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