Nootropics: Enhanced Flow State or Tweaker Cope?
I haven't seen a thread on nootropics, and there are some here who may have good insight. I have limited experience using most nootropics, and I am fascinated by altered states, but I am extremely cautious in taking them.

I will use a loose definition of nootropic for this discussion. Something like: "a substance ingested for assisting a cognitive activity". I want to avoid using the word "enhanced" in my definition, because there are substances that meaningfully and temporarily reduce cognitive horsepower, but they alter your perception in a useful way regardless. One can even broaden the scope of “nootropic” to include non-chemical means. Exercise, sunbathing, intense sleep deprivation etc. can induce altered states which may be beneficial, but I want to limit the scope of my post to substances. Further, I'm not going to include things that are closer to a supplement, as their effects vary greatly on the person. I would put creatine and vitamin D in this supplement-nootropic category.

Alcohol: The lindiest of lindy drugs. The social effects of booze are widely known, so I won't go into that. I included it here because alcohol has been good at breaking writer's block for me. If I'm working a creative project, and I want to maximize my output after a drought of ideas, having a drink or two and then strapping myself to a keyboard is great.

Caffeine: I have been drinking coffee for most of my life daily, and I enjoy the ritual of making coffee in the morning. I prefer to have a single cup of very strong coffee, and depending on what I'm doing in the afternoon, I'll have another tea. I'll only drink it at night if I have a social activity, or if I have work that I need to finish. At high doses it increases my heart rate too much, and my focus can become too scattered to be useful. Energy drinks can be nice on occasion, I prefer red bull over anything else, mostly because of its flavor.

L-theanine: I find the combination of L-theanine and caffeine to be very pleasant. It occurs naturally in tea, with a higher ratio of L-theanine:caffeine in green tea. I think this is why green tea has a reputation for making people calm. Unfortunately, the half-life of L-theanine is 60 minutes, while the half life of caffeine is 5 hours, so it's effects wear off much more quickly. Overall, its effect is subtle, but definitely not just a placebo.

Nicotine: Another lindy entry in the list of nootropics. Nicotine has been around for a long time, although not nearly as long as caffeine. This is by far the most "fun" nootropic and therefore is the most dangerous. The method of ingestion, either consciously or not, seems to vary the effect. As a social activity, I find smoking to be enjoyable. It's a great way to pull someone out at a party and have a real conversation with them. On the other hand, habitual smoking reduces my athletic performance significantly, and so I avoid it entirely outside of social settings. Nicotine pouches seem to be the most effective for nootropic purposes. The release is slower than smoking, and so the cognitive effect lasts much longer. I find that nicotine at a low dose improves my ability to focus, especially beneficial for writing, because it reduces my inhibition to put thoughts down. Vaping seems like the most dangerous to me. The nicotine concentration is as high as a cigarette, but it's too easy to hit a vape unconsciously and thereby ruin any kind of benefit when you need it because of an increased tolerance. There's also very little social benefit to vaping, as you can't really share a vape with a stranger.

Nicotinamide (niacin): I rarely see this one discussed in the context of nootropics, but I think it's worthwhile to include. There are studies that show positive health effects, but I mostly care about the cognitive effect. After you take a regular dose, your skin becomes hot, very flushed, and possibly itchy. This feeling can be unpleasant, but afterwards I experience a kind of glowing effect, much like the end of a long run outside. It's been very good for me to use on occasion when I feel the need to reset myself, if I have been in a low speed mood, afterwards I feel "fresh".

Modafinil: This one is more potent than anything I've mentioned previously, but by far the most useful nootropic I've used. I would describe it as a cleaner caffeine. Shortly after ingestion, my focus becomes very one-track. I use it probably three or four times a month, at a low dosage, and I can work on a difficult task for several hours at a time. Unfortunately, the half life is extremely long, and so if I am going to use it, I only take it shortly after waking up, and only on days when I have nothing to attend to at night.

Wotan forgive me, but the nootropic subreddit has high quality first hand accounts. For these kinds of things, I think reddit can be very useful. Another great source is gwern's blog. He includes all of his first hand experiences but also scientific studies.

There's definitely a cultural read on nootropics. Someone here probably has a better take than I. It seems that the huberman/rogan/bryan johnson software guy is susceptible to becoming an optimizooor about these things. Their mistake is confusing a well ordered internal life for a higher cause. For me, I try to only use these for a concrete purpose, whether social or intellectual, and never as an end in itself.
Perhaps kind of relevant, I was just shown this. Did you hear about a Microsoft employee flipping out and stabbing another one?


The file is a 234,000 word - or 1000 page - life journal. The first paragraph reads:
Quote:“This was originally a document detailing my drug use and my thoughts on or during their effects like the dream journal my mom bought me when I was a kid.  However, it is now my overall life journal and literary practice.  It should be freely and posthumously published to help humanity or whatever.  I'm sure it will help someone in the future given the challenges I've faced with abnormal genetics of decelerating neuron firing rates.”
The first 20 pages detail every single substance he’s experimented with, starting at 19 years old. Some are the familiar suspects like Amphetamines, LSD, Mushrooms, Cocaine, MDMA, Meth, and heroin. But it was the amount of obscure research chemicals he lists that was truly impressive. This is just a partial sampling:
Quote:25I-NBOMe, 2C-T-2, 2C-E, 5-MeO-MiPT, DOM, DOC, 25B-NBO, 3-MeO-PCP, DCK O-PCE, 2-OxO-PCE, 3-HO-PCP, 2F-DCK, 4-HO-MET, TMA-2, ETH-LAD, 2-FMA, 4-AcO-DMT, 3-Fl-PCP
Of all the substances, amphetamine sulfate (aka adderall) was his true love, glowingly described by him as:
Quote:“This is the gold standard and my ticket to life with Neural Deceleration Disorder. rainbow women and even a white light and full body orgasm at high doses.”
He disliked meth the most:
Quote:“This drug feels like a dirty poison flowing through one's veins like alcohol's bodily feelings. the roads here all lead to the dominion of Adolf Hitler, his wife, and his Nazi regime of no remorse.”

[Image: hakan-on-nootropics.jpg]

Personally I am constantly caffeinated to the point I probably sleep without caffeine in my system maybe once a fortnight. Make of that what you will.
Mason Hall-McCullough
I have no problems with focus and stimulants seem to just make my heart race, so I haven't experimented with them. However, I found that all of glycine, melatonin, and pregnenolone improved my sleep and hence my productivity (though the effect of pregnenolone is less immediate).

A while ago I looked into "research chemicals" thinking the communities might be similar to nootropics communities only more experimental and risky (and interesting to read about), but it turns out the people who rally under that banner are just retarded druggies who are only interested in analogues to existing hardcore drugs. Apparently you can sometimes purchase these research chemicals without breaking any laws and in large quantities for a low price, which can obviously be dangerous to the type of retard who would do this. I thought there would be more underused drugs with unique effects, but "nootropics" seems more geared towards that in actuality. Even though this was disappointing, their stories were interesting to read in a different way, since these people are especially prone to death and other mishaps, and probably all have varying degrees of brain damage from eating lots of numbers and letters like Joseph Cantrell did above.

I would be careful not to mistake these "research chemicals" people to be some more risky and dedicated version of "nootropics" people just because they keep lists of what drugs they take and discuss complex sounding compounds online, the former are generally hardcore abusers of recreational drugs.
I had not heard of this story anthony. It rings a little like the optimizoor guy I imagined at the end of my post, but it seems that he was always doomed to this fate, seeing that he had been prescribed adderall for adhd since he was five. The strange thing about this type is that he can hold down a real, high paying job while destroying his mind with all these substances.

You make a good point mason. That the research chemical type of guy is the logical extension of the noootropic type of guy, and the term “research” lends it a kind of scientific aura which legitimizes the addiction.

On the one hand, discussing these things itself, especially personal experiences, can come across as druggie behavior. Even in reading my own post I can see these tendencies. Talking about the positive benefits of substances can be spinning wheels, and even commenting on talking about them feels like navel gazing. Nevertheless, the pose of the medical industry seems worse, one that results in a five year old taking low grade meth for a fake disease. The fraudulent confidence of psychiatrists inspires more revulsion than the noootropic bro, because at least the latter is more honest about the truth, which is that these are extremely dangerous, and can fundamentally alter internal reward systems. But again, probing in this way makes me feel the same as the author of the substack piece: “I shouldn’t be there. He covered his life in such candid and vulnerable minutiae.”

All of this reminds of me of the Paul Erdos story, whose friend challenged him to quit amphetamines for a month, and he said “You've showed me I'm not an addict, but I didn't get any work've set mathematics back a month”

If I could speak directly to the optimizoor, I would say this. You are not paul erdos. You are not on the cutting edge of mathematics. You are wireheading, and your delusions reinforce more drug taking, no different than a heroin junkie on the street, but justified by your very real high paying job, and while the money is good, you tweak widgets in the bowels of a mega corporation, and you will die in a nice home, having led a productive life, entirely unremarkable, and perhaps without these drugs you would be poorer, and perhaps you would have made less widgets, but you would have at least been a human, you would have had real human relationships, but you doomed yourself with this obsession, and tragically the same instincts which lead you to make good professional decisions, guided by well meaning people, people you call doctor, other people who make lots of money, have turned you into a robot. And maybe there was nothing you could do, that it was always going to be this way, and that actually society has failed you, failed to direct your instincts into something meaningful and good.
Also the hakan tweet is a banger, I wish that I could condense my thoughts like that. But maybe this is why I’m drawn to write on this forum.
I've only used caffeine and phenibut. Since we all probably know what caffeine is like firsthand, I'll recount my experiences with phenibut. I just took some about five minutes ago, so now is the perfect time to write this post.

Phenibut seems to put me back in the mental state that I had when I was a small child. When I was younger, I would silently mouth my internal monologue to myself, and laugh at funny things in my head. This state of mind never really ended, but it dropped off in frequency after entered my early teens. Taking phenibut brings me back to this state and makes me start silently mouthing or speaking to myself like I did when I was younger. My sense of humor broadens in this state, and I'll laugh at things that don't have any humor content, usually random thoughts in my head. I once had trouble carrying on a conversation because I would laugh uncontrollably whenever the person I was speaking to said something. The more I tried to repress my laughter, the louder and more intense my bouts of laughter got. Furthermore, while I am in this state of mind, I process words as representations of something real and geometric, I see sentences as "spatial", and barely perceive the "sounds" of words. When I am not on phenibut, I perceive words as sounds first, and meaning second. Because of this fact, I usually browse forums like Amarna or Tunisbay, or read books on Project Gutenberg, since I can absorb the meanings of words better (I browse the X when not on phenibut). In my day-to-day life, I make a conscious effort to not think in words (inspired by several Hakan tweets), but whenever I am not consciously trying to think non-verbally, I inadvertently slip back into monologue thought, phenibut helps me maintain a non-verbal thinking state. I also get nootropic benefits (have more interesting, complex thoughts), and strangely appreciate the Touhou soundtrack more.

After a couple hours, the effect peaks and then starts to wear off. I feel worse, and suicidal thoughts get more intense. There's a certain feeling when you're depressed, where moving any muscle, even a finger or facial muscle, causes discomfort. Not pain, but sort of like if you took a pins-and-needle prick and then lengthened it to be several minutes, uncomfortable nervous tension when I try and move my muscles. When the phenibut completely wears off, I have intense brain fog that makes it hard to think.

Overall I don't recommend it. I'll probably quit once my current supply runs out.
I used to be on the max dosage of modafinil for narcolepsy and it was amazing—especially when I doubled or tripled the dose. It operates according to a similar logic as amphetamines but is entirely different. You very much feel amphetamines in a flow state, but with modafinil, you don't notice it at all. At some point, you realize "wow I was just grinding for 5 hours", unaware of it in the moment. It's like what I imagine ADHD hyperfocus is like in pill-form.

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