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The Risks of Nootropic Use – Psychology Today

Posted: November 8, 2019 at 11:44 am

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Nootropicsfor example, caffeinearecompounds that,if used correctly, are safeand can enhance your cognitive performance and mood.

You can develop tolerance to some nootropics if you dont cycle them. Its even possible to develop an addiction to some. If you have a history of substance abuse, I would suggest you start only with the less potent ones. For example,N-acetylcysteine can help against addictions.

A criterion for a compound to be a nootropic is that the compound should have no risk of addiction if used right. This is not true for certain compounds that some regard as nootropics. Examples of compounds that are risky, especially if you have a history of substance abuse, are Modafinil, Phenibut, caffeine, and Tianepeptine.

The dose makes the poison Paracelsus

In the initial phase of getting to know the effects of a compound on your body and mind, you should experiment very carefully. Take it slow in the early stages of your exploration.Research the individual compoundand be present to what is happening in your body and mind upon consumption.

The goal of nootropic use for most people is to enhance your psyche, not only the underlying biochemistry. Lets find out what can go wrong in pursuing that.

The risk is that any good effects you feel are placebo, which means youre really just wasting your money. I would argue thatyou are the placebo, though, which entails the fact that placebo effects are as real as non-placeboones.

On the other hand, its better to find things that work on the biochemical level over the long term. Nootropics vary widely in their efficacy throughout the human population.

For example, one particular SNP (gene variation)Single Nucleotide Polymorphismalters the efficacy of Modafinil on the user.

The SNP rs4680 has been linked to the production of an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. If your SNP variant is GG you will have the best response to Modafinil. If youre AGyou will have an intermediate response, and if youre AA you will have a less notable result.

I had my gene test, and my variant is AG, which means I would respond, though not very strongly (comparatively), to Modafinil. (I will write about genetic testing for biohacking purposes in a later post.)

The example of the SNP rs4680 and Modafinil illustrates that we all react differently to what were exposed to. Thats true both for the biochemical and psychological constituents of our minds. Genetic testing is one method for finding out how you react on the biochemical level. Psychological reactions can be indicative of your biochemical reaction.

Psychological problems are not something you can be completely guarded against, whether you use nootropics or not.

Many nootropics can help people with various psychological conditions, for example, depression and anxiety. The risk you expose yourself to is dependent on which nootropics you use, and most of all,how you use them.

If you have prior psychiatric conditions, you have to be extra cautious. Nootropics can be more useful for people with cognitive impairment, or people with ADHD, than people without psychiatric conditions. But the mind and biochemical state of people with psychiatric conditions are often already full of both medications and psychological problems.

Ive gained a lot in my ability to engineer my experience away from psychological problems and psychiatric conditions from reading a lot of books concerning psychiatry, psychology, and mental disorders. While it is good for me in the long term to have explored those waters, it wasnt a pleasant process. It was very humbling and I discovered how little has to go wrong for a person to end up in a bad place.

In my experience, the most challenging experiences psychologically have been some of the most growth-inducing ones. If you recover from a psychologically problematic state and reflect on what happened, you will have new perspectives and develop as a person. You will understand nootropics better, you will understand your own psyche better, and you will understand the human psyche better.

Having agrowth mindsethas been crucial in helping me make sure all the negative effects I ever had from nootropic use were short-term and solvable.

If you get cognitive problems or experience side effects from nootropics, it can definitely affect your career and relationships. Neither themindnor the biochemical building blocks of which it is made exist in a vacuum; they interact with their environment. Naturally, you will have difficulty performing if youre experiencing psychological problems.

In my opinion, nootropics used well can help solve most problems you may have with social anxiety. If you do suffer from social anxiety, please know this: Youre an animal, youre conditioned, and you can recondition yourself. Nootropics can help you to smoothly start exposing yourself to what was once outside your comfort zone. Lets say you boost your calm with ashwagandha and have to make a public speech. For the long term, it is better for your confidence, career, and abilities to have done it well. In my experience, the memory formation of how your public speech went is stronger than what nootropics you take.

You can use nootropics to get into new habitual ways of being and continue to live the same way after stopping the use of the nootropic.

I cannot stress this point enough: Nootropics should give you benefits and no significant side effects. I believe you can boost your odds of achievingthis by being aware of the risks and experimentingcautiously.

Theres limited research on most nootropic compounds, and, for some, the best source of knowledge is peoples personal experience.

There are somenootropics with an inverse riskthat have a lot of scientific evidence of being harmless. If you experiment with the most potent pharmaceutical nootropics, there is a risk that you maycreate long-term problems for yourselfby doingsome real damage to your DNA, or by some otherunknownmechanism.

My personal philosophy on the more potent ones is to use only some of them, the ones in which I see the least risk and biggest rewards. I only use these for special occasions. I never use them two days in a row and am conservative in using them at all.

I'm not concerned with changes in life expectancy as a result of using these nootropics. I believeIve already increased my life expectancy way above average by deliberatelyexercising, eating, meditating, and sleeping.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace. Theres a great chance that any harm onemay do will be fixable when the problem arises.

Im fully aware I could end up with health problems from using nootropics the wrong way. Theres a big difference between the possibility and probability of that happening, though. Im doing everything in my power to reduce the probability.

The unknown anduncertaintyentail an inherent risk for problems. Were more or less programmedto be anxious and fearful of the unknown by our genes. It served us well on the savanna. Unless we develop deliberate, intentional strategies for handling this fearwe will stay in our comfort zones, at the expense of our well-being and self-actualization.

Being anti-fragile meansgainingfrom disorders or problems. If youre mindful and aware of whats going on in your mind when you take nootropics instead ofbeing inside whats going on, you will become robust or anti-fragile to it.Whether or not you can detach is biochemically dependent. Our ability to embrace uncertainty is constantly changing. It is in itself uncertain. Should we accept that?

Should we embrace the uncertainty of our constantly changing ability to embrace uncertainty? My personal opinion is that, no, I dont want to spend hours every day practicing mindfulness to possibly get into a state of mind thatembraces uncertainty.

Its simply more economical time-wise and results-wise to work with your body deliberately, for example, by usingnootropics that work well for you specifically, in contrast to going with the flow of your body'sfluctuations and mishaps.

Biohackingdoes not entail going against your own nature; on the contrary, it involves re-aligning yourself with your nature (being healthy). I choose to engineer my experience. I do this to optimize cognitive performance and happiness and help others do the same.

But how doyoureduce the probabilities of all of these risks and still reap the benefits of nootropics? Research every compound and experiment slowly. Theres no substitute for knowing the risks and how to mitigate them if you want to biohack safely.

This post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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The Risks of Nootropic Use - Psychology Today

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith