merely an alternative for the stimulant which is already in widespread use: caffeine. But Silicon Valley being what it is, even something as mundane as caffeine is ripe for “disruption.”