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Nootropic (procognitive) drugs are substances whose consumption is supposed to lead to the improvement of various cognitive functions - they are supposed to positively influence, among others, for memory, attention and concentration. However, there is a lot of controversy with nootropic (procognitive) drugs - they concern both what substances can really be considered nootropic drugs and whether the use of these drugs is really safe.


  1. Nootropic drugs: what substances do they include?
  2. Nootropic drugs: action
  3. Nootropic drugs: side effects

Nootropic drugs- the origin of their name dates back to the 1970s of the last century - it was first used by Romanian chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea. The term is derived from a combination of two Greek words: "nous" (understood as reason) and "trepein" (translated as twist or bend). Nootropic drugs (nootropics, or procognitive drugs) are substances that improve cognitive functions - attention, memory or concentration. Preparations belonging to this group may also increase motivation or improve motor functions. Nootropic drugs, as mentioned at the beginning, have been around for quite some time. Preparations belonging to this group, however, are currently becoming more and more popular - not only is the number of people looking for information about them increasing, but also the sale of pro-cognitive drugs is systematically growing.

This raises some controversy - some of these drugs are used in the course of various diseases (mainly neurological, such as, for example, Alzheimer's disease). However, nootropics are consumed mainly by he althy people - so many doctors consider whether such treatment is justified and safe.

How to improve memory?

Memory disorders: causes, symptoms, treatment

Amnesia, or severe memory impairment

Nootropic drugs: what substances do they include?

Pro-cognitive substances include many different substances - both completely natural preparations and various synthetic substances. This is because nootropic effects can have substances such as :

  • vinpocetine,
  • nicergoline,
  • piracetam,
  • amphetamine derivatives (e.g. dextramfetamine),
  • caffeine,
  • modafinil,
  • lecithin,
  • cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g. rivastigmine, donepezil),
  • ergot alkaloids (mainly the hydergine contained in it),
  • memantine,
  • methylphenidate,
  • theanine,
  • atomoxetine,
  • ginkgo biloba,
  • ginseng.

The above list is only a selection of substances that are considered nootropics. The group of nootropic drugs, however, undergoes constant, dynamic changes - some substances are considered to be successive pro-cognitive agents, while in the case of others it turns out that they do not have any beneficial effect on cognitive functions.

In the past, it was suspected that the use of vitamin B12 has an extremely beneficial effect on the CNS function - it finally turned out that this valuable vitamin affects many different structures of the body, but not necessarily the nervous system.

It was similar with omega-3 fatty acids: it was once thought that their use could improve, for example, the ability to learn, but after a closer analysis of the effects of taking these substances, it turned out that they have a rather limited effect.

Nootropic drugs: action

There are quite a lot of nootropics, there are also many mechanisms by which they exert their influence on the nervous system. For example, vinpocetine leads to the improvement of cerebral microcirculation, and in addition, it increases the consumption of oxygen and glucose by cells during hypoxia (oxygen deficiency).

Ginkgo biloba preparations are supposed to exert an antioxidant effect, while nicergoline improves cerebral blood flow by blocking alpha-1a adrenergic receptors. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors - by blocking this enzyme - reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine, which may result in improved cognitive functions in patients with dementia.

Nootropic drugs, however, can lead to a number of other effects. Some of them exert neuroprotective effects, others stimulate neurogenesis. Taking other of them results in an increase in the stability of the membranes of nerve cells or an increase in the synthesis of various neurotransmitters.

Finally, the result of the above-mentioned phenomena would be:

  • improvement of concentration,
  • increasing the ability to focus,
  • memory improvement,
  • general improvement of intellectual functioning,
  • agitation (nootropics are often used by people who are experiencing it at the momentfatigue).
Worth knowing

Nootropics … are available in virtually every home

Nootropic drugs can be bought at the pharmacy, however, substances that affect cognitive functions are present in most homes - we use them basically on a daily basis. We are talking here about caffeine, which can be found in coffee or cola drinks. Many of us cannot imagine starting the day without reaching for a cup of a small black cup, which makes us energized and ready to act - these effects occur precisely due to the fact that caffeine is a nootropic agent.

A substance with a procognitive effect is also theanine - this amino acid can be found in green tea and it can lead to the fact that after drinking such a drink we become calmer and relaxed.

Nootropic drugs: side effects

Pro-cognitive drugs can have the expected effects - this is the case, for example, in the case of people with dementia or those who have had a stroke - however, we are talking about sick people.

These substances are often taken by completely he althy people who expect that thanks to taking nootropic drugs their memory will improve or they will be more efficient at work. Such a situation may actually take place, however, in fact, there are certain risks associated with the use of these measures.

Note that nootropic drugs… do not work for everyone. In addition, it is usually necessary to take them for a certain period of time (reaching several days, but sometimes even several weeks) for the effects of their use to appear - when someone takes one tablet of piracetam and begins to feel a surge of intellectual strength, the most likely he had a placebo effect.

Natural preparations, classified as nootropics, can be purchased in Poland without any particular difficulties. However, nootropic drugs are already available on prescription in our country - it is not always easy to obtain one. So some people consider buying pro-cognitive drugs in foreign online stores or other, not entirely reliable sources - such a procedure is hardly safe.

Firstly, you never know what will actually be sent as a nootropic drug, secondly, some of the drugs offered abroad have not been thoroughly tested and it is not entirely clear what the effects of taking them may be.

It should also be noted that nootropic drugs - like any other drugs - have contraindications to their use. For example, vinpocytin cannot be taken by people with diagnosed disordersheart rhythm - the drug may contribute to this problem.

Piracetam is, in turn, contraindicated, for example, in people with renal insufficiency and in the event of an episode of intracranial bleeding. Having already mentioned this drug, it is worth mentioning one more aspect: if we decide to use nootropic drugs, it is necessary to do it with caution.

Piracetam may impair the ability to drive vehicles, and if the drug is taken late, it may result in difficulties falling asleep.

It is also worth mentioning that nootropic drugs sometimes have the expected effect, but instead of helping us … they actually harm. It happens that taking a drug that is supposed to strengthen concentration will actually lead to it, but the effect can be so strong that exceptional focus on a specific activity will negatively affect our creativity.

Nootropic drugs - as agents that improve the work of the brain - can arouse completely justified interest, however, it is worth approaching preparations belonging to this group with extreme caution and caution.

About the authorBow. Tomasz NęckiA graduate of medicine at the Medical University of Poznań. An admirer of the Polish sea (most willingly strolling along its shores with headphones in his ears), cats and books. In working with patients, he focuses on always listening to them and spending as much time as they need.

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