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What are “Smart Drugs” & Should We Worry?

the dangers of smart drugs

Many of us have been there before: Cramming for exams at the last minute, staying up all night to finish a project, or drinking three cups of coffee just to make it through class. It’s safe to say that you, like most people today, rely on some sort of stimulant to enhance your daily function, whether it be through caffeine, energy drinks, or simply a healthy dose of vitamins and exercise to wake up. Yet according to recent news, a new contender known as “smart pills” has been added to the mix. As this new breed of brain-boosting drugs hits the market and our youth, we have to ask: are these smart drugs safe?

“Smart pills,” otherwise known as nootropics, are substances designed to improve brain function. The most common component of smart pills is a drug called Modafinil and is frequently found today under the brand name Provigil. Often nicknamed “moda” by younger users, Modafinil is intended to enhance a person’s academic and professional performance, allowing them to stay awake longer, focus better, and remember more at once.

If you could go back to your school days and take “enhancement” drugs to aid those all-nighters, to help you learn, to make you smarter, would you? According to this year’s SAMHSA report, approximately 137,000 American college students already do—80 to 90 percent of which are believed to be men. It seems that taking prescription stimulants has become the norm for many students and young professionals in high-pressure situations. Shockingly, a strong majority of people support their use.

A recent Washington Post article unveiled an alarming truth about smart drugs. During a debate at George Washington University, 59 percent of the audience (parents, students, young adults, and educators alike) voted in favor of college students taking smart drugs for cognitive enhancement.

Smart drugs like Modafinil have been deemed the new Adderall, only more effective with less apparent side effects. Despite numerous studies on the drug, however, researchers remain unclear on how exactly Modafinil works and how it affects the brain. Rather than increasing chemical activity in the brain like most classic stimulants, Modafinil is believed to decrease the chemicals that slow the brain down. 

Unlike Adderall, smart drugs do not cause euphoria and, therefore, are not believed to carry great potential for addiction or abuse. Still, we should tread lightly. The long-term effects of Modafinil are still unclear, and just like many prescription drugs, it can affect different people in different ways. Today, Modafinil is only available by prescription, but many users purchase the drug off-label, online, and overseas. This is one way we must be wary. Teens and young adults may be seeing a lot of recent news supporting these smart drugs, and without second thought, buying them from illegal online pharmacies. Buying drugs online  without a prescription means that your teen may be using unregulated, unlabeled meds with expired, contaminated, or unmentioned ingredients.

One of the biggest risks of smart drugs, however, is not in its safety or its potential for abuse. Rather, the greatest peril lies in our quickness to accept these drugs as the norm. Take a step back and look at your son or daughter. Regardless of whether or not your teen is an A student or a C student, do you want him or her to use drugs to perform better? To function at school, to complete assignments quickly, to be able to work for longer periods of time, with the aid of a pill?

The acceptance of smart drugs would, in a way, make drug use a normalcy, further corrupting education, work culture, and our youth. While these smart drugs do not carry many negative risks, they still are drugs that lend to the notion a pill can heal all—even the slightest learning deficits. Yet this is far from the truth. Many young users today do not question how smart drugs work. They only question whether or not they do work at all. According to researchers, smart drugs put the brain into its optimal chemical state. They do not make a person “smarter,” necessarily, but optimize the brain’s capacity to learn more. Smart pills cannot make a person limitless; they cannot make one super-human or Einstein.

The acceptance of smart drugs could also mean that a person will no longer need a disorder to obtain a prescription and that more young adults will take them for better chances of academic or professional success. Because of the competitive nature of our society, smart drugs could quickly become the norm, an increasing standard among students. To keep up with the competition at work and in school, one will need to swallow a pill—and that, in itself, is a hard pill to swallow.

If you would like to learn more about smart drugs or the effects of teen substance abuse on academics, call us today at 877-581-1793.