Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Post by Mindstar »

Lately i did some research onto the topic of Nootropics that became more popular lately especially among students.

They are often advertised as:
- boosts memory, learning and focus
- increased alterness and perception
- Neuroprotective for improved brain cell health

I´ve read some reviews and they seemed to be quite positive in most terms even reporting posive effects on mediation:
Another perk of piracetam is something I hadn’t read about, and wasn’t therefore expecting. As someone who meditates, and who places a huge value in meditation, it was revelatory when I started meditating after taking piracetam, and noticed how easy the process seemed to be. Piracetam sharpens the focus of the mind, a part of that sharpening coming from thoughts being more controlled and less “frayed” than usual. This is a blessing when it comes time to meditate, as meditation is largely about staying in the moment and experiencing the world as is. ... nootropic/" onclick=";return false;" onclick=";return false;

The drawbacks are also well described in this article. To me it sounds promising even tho i´m still pretty sceptical.
Could it be to good to be true?

Another review

From the viewpoint of buddhism would it be ok to use them because they don`t seem to lead to carelessness... more like the opposite?

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Higher than sojourning in heavens supreme,
Higher than empire over all the worlds,
Is Fruit of Entrance to the Dhamma Stream.
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Re: Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Post by Alobha »

I don't think a review posted by "some dude" online is a good source of information. It's more useful to ask professionals, have a direct look at the current state of research on the topic or look up the results of clinical trials that were run with that substance.

As far as I know, Piracetam is more and more often prescribed to people it was not intended for (it's an antidementia drug). Work stress, the need for higher productivity, people want to be better at anything (meditation too!) etc. The reasons are manifold.

However, bigger empiricial studies like the one from the Cochrane collaboration* (11959 participants) showed that piracetam didn't increase functioning levels for dementia patients and people with cognitive impairment beyond placebo (sugar) pills (More Infos on the cochrane collaboration here)It's advertised as a wonderdrug by people who want to make a big profit but the science, especially from trustworthy sources, doesn't hold up for it beyond the placebo effect.
A Placebo effect is still something though. It also explains why it's supposed to do everything (more confidence, more productivity, more concentratin, become a better version of yourself, yay!)
It can still make you feel better and more confident etc. because the power of belief does work after all.

Though please consider the side effects that piracetam is proven to have after many clinical trials and that pharmaceutical companies are forced to print on sideffect labels if sold as a medicine in most countries:

Piracetam can cause and facilitate:
increased drive, Nervosity, restlessness, irritability, aggressiveness, shaking, depression, anxiety disorders, sleeplessness, tiredness, sleepiness, nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, increase of weight...
also, but more uncommon: lowered bloodpressure (dangerous), increase in bloodpressure (dangerous), increased lust (libido), dizziness
very rare sideeffect (less than 1%): hallucinations, allergic reactions like anaphylactic shock (this can be deadly), confusion, skin irritation, itchiness, movementdisorders and balance disorders...

What's more, nobody really knows about the longterm effects of antidementia as far as I know. Clinical trials are not done to investigate effects 20 years later (that is very rare.) People get dementia in old age so observing long term effects wasn't really done there when clinical trials were run. If you're 20 or 30 and take antidementia, nobody really knows about the effects it could have on the brain decades later. It could increase the chance of developing braintumors or other brain diseases - nobody knows. As it meddles with blood pressure, one also can't rule out that it can increase the risk for heart diseases. There's certainly a risk of developing an emotional and/or psychology dependency the longer one takes them.
Mindstar wrote:Could it be to good to be true?
I hope you consider this question answered.

*Piracetam for dementia or cognitive impairment (Review) by Flicker L, Grimley Evans J
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Re: Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Post by Mkoll »

When it comes to someone trying to sell you something, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

With regard to spiritual practice, in my experience, the spiritual insights and development attained with the aid of psychotropics are not those that Buddhist practice aims to develop.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Post by Joshua »

Piracetam is still considered the "flagship" nootropic, however there are dozens more by now, and their effects vary as well. Some of the compounds generally considered under the banner of "nootropics" have been studied heavily and are almost categorically beneficial to general health, like a quality omega-3 source for example. While others are more on the "fringe" of study and their effects are less well known. Piracetam has been through several robust clinical trials and has failed to demonstrate positive results for alcoholism, Alzheimer's, dyslexic children, and patients with Parkinson's to name a few. I would say it certainly gets more attention than it deserves.

Back to the topic at hand.
From the viewpoint of buddhism would it be ok to use them because they don`t seem to lead to carelessness... more like the opposite?
I would say it's not so much "not ok" as it is simply unnecessary. You already have everything you need to practice ( human body and mind), so stop worrying about what will make your practice "better" and just practice as best you can.
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Re: Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Post by Cittasanto »

Mindstar wrote:From the viewpoint of buddhism would it be ok to use them because they don`t seem to lead to carelessness... more like the opposite?
from this point of view no, it is not a breach of the precept.
but it could be considered lying.
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But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Re: Smart Drugs / Nootropics (and Spiritual Practice)

Post by luismarcus »

Never thought that it can be used to increased alterness and perception of a perception.
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