Can Drugs Increase Your Intelligence?

More and more drugs, herbs, and nutrients have been shown to improve learning, memory, and concentration--and they’re readily available over the internet.

In 1993 I was a guest on the Montel Williams television show that discussed the potential of “smart drugs,” or cognitive enhancers, drugs that have the potential to improve memory and enhance intelligence. At the time, Montel didn’t seem terribly open-minded about the subject, or in hearing about the scientific studies that had been done with this new class of relatively safe pharmaceuticals--as, at the time, he was strong supporter of the War on Drugs--and he told us that there wasn’t such a thing as a “smart drug.” 

I found it interesting that years later Montel had a complete turnaround, and has since become a leading spokesperson for the benefits of medical marijuana, which has helped him treat the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. In my last column I discussed the scientific evidence that cannabis enhances creativity, and many people claim that it can also elevate certain aspects of intelligence. Now that Montel has expanded his mind with cannabis, I wonder if he might be more open to hearing about smart drugs now?

The term “smart drugs” was coined by John Morgenthaler, who coauthored two books on the subject, and unleashed a powerful meme into popular culture. Over the past twenty years a whole range of new drugs, technically known as “nootropics” or “cognitive enhancers,” have been developed that improve learning and memory, problem-solving abilities, verbal articulation, and even scores on standard I.Q. tests. 

A substantial subculture of optimal health seekers, and self-described “transhumanists,” have been experimenting with these substances for years, posting their reports on websites like Erowid and Bluelight, and there is a wealth of information available to anyone interested in exploring this subject.

Many of these drugs were initially developed to treat memory disorder problems, and age-related cognitive decline, but a lot of healthy people interested in maximizing their cognitive abilities have discovered that nootropics can improve their mental performance too.

Nootropics are drugs, herbs, and nutritional supplements that reportedly improve mental functions, such as concentration, memory consolidation, cognition, motivation, attention, and other traits associated with intelligence. The word “nootropic” was coined by Romanian researcher Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972, and although the term is not meant to describe psychedelics, it literally means “mind bender.” The word is derived from the Greek words “nous” (or “mind”), and “trepein (meaning “to bend” or “to turn”).

Nootropics are thought to improve mental performance by increasing the availability of the brain’s supply of neurochemicals or oxygen, by enhancing communication between different regions of the brain, or by stimulating “neurogenesis,” new neural growth and more dendritic connections between neurons. 

Three of the nootropics that I’ve personally found most useful are Hydergine, Piracetam, and Deprenyl.

Hydergine was invented by Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who also discovered LSD, and like LSD, Hydergine is derived from the ergot fungus, although it doesn’t have any psychedelic properties. Studies indicate that Hydergine has the ability to enhance memory and learning. It improves a range of cognitive abilities, such as concentration and recall, and helps to prevent damage to brain cells from insufficient oxygen. A number of studies even suggest that Hydergine may be able to help reverse existing damage to brain cells. I’ve personally found it to have both mentally-clarifying properties and antidepressant qualities. It is available in this country by prescription, although a three-month personal supply can be legally ordered without a prescription from overseas pharmacies.

Albert Hofmann’s intuition about ergot turned out to be extremely fruitful. This remarkable fungus has proven to be a gold mine of medicinal treasures; Hydergine and LSD are only two of the numerous drugs to be derived from ergot. Some of the other ergot-derived cognitive enhancers include the more potent pharmaceutical bromocriptine and the recently developed pharmaceutical nicergoline. 

Deprenyl has been shown to have many uses as a cognitive enhancer. It is a moderate-level stimulant and antidepressant that has been shown to improve memory, protect the brain against cell damage, alleviate depression, extend the life span of laboratory animals, and heighten sexual desire in both men and women. This impressive substance is available by prescription in the U.S., and although it is primarily prescribed to help people with Parkinson’s disease, memory disorder problems, and sometimes depression, a lot of healthy people also use deprenyl to improve their mental performance. Like Hydergine, a three-month personal supply of Deprenyl can be ordered from European pharmacies without a prescription. 

I’ve personally been using Deprenyl as an antidepressant and cognitive enhancer for over ten years, and I can attest to its powerful brain-boosting effects. It improves my mental performance so dramatically that I’ve used it before every public talk that I’ve given since 1995. 

Another personal favorite is Piracetam, and other related “racetam” drugs, such as Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, and Aniracetam. Scientific studies on Piracetam indicate that the nootropic drug increases performance on a variety of cognitive tasks, which may reflect its enhancement of cross-hemispheric communication in the brain, and of improving cognitive function in general. Piracetam also seems to inhibit brain damage caused by a variety of factors, including hypoxia and excessive alcohol consumption. I’ve noticed a strong sense of mental clarity from taking it, and I sometimes use it with my writing. Piracetam is unregulated in the U.S., and  three-month personal supply of it can be ordered from European pharmacies.

Some other popular cognitive enhancers include the herb Gingko Biloba, the pharmaceutical medications Galantamine and Lucidril (Centrophenoxine), the hormone Vasopressin, and new cognitive enhancers are being developed all the time. The most recent are a class of non-amphetamine stimulants that allow people to retain mental clarity for long periods of time without needing sleep. These “eugeroic” (“wakefulness enhancers”) drugs include Adrafinil, Armodafinil, and Modafinil (Provigil).

My experience with these cognitive enhancers over the past twenty years--and the reports from many others--suggest that these generally safe and effective pharmacological tools have incredible potential for enhancing memory, accelerating intelligence, and improving concentration.

To learn more about cognitive enhancers see John Morgenthaler and Ward Dean’s books Smart Drugs and Nutrients (volumes 1 and 2). To order these products see: www.antiaging-systems.com/

If you enjoy my column, and want to learn more about psychedelic and cannabis culture, “like” my Facebook page:


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Selina Reddan April 17, 2012 at 05:52 AM
Thank you so much for clarifying about these different "smart drugs". I have observed them used very successfully in Parkinsons and Dementia, even Alzheimers. I just wish that more people and doctors knew about them.
Selina Reddan April 17, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Remember that not everyone takes these indiscriminately . Deprenyl for example is available in almost every country , even in the U.S. by prescription. These drugs are keeping many people alive and in the case of some Alzheimers patients able to recognise their relatives, and live a lot longer. i know that for myself my brother is still alive becos of these "smart drugs". Many of these people are so ill that they cannot focus on meditation and breathing exercises.
Michael A. Lewis April 17, 2012 at 08:45 PM
The article and comments are not about prescription use of these drugs. We have specifically addressed non-prescription off-label access and use of drugs with known harmful side-effects.
Elizabeth Borelli April 17, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I noticed that too Maria, not particularly relevant to an article about boosting learning potential - thanks for pointing it out!!
Judge Crater July 10, 2012 at 06:38 AM
THE COURT: Mr. Brown, please explain your thoughts on aliens again. MR. BROWN: It appears that DMT has the extraordinary power to open up an interdimensional portal into another universe--often referred to as “hyperspace”--and to reliably allow us to establish contact with the intelligent beings who reside there. THE COURT: Say what? Ms. Court Reporter, did you get all that? COURT REPORTER: Yes, Your Honor. Here’s the link. http://santacruz.patch.com/articles/can-psychedelic-drugs-help-us-speak-to-aliens THE COURT: Bailiff, please take Mr. Brown to the pokey until he beams back to earth. When he rematerializes, instruct NCPD to release him and give him bus fare to Santa Cruz. Under no circumstances is he allowed to eat funny mushrooms. Have Zira escort him at all times he is in the jurisdiction. This whole town’s going to pot. I think it was a mistake for the Long Range Planning Group to hire this gentleman from the Left Coast. This thread is closed. Turn on the exhaust fans. Clear the court.


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