What Are Cognitive Enhancers And When Do You Need One?

Today’s world seems to have no time to relax and recoup. With so many environmental challenges, social pressures, and constant developments in technology, people might find their regular performance lagging behind everything.

In such circumstances, it’s normal to want to find a way to give your body and mind a boost. This may explain the growing popularity of cognitive enhancers.

What Is A Cognitive Enhancer? 

It’s any substance an individual can take to improve memory, increase concentration, boost energy, heighten wakefulness, and enhance focus. Officially called nootropics by medical researchers, people also call them smart drugs, study drugs, neuroenhancers, and brain boosters.

Prescription And Non-Prescription Cognitive Enhancers

It’s important to distinguish prescription and non-prescription cognitive enhancers from each other. 

Prescription cognitive enhancers are medications a doctor gives to help manage the symptoms of certain mental conditions. These are usually drugs in the stimulant category used to treat symptoms of dementia, narcolepsy, and the like. Examples of these are amphetamines to help those with ADHD and memantine for Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, over-the-counter (OTC) cognitive enhancers are natural or synthetic supplements that give one’s brain a boost. Examples of non-prescription nootropics are L-theanine, Omega-3 fatty acids, ginkgo biloba, and creatine. 

Other sources of cognitive enhancers can be commonly found in the food you eat daily. The most common and widely used is caffeine.

Some studies indicate they may help regulate the actions of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. However, it will need further research before any conclusive recommendations can be made. If you want to check some reviews about non-prescription nootropics, you can always find a great read online.

When Can You Use Cognitive Enhancers?

If this is your first time learning about cognitive enhancers, you may wonder how they may help you at all. Here are some situations when using them may prove helpful: 

  • During Exam Season – Cognitive enhancers may boost mental alertness and help keep you awake during an early morning examination. They may also come in handy during reviews by increasing your concentration so you can focus on the task at hand. 
  • Before A Driver’s License Test – A driver’s license test requires you to be fully alert on both the written and practical portions so you can prove you can safely drive a vehicle. 
  • Before A Job Interview – Listening to questions thrown during a job interview might make one lose focus because of nervousness. But when you have an increased energy level and alertness, you can parse them and answer them confidently, especially if you have prepared ahead. 
  • For A Work Presentation – Doing presentations in the office takes a lot of confidence and presence of mind. If you need some help keeping your talking points straight and your posture at ease, taking something that can help you boost your alertness and concentration may be useful.
  • During A Sports Match – Playing smart is something many athletes today are expected to do. Something that can help improve their focus, motivation, and game intelligence can come in handy, especially since they face a ton of physical and mental pressure. A nootropic may help them achieve just that.

Common Side Effects Of Cognitive Enhancers

For prescription nootropics, typical side effects observed in patients who take them include high blood pressure, trouble with vision, sleep disturbances, a fast heart rate, and risk of tolerance and dependence. Under no circumstance should these be used recreationally or experimentally. 

Because of their specific formulations and indications, taking a drug intended for someone with cognitive problems will have adverse effects.

Nonprescription cognitive enhancers usually fall under dietary supplements. Taking them without your doctor’s advice may not be wise if you’re already following a prescribed medication regimen. OTC cognitive enhancers like L-theanine are generally considered safe but may interact with blood pressure drugs and other supplements containing caffeine. 

If you’re pregnant, you may want to hold off using OTC cognitive enhancers until you receive a green light from your OB-GYN. The high amount of stimulants in these supplements may increase your risk of pregnancy loss.


For many people, the success of nootropics is too good to be true. And it’s only smart to take grand claims online with a grain of salt. Since there is very limited research to prove its effectiveness, taking OTC nootropics should be carefully considered, especially if you have existing conditions. That said, you may need a boost in your mental faculties from time to time that OTC nootropics may give. Just remember to play it safe.