Is There Really Such A Thing As The Limitless Pill?
We Take A Look At What Nootropics Can & Can’t Do
Is there really such a thing as pills that make you smarter? If you’ve been looking for your first natural nootropic stack, then you will have no doubt seen a supplement or two that claims to be a genuine “smart pill” miracle drug.
Usually, these supplements claim to replicate the effects of NZT-48, as seen in the movie Limitless. In this movie, Bradley Cooper took one small pill and almost instantly became a genius. He wrote a best-selling book in a few hours, despite having had absolutely no good ideas the day before.
At one point, he comes up with a new algorithm that predicts human behaviour, allowing him to manipulate the stock market and make millions of dollars.
But could there really be such a thing as pills that make you smarter?
Of course not. If there was a simple pill that could make you more intelligent, then wouldn’t everyone be taking it on a regular basis? The manufacturers who make those kinds of claims are invariably trying to sell a mediocre product to desperate consumers.
None of that is to say that you can’t do anything to increase your cognitive performance though.
Let’s take a look at what natural nootropics are really capable of doing, how they differ from prescription smart drugs, and why neither can really make you smarter.
What to expect from natural nootropic stacks
There are plenty of natural nootropic agents that can positively alter your ability to focus, recall and store memories, stay calm, and to enjoy deep and restful sleep.
None of them make you smarter, but they do let you get the most out of your brain.
I really do need to make this clear: anyone claiming to have a pill that makes you smarter is completely misunderstanding the way that natural nootropic stacks work.
A good nootropic stack will deliver a precise combination of herbal extracts, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and cholinergenics in order to provide your brain with everything it needs to operate optimally.
Like every other organ, the brain requires an enormous amount of raw materials to operate properly. Like every other natural process, focused thinking is costly. Staying intently focused for hours expends a great deal of energy and resources.
Natural nootropic stacks maximise your cognitive output, or brain power, by making sure your brain has everything at its disposal to meet the demands placed upon it.
To put it simply: they give your brain everything it needs to get the job done.
One of the most common way nootropic stacks do this is by including ingredients that increase acetylcholine availability in the brain.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is directly involved in, amongst other things, memory formation and recall. Maximising its availability allows the brain to create and store memories more efficiently, to focus more acutely, and to make decisions more rapidly.
Some of the best stacks will also include ingredients that help the brain to adapt to higher levels of operating.
For instance, Lion’s Mane extract has been shown to promote Nerve Growth Factor: the protein that controls the generation of new nerve cells. Stacks containing Lion’s Mane mushroom extract can therefore be said to be contributing to long-term benefits.
Another good example are stacks containing good amounts of Citicoline (CDP-choline) Supplementing with Citicoline will contribute to higher uridine levels.
Uridine helps protect neuron cell membranes from degradation. This has clear implications in promoting long-term brain growth and adaptation.
Stacks containing enough of these ingredients do provide long-term benefits. However, it is imperative that you understand that these long-term benefits take a long time to manifest themselves.
Even if you maximise the amount of NGF in the brain, the benefits will not be revolutionary. The benefits will come, but the progression will be so slow that it will be barely perceptible.
Is Modafinil the real Limitless pill?
While natural nootropic stacks obviously can’t deliver the Limitless experience, many people believe that prescription drugs can. The most commonly cited example is Modafinil.
Modafinil is an incredibly potent nootropic agent. It is capable of dramatically increasing focus in a very short space of time, and it increases mental energy several fold for hours on end.
Its mechanism of action is still not properly understood, but Modafinil has been studied enough and tested enough over the years for us to be sure of one thing: it really does improve your ability to stay alert and concentrated for a long time.
But in no way can Modafinil make you any smarter than you already are. It does not alter intelligence, it does no augment your creativity, and it does not improve your ability to reason.
Instead, Modafinil interacts with various neurological processes, making it possible for you to exercise your intelligence for longer periods of time, and (arguably) in a more focused, almost obsessive manner.
For instance, one of the ways that Modafinil works is by increasing hypothalamic histamine levels. Histamine is neurotransmitter responsible for regulating your sleep cycle; it essentially keeps us awake.
By taking Modafinil, people can literally stay conscious for far longer than they would otherwise be able to. This is why it was originally used to treat narcolepsy patients, and it is why Modafinil is a firm favourite of college students around the world.
And yet, being awake for longer does not mean that the quality of the work that you produce will be improved.
It is also often claimed, usually by people selling Modafinil, that prescription smart drugs can bolster creativity. Again, we are often led to think of Bradley Cooper’s character in Limitless writing a groundbreaking novel in a single day.
This is also far from the case with Modafinil.
It’s strange that students often think Modafinil will help them write eloquent and imaginative essays, when the entire purpose of the drug is, in the words of one redditor, “to bring the mind into sharp focus”.
A key piece of anecdotal evidence come from the Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. In a write-up of their experiences using the smart drug at Cambridge, one student states: “Although I did it more efficiently, my work didn’t get better.”
It should be clear then that, while it can help you carry out monotonous, laborious and otherwise generally unpleasant tasks with unprecedented enthusiasm and rigour, it cannot improve your cognitive abilities.
Pills that make you smarter: the next best thing?
At this point you might be wondering: is there anything I can do to actually enhance my overall cognitive performance?
In my opinion, yes there is. So long as you do not expect “the Limitless experience”, natural nootropic supplements can be incredibly effective at boosting your mental performance on a continual, regular basis.
Obviously, there are some people who get a great deal of satisfaction from taking prescription narcolepsy drugs to help them with their work. I am in no way deriding or dismissing these people; everyone has their reasons, and to each their own.
I, and many people like me, simply have no desire for such drugs.
I would rather take something on a daily basis that helped my memory, creativity, focus and energy levels without turning me into a mindless automaton for 6-12 hours.
A supplement of that sort may not make you an overnight savant, but it can help you maximise your brain power in the long-term.
With natural nootropic stacks, you experience subtle, incremental but real improvements, rather than the 6-12 hour surges you get from drugs like Modafinil.
There is no such thing as a “pill that makes you smarter”, but in my opinion, natural nootropic stacks are the next best thing.
Luke is our Editor in Chief. He is the main driving force behind NaturalNootropic.com, and he creates most of our most important content. He is extremely passionate about enhancing human cognition; he has experimented with many different nootropic substances over the years, sometimes with negative results. He wants to help people get more out of performance-enhancing supplements, and he is fascinated by recent advances in longevity research. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.