Are Cognitive Drugs safe?

Written By: Cudy

14th April 2023

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That depends on who you ask.

Advocates of cognitive enhancement can point to dozens of studies and anecdotal evidence that drugs like Modafinil, Ritalin, and Adderall are safe.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) even permits their use in certain situations. And the FDA has approved many of these drugs as treatments for ADD/ADHD and narcolepsy.

Critics, however, question whether these drugs are safe simply because they haven’t been widely used or tested for long enough periods. They also worry about the potential for abuse and addiction.

The jury is still out on whether these drugs are truly effective in enhancing cognition for most people. For example, a recent study found that most people given Ritalin don’t experience any cognitive enhancement at all.

Should you take a cognitive drug?

The answer depends on your specific goals and abilities as well as your overall situation in life. A 20-year-old Harvard graduate and CEO of a tech startup, for instance, might benefit from Adderall or Modafinil.

But if you’re a mid-level manager at a Fortune 500 company, you may have to pass on these drugs – and focus on other cognitive hacks instead.

Here are a few things to consider before taking a cognitive drug:

Dosage and frequency. When using drugs like Adderall or Ritalin, you need to be careful about dosage and frequency of use. For example, it’s recommended that you start with the smallest possible dosage.

You should also take only once or twice per day. Even if you’re offered some of these drugs by one of your friends, don’t take them unless you’re prescribed them by your doctor. And even then, don’t take them without your doctor’s supervision.

Side effects

The side effects from these drugs can be very serious and sometimes fatal. For example, they may include insomnia, nervousness, stomach aches, headaches, sweating, palpitations (an uncomfortable sensation in the heart), and dizziness – not to mention heart problems and liver damage on rare occasions.

Long-term effects

While long-term use of these drugs appears to be safe, it’s not clear whether the long-term benefits of using them are worth the risk.

For example, while Ritalin and Adderall appear to improve concentration and focus, they don’t appear to boost memory or motivation. And Modafinil appears to enhance memory at first, but it doesn’t seem to last over time.

Negative side effects for some users

Some users of cognitive drugs have reported negative side effects like irritability and restlessness. And on rare occasions, Modafinil has been associated with psychosis in some patients.

In other words, these drugs may not be a good idea for people with a history of mental illness or panic attacks. And they may also make bipolar disorder even worse in some cases.

Combining cognitive drugs with other substances is not recommended

Using cognitive drugs with alcohol or other medications is not recommended. This can lead to serious side effects that are often life-threatening – including high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and seizures.

It can also result in a sensation of feeling cold and clammy – and even death in rare instances.

Adderall addiction

Some people become addicted to Adderall – and even experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. So be careful when you try this drug.

The same is true of other cognitive enhancers like Ritalin, Modafinil, and Concerta. Addiction to these drugs can be very serious – and even life-threatening.

If you’re experiencing signs of addiction, contact your doctor immediately and ask for help. Your doctor may need to taper your dosage down slowly to avoid withdrawal effects.

Brain enhancement strategies that may work better than drugs

Cognitive enhancement drugs are not the only strategy for boosting brain power. Here are a few other options that may be worth trying:

Exercise regularly

Several studies have found that regular exercise improves concentration, focus, and memory in a variety of ways. Also, it doesn’t take much either.

Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week can lead to significant improvements in brain function – as well as reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost mood.

In fact, research shows that aerobic activity is one of the most effective “brain hacks” around – and one of the most enjoyable.

Try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) . EFT is a simple but powerful self-help tool that can reduce stress and anxiety, eliminate depression, and even help you quit smoking.

It’s also been shown to enhance cognitive abilities – and even improve memory. In fact, a recent study found that EFT can increase working memory by more than 50 percent in just two weeks – far better than taking Ritalin or Modafinil.

Try a brain training program . Brain training programs like Lumosity have shown some success in improving cognitive function.

In fact, research shows that Lumosity may improve cognitive function in adults who don’t necessarily have ADD or ADHD.

The company also claims to have helped more than 70 million people worldwide improve their cognitive abilities. But other studies have found little evidence of these benefits.

They even suggest that brain training games may be no more effective than simply doing nothing at all – except wasting your money.


A growing number of studies suggest that meditation can boost focus and concentration by up to 50 percent – even for newbies – as well as reduce stress and anxiety levels by up to 70 percent.

Research shows that meditation can also increase activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC). It is an area of the brain linked to concentration and focus. And it can even increase the volume of the hippocampus – a part of the brain involved in memory and learning.

Exercise Your Brain

You can use games and puzzles to train your brain just like you can with your body. In fact, research shows that cognitive training programs – such as Lumosity.

It may increase attention span by up to 50 percent. And research suggests that these improvements can last for more than two years!

Stay hydrated

All cognitive drugs require the proper functioning of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. But they also require plenty of water to be effective.

In fact, studies show that taking a drug like Modafinil is like “taking a bath in hydrocodone”. Because it requires plenty of water to work properly in your body.

So make sure you’re getting enough water every day. And be sure to eat foods rich in electrolytes as well – such as sea salt, celery, cucumbers, and spinach.

Try supplements

Natural remedies like fish oil and ginkgo biloba may help improve memory function by boosting blood flow to key areas of the brain. And a number of other supplements can also improve your brain function and mental focus.

Get enough sleep

Research shows that lack of sleep can impair your ability to focus, concentrate, and remember. So get at least seven hours of sleep every night – or take steps to improve the quality of your sleep.

You can also use a sleep-enhancing supplement like ZMA or add melatonin to your evening routine.

Read similar article of 7 Tricks to Maintain Attention Span in Young Children or other beneficial articles on Cudy Blog page.

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