Friday, May 29, 2009


There is a class of medications that claims to be able to boost your intelligence in various ways. These have been named the Nootropics, after the greek "Noos," meaning Mind, and "Tropos," meaning "Bent" or "Turned."
Most of these drugs have been developed to deal with mental conditions like ADD, Depression, and burnout. That they can increase productivity in normally healthy people has been the surprising result.
While intelligence is a complicated subject, the most common results are reduction of fatigue, increased ability to concentrate in the face of distractions, and increased confidence. With these three effects are combined, a person seems smarter and wittier.
Like all chemical modifications, there are side effects. Most of the stimulants make people jittery, and in high doses, encourage paranoid thinking. Not to mention the tendency towards exhaustion and depression when the drug wears off. Excessive doses of anything can alter heart patterns up to and including failure. Seratonin and other brain chemicals can become unbalanced.
In one instance, a drug produced a journalistic effect. The medicine Modafil, developed for treatment of Narcolepsy, a disease causing people to fall asleep at random and inopportune times, was discovered to "cure" the need to sleep entirely. Under the new name "Provigil" (drugs typically have a chemical name and a more memorable marketing name), commercials were launched for a drug that took the need for sleep away. Instantly, pundits of all kinds feared a coming culture in which people operate 24 hours a day. Sleeping would soon become seen as a waste of time, and all other cultures would wind up economically devoured by people who were magically 1/3 more productive.
This ended up not happening. Provigil users are urged not to stay awake for more than 48 hours at a time for safety's sake. Still, it is curious that unlike people who stayed up without chemical help, their sleeping does not increase on their sleeping days.
Off-label drug use is getting increasingly strange. Why'd biochemistry have to be so complex?

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