Boosting Brain Performance of Students

For many people, especially students and employees, the idea of using smart drugs to increase brain performance is tempting.

Students hope to get through exams and projects more easily. While workers want to better manage their stressful working lives, and managers and executives need to have quicker decision-making skills and focus.

In 2010, a study conducted in the University of Mainz, surveyed 1,500 students.

As a result, participants are willing to use brain-enhancing drugs. 80% are willing to use stimulants if there are no side effects or long-term damage.

While 4% of participants have used stimulants, at least once, to improve concentration, attention and alertness.

In another study, 20% of students use performance-enhancing drugs over the course of their life in university.

And this number has significantly increased in recent years especially in North America and Europe.

In fact, in the US, researchers found that about 16% of students in high schools and colleges use prescription stimulants such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine without medical indication.

| Related: Are Nootropics Safe? | A Guide to Different Smart Drugs & their Effects

Significant Effects on Complex Tasks

When stressful situations arise, students and employees alike turn to coffee, energy drinks and brain-enhancing drugs hoping to get the energy and focus they need to get tasks done.

One of the most popular drugs in the US is modafinil. But in other countries, doctors only prescribe this drug to narcoleptics where suddenly falling asleep is one of the side effects.

On the other hand, the drug has known to be a “smart drug” or brain enhancer. Especially in the US, where drug use is less controlled, healthy people use this to boost their mental abilities.

A recent rise in sales of modafinil, from $196 m in 2002 to $988 m in 2008, led researchers from Harvard and Oxford Universities to re-examine the positive effects of the drug.

They found that the drug makes people smarter, more creative, and more focused when making decisions and solving problems.

However, the study indicated that modafinil has no significant effect on working memory when used short-term.

Moreover, when tasks are more challenging, modafinil seems to increase mental performance more reliably, especially for higher brain functions, in which many individual cognitive processes are involved.

According to Ruairidh Battleday of the University of Oxford and Anna-Katharine Brem of the Harvard Medical School, modafinil is the first real example of a “smart drug” that could really help.

The drug has few side effects which include headache, nausea and sleep disturbances which were also similar to the placebo group.

While 70% of the participants showed no effect on their mood.

| Related: How Diet & Activities Affect Memory and Concentration [7 Tips to Boost Memory] 

Miracle Drugs

When students, employees, athletes or any healthy individual wants to improve their brain performance there are brain-enhancing pills they can take.

When they take these pills to improve brain performance, they can remember things better and be more creative.

This is because the information in the brain connects faster than without medication.

Consequently, in the next few years, this trend will be more popular due to increased need.

These are the most common prescription brain-enhancing drugs.

| Related: Nootropics | Are They Really Magic Brain Pills? [Learn the Benefits, Effects, Types] 



Sold under the trade name, Ritalin, this drug can improve impaired attention, distractibility, learning difficulties and lack of attention, which many students experience.

Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant from the group of phenylethylamines with an amphetamine-like effect.

These are approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, depression, ADHD, and people with sleep disorders.

A tablet of Ritalin will keep one awake and focused for 4-6 hours, eliminating motivational and time issues.

Though intended for children 6 years and above who suffer from attention deficit disorders, more and more people still take it to improve brain function even if it requires a prescription.

However, side effects include increased blood pressure, poor appetite, insomnia, nausea, growth disorders, panic attacks, depression, nervousness, stomach discomfort, cardiovascular complaints and “very rare” sudden cardiac death.


This psychostimulant belongs to the group of centrally acting sympathomimetics and is not structurally related to amphetamines.

This drug is approved for the treatment of adults with excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy.

The exact mechanism of action of modafinil is unknown.

However, there is evidence that modafinil binds to the dopamine transporter and inhibits dopamine re-uptake. The study also showed that the effects of modafinil in healthy people are largely inconsistent.

For instance, Modafinil can slightly improve attention span but can worsen learning performance by over-activating it.

On the other hand, in the case of fatigue, the positive effects like wakefulness, attention and speed of reaction are clearly proven.

A dose of 100 to 400 mg is common for brain doping but it can lead to tachycardia, hypertension, tremor and dizziness.

Additionally, common side effects include headache, nervousness, depression and sleep disorders.

Stimulants like methylphenidate and modafinil can improve wakefulness and alertness in healthy people but only when they are tired.

3Donepezil or Rivastigmine

These are cholinesterase inhibitors used for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.

The efficacy of these drugs on healthy individuals are inconsistent but in some cases, reaction times and memory deteriorate.

The side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, headache, tremors and loss of appetite.

Depending on the dose, hallucinations, arousal states and aggressive behavior are also possible.


These are nootropics that affect the brain metabolism and improve various brain functions.

Piracetam can improve speech memory in healthy people but for the treatment of dementia and cognitive impairment, the drug was not effective.

Well-known side effects include sleep disorders, nervousness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to depression, anxiety disorders and aggressive behavior.

5SSRI-type antidepressants

Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRI are also called happy pills.

SSRIs like fluoxetine inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin from the synaptic cleft of nerve cells.

Fluoxetine is used for the treatment of patients with major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bulimia.

In healthy individuals, there were no effects on mood, social functions and self-confidence, according to studies.

The most common side effects are headache, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea, anxiety, disorientation, sexual function disorders and an increased risk of suicide can occur.


Beta blockers like metoprolol are approved for the treatment of patients with hypertension.

These drugs are used to inhibit the activating effects of the anxiety hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Experts believe that these drugs have anti-anxiety effects are used against stage fright.

Therefore, it’s worth considering in individual, short-term use.

Common side effects include fatigue, dizziness and headache, hypotension and gastrointestinal distress.

Occasionally, depression, concentration problems, nightmares and libido disorders and impotence in men occur.

The aforementioned drugs are all subject to prescription. Their use without diagnosis and prescription is illegal.

7Natural Brain Enhancers

If you are uneasy taking prescription brain-enhancers, there are natural nootropics you can try.

The most popular neuro-enhancers include caffeine-derived foods and non-prescription phytopharmaceuticals with ginkgo biloba leaf extract.


At 50 to 600 mg per day, caffeine increases alertness and wakefulness. Possible side effects include insomnia, inner restlessness and tachycardia.

For the short-term elimination of fatigue, caffeine is also available in the form of a pharmacy-only mono preparation.

The effects of caffeine depends on the current status of the brain. If the body is at its low active level, caffeine can increase performance.

In an active state, any attempts to be more active may even reduce performance.

Coffee drinkers know this very well. Especially healthy individuals, who normally function at an optimal level, a pharmacological intervention can promote performance in one person and reduce it in another.

| Related: What Happens When You Eat Dark Chocolate? [9 Benefits You May Not Know About]

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo extract is used for the symptomatic treatment of brain organic disorders in dementia syndromes.

This herbal plant has neuroprotective, antioxidant and circulation-promoting effects.

However, an evaluation of 16 studies with individuals that have no dementia showed no consistent improvement in concentration, attention, memory, and subjective self-assessment.

Side effects may include mild stomach discomfort, headache or allergic skin reactions. There is also a risk of spontaneous bleeding and interactions with anticoagulants.


Cutthroat and Challenging Job Market

Today, it is not a surprise that the use of brain-enhancing drugs, smart drugs, nootropics or miracle drugs continue to rise.

Students hope that through the use of these drugs, they will get good grades, finish school and be competitive in the job market.

While employees are inclined to use this medication because companies need people who are determined, have quick comprehension and have high tolerance to stress.

5% of the 3,000 workers surveyed between the age of 20 and 50 confirmed that they had taken performance-enhancing or mood-enhancing drugs.

In fact, 4 out of 10 users even take the medication daily to several times a week.

However, the success of these drugs among students and workers is unclear even when taken long-term.

Equally important to consider are the side effects that may cause users to misjudge his/her own abilities.

Though these can only be acquired with a prescription, they seem easier to acquire than other prescription drugs.

Unfortunately, taking these pills won’t make anyone an Einstein.

Those who’ll benefit most from brain doping, according to British researchers, are those who have lower IQ.

Smart drugs will not make you any smarter, but they will enhance brain performance for a longer period of time.

A CEO of a health insurance company warns the concentrated, creative and career-conscious individual, that the desire to be perfect cannot always be met by drugs.




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