Nootropics and Cognitive Enhancers: Do They Work and Are They Safe?

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’re all constantly trying to be more productive and do more, leading us to this age of constant productivity and mental agility. In this age, nootropics—often referred to as “smart drugs” or cognitive enhancers—have gained considerable attention.

These substances claim to boost mental performance, enhance memory, and even foster creativity. But how much of these claims are supported by scientific evidence?

And are they safe for long-term use? This article aims to review the existing scientific literature on commonly used cognitive enhancers, evaluating their efficacy and safety profiles.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics are substances that are believed to enhance cognitive function, particularly executive functions like memory, creativity, and motivation in healthy individuals. The term was coined by Romanian psychologist and chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972. They come in various forms, including pharmaceutical drugs, dietary supplements, and even some foods.

Types of Nootropics


Modafinil: Originally used for treating sleep disorders, Modafinil has been studied for its effects on cognition. It has shown some promise in enhancing alertness and cognitive function, particularly in sleep-deprived individuals.

Ritalin (Methylphenidate): Primarily used for treating ADHD, it has stimulant properties similar to those of amphetamines. Some studies suggest it can improve memory and attention in healthy adults, but data are limited.

Adderall: Comprising amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, Adderall is prescribed for ADHD but is also used off-label for cognitive enhancement. Its long-term effects on healthy individuals are still not fully understood.


Caffeine: A natural stimulant found in coffee and tea, caffeine is perhaps the most commonly used cognitive enhancer. It has been shown to improve attention and alertness.

L-Theanine: Found in tea leaves, it’s often combined with caffeine to enhance cognitive performance. Some evidence suggests that it can improve attention and reduce stress.

Creatine: Known for its use in sports nutrition, some research indicates that creatine can have modest improvements on tasks requiring short-term memory and quick thinking.

Natural Foods

Blueberries: These berries are rich in antioxidants, and some studies have suggested that they may improve or delay short-term memory loss.

Walnuts: Rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid, walnuts have shown some potential in improving brain function.

Do They Work?

Supported by Evidence

  • Caffeine: There is substantial evidence supporting the short-term benefits of caffeine on alertness and attention.
  • Modafinil: Research suggests it may improve cognitive function, particularly in sleep-deprived individuals.

Limited Data

  • Ritalin: Some studies indicate benefits for cognitive performance in healthy adults, but results are inconsistent and long-term effects are not well-studied.
  • Creatine: Some modest improvements in cognition have been reported, but more research is needed.
  • Walnuts and blueberries: While promising, there isn’t sufficient evidence to conclusively confirm their cognitive-enhancing properties.

Safety Concerns

Addiction: Stimulants like Ritalin have potential for abuse.

Side Effects: Modafinil can cause headaches, nausea, and insomnia, while Adderall and Ritalin can result in increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular issues.

Long-term Effects: The long-term consequences of continuous use of these substances on healthy individuals are largely unknown.

Bringing it all together…

While some nootropics show promise for enhancing cognitive function in the short-term, conclusive long-term data is lacking. Most have some level of side effects, and the potential for abuse or dependency should not be overlooked.

Therefore, if you’re considering using any form of cognitive enhancers, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider for an individualized recommendation.