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'[OT] Nootropics - Mind-enhancing drugs'
2007\07\19@021314 by Marcel Birthelmer

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Hi all,
since there are a lot of people on this list with a lot of interesting
perspectives on life in general, I was hoping to gain some insights on
the general opinion regarding this class of drugs or substances.
(Nootropics are drugs that have focus- or memory-enhancing effects.)

So, do you use them? OTC or prescription? And if OTC, were you
diagnosed with any particular affliction that is helped by them, or
was it a self-diagnosis? What made you start taking them?

Also, I'm interested in the question of whether the use of any sort of
"artificial" enhancers is ethical. In your opinion, is it more like
doping in professional sports, or more like other everyday
enhancements - a cup of coffee, say?

The reason I'm asking is that I often have a very hard time focusing
on a given task, especially when lacking clear direction, and I feel
that it adversely affects my work. And of course it's hard to judge
whether I'm just easily distracted or if it's more than that. Since
I've only entered the work force a few years ago, I also can't tell
whether it's a recent development or if it's a more permanent state.
So any thoughts on the topic, and especially experiences from those
that have felt similarly in the past, would be very welcome (also
off-list if it's a sensitive topic).
Thanks,
- Marcel

2007\07\19@022530 by Dario Greggio

face picon face
Marcel Birthelmer wrote:

> [...](Nootropics are drugs that have focus- or memory-enhancing effects.)
>
> So, do you use them? OTC or prescription? And if OTC, were you

No, none, not yet at least :)

One thing I *need* to work well, is sleeping until 9:00 am, and this
allows me to work till late night (say 1:30 am) without any problem at
eyes or brain).
Waking up early makes things much worse (i.e. it's not just a matter of
sleeping 8 hours, but also sleeping in the somewhat late morning).

I'm 40 now, and I've been feeling like this since I was 22.

--
Ciao, Dario

2007\07\19@030725 by Picbits Sales

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Do a search on ADHD and see if anything there applies to you.

Dom
----- Original Message -----
From: "Marcel Birthelmer" <spam_OUTmarcelb.listsTakeThisOuTspamgmail.com>
To: "Microcontroller discussion list - Public." <.....piclistKILLspamspam@spam@mit.edu>
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2007 7:13 AM
Subject: [OT] Nootropics - Mind-enhancing drugs


{Quote hidden}

> --

2007\07\19@042438 by Alan B. Pearce

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> So, do you use them? OTC or prescription? And if OTC, were you
> diagnosed with any particular affliction that is helped by them, or
> was it a self-diagnosis? What made you start taking them?

There was a piece in the UK papers recently about students at the big
universities here taking some drugs during exam time, to help them study and
sit exams. I think it was one of the ADHD type drugs that seemed to be
popular.

See
www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article1975271.ece
www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/features/article1780141.ece
http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/diet_and_fitness/article1850783.ece

2007\07\19@050426 by Forrest W Christian
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Marcel Birthelmer wrote:

>The reason I'm asking is that I often have a very hard time focusing
>on a given task, especially when lacking clear direction, and I feel
>that it adversely affects my work.
>
This sounds a lot like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  If you have
it, then you can usually deal with it, sometimes with the aid of
appropriate medicine (Ritalin or similar), although I personally believe
that a ADD "sufferer" is often better off without the medication if they
can learn to deal with it (and take advantage of the good parts of
ADD).   Contrary to popular belief ADD often does not dissapear in
adulthood.  As a sufferer myself, I have found that the biggest help is
understanding the condition and "engineering" my workday as to avoid
this problem as much as possible.  In many cases, switching to another
task once I reach "Attention Saturation" on a given one helps a lot.  

Most people with ADD also find that they sometimes hyperfocus... in that
if you find something interesting, you can loose hours on it without
even realizing it.  I've set down to work on a new design that interests
me only to loose 8 hours straight working on it, without even noticing
the time.   On the other extreme, doing a "chore" takes a *LOT* of
mental work.   It's kinda like there's something phsically preventing
you from doing things you don't want to do, and no amount of willpower
will break through this block.

http://www.add.org has a lot of stuff about ADD.   The article at
http://www.add.org/articles/whats_it_like.html does a good job of
explaining what it's like to have ADD.




2007\07\19@052927 by Russell McMahon

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> There was a piece in the UK papers recently about students at the
> big
> universities here taking some drugs during exam time, to help them
> study and
> sit exams. I think it was one of the ADHD type drugs that seemed to
> be
> popular.

Any drug that works for ADHD type symptoms is liable to assist
concentration for the people who it works for. As with many drugs,
what works for one person may not work at all for others. Essentially
all the drugs that are prescribed for ADHD are considered
"recreational" drugs or are liable to lead to abuse and/or addiction
abused when used in higher volumes. "Concentration improving" dosage
rates are typically in the order of 5% of a dose that is sought for
recreational purposes, although this will of course vary substantially
with products. Our biggest drug problem in NZ at present relates to P
/ Methamphetamines. An essentially identical drug is prescribed, at a
much lower dosage, for ADHD. Ritalin is the other common ADHD drug
(Methyl Phenidate? - Gaggle knows) but all sorts of products are said
to assist some people. Some are highly available and legal and seem to
be every bit as effective in cases where they are effective at all. eg
Fish Oil with omega 3 fatty acids are claimed to work wonders by some.
And apparently have no such effect at all for others.

I was talking to some Doctors a few years ago and one volunteered that
they had used Ritalin to assist them in their university studies. This
is a not uncommon story. I suspect that in many cases the main thing
it does is supply the stickability that self discipline supplies for
other people. From my observations of people and life in general, self
discipline is not something which is equally available for all. It's
certainly available through applied effort and hard work to a variable
degree to most people, but those who by severe effort of the will
manage immense feats of personal management are liable to assume that
similar feats are achievable by anyone who decides to apply themselves
with equal dedication. The difference appears to lie between
super-human effort and supra-human effort.


       Russell

2007\07\19@054515 by Alan B. Pearce

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>On the other extreme, doing a "chore" takes a *LOT* of mental
>work.   It's kinda like there's something phsically preventing
>you from doing things you don't want to do, and no amount of
>willpower will break through this block.

Hmm, so how DO I do the assignment that is due on Saturday, and I have
hardly started ... for guess what reason .... ;)

2007\07\19@075740 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Russell McMahon wrote:

> I was talking to some Doctors a few years ago and one volunteered that
> they had used Ritalin to assist them in their university studies. This
> is a not uncommon story.

Abuse of prescription drugs by doctors (to be or already being) is a
recognized problem here. Not surprisingly :)

{Quote hidden}

While I also suspect that there in fact are huge differences between people
WRT to "mind control" (another word for self discipline, maybe avoiding
some of the negative associations of "discipline" :), I also believe that
the rewards of working on it are much higher than the rewards of using
drugs. They may not come instantly, though, and require more dedication.

In general I think that the strong focus on drugs in everything health
related is misguided, partly by a "snake oil mentality" that we all have to
some degree (just go get something in the next drugstore and all your
troubles go away -- who doesn't occasionally dream of that? :) and partly
by the capitalist principle that we also adhere to to some degree (and
without realizing some of the consequences -- the companies who provide the
training material for our doctors and the funding for our health studies
can not be interested in a healthy population :).

Taking away these two strong "drug enhancers" from the criteria that go
into the judgment, I tend to believe that often there is little positive
left.

Gerhard

2007\07\19@082521 by RG

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Well said, Gerhard.  

-----Original Message-----
From: piclist-bouncesspamKILLspammit.edu [.....piclist-bouncesKILLspamspam.....mit.edu] On Behalf Of
Gerhard Fiedler
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2007 7:57 AM
To: EraseMEpiclistspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTmit.edu
Subject: Re: [OT] Nootropics - Mind-enhancing drugs

Russell McMahon wrote:

> I was talking to some Doctors a few years ago and one volunteered that
> they had used Ritalin to assist them in their university studies. This
> is a not uncommon story.

Abuse of prescription drugs by doctors (to be or already being) is a
recognized problem here. Not surprisingly :)

{Quote hidden}

While I also suspect that there in fact are huge differences between people
WRT to "mind control" (another word for self discipline, maybe avoiding
some of the negative associations of "discipline" :), I also believe that
the rewards of working on it are much higher than the rewards of using
drugs. They may not come instantly, though, and require more dedication.

In general I think that the strong focus on drugs in everything health
related is misguided, partly by a "snake oil mentality" that we all have to
some degree (just go get something in the next drugstore and all your
troubles go away -- who doesn't occasionally dream of that? :) and partly
by the capitalist principle that we also adhere to to some degree (and
without realizing some of the consequences -- the companies who provide the
training material for our doctors and the funding for our health studies
can not be interested in a healthy population :).

Taking away these two strong "drug enhancers" from the criteria that go
into the judgment, I tend to believe that often there is little positive
left.

Gerhard

2007\07\19@090115 by RG

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In my last semester of undergraduate I took 23 credits.  I took diet pills
to help keep me going.  In the end I got 5 A's 2B's and a pretty stiff case
of pneumonia.  I never tried such foolishness in graduate school; I was just
a bit more realistic.

{Original Message removed}

2007\07\19@100200 by John Ferrell

face picon face
I have had this condition as long as I can remember.

In the early 1960's Amphetamines were prescribed freely as diet pills. They
helped a lot.Unfortunately, there was a down period associated with the high
they produced.

I currently take Celexa for depression. It helps to concentrate (I think)
but leaves me very weary early in the evening. I sometimes wonder if all it
really does is make me indifferent to annoyances but I know I am better off
with it! One of the side effects is tremors which requires some getting used
to when soldering...

BTW, I am 67 years old.

John Ferrell    W8CCW
"Life is easier if you learn to plow
      around the stumps"
http://DixieNC.US

{Original Message removed}

2007\07\19@104322 by Matthew Rhys-Roberts

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Hi Marcel,

Clear directions certainly help with knowing where & what to focus on. I
suggest pestering your manager for clearer instructions if you're being
given fuzzy ones. It'll help you as well as the company.

Entering the work force these days probably means there are more demands
on your ability to multi-task than ever before, as industry tends to
squeeze as much out of people and resources as possible.

There are plenty of techniques -- foods, chemicals, exercises -- you can
use to adjust how your mind works. I'd steer clear of the chemicals,
including the popular work drugs tea & coffee (acid-forming stimulants),
and eat a varied diet of fresh pesticide-free foods.

If done regularly, meditation (i.e. sitting quietly and patiently
allowing the contents of the mind to settle) does have a beneficial
effect on one's ability to concentrate, as well as cultivate peace of
mind, insight etc. It costs about 10-20 minutes a day for best results.

I'd like to think your wandering attention is not all your fault! We're
human beings and should not expect to perform like machines.

Matt


Marcel Birthelmer wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\07\19@110008 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Matthew Rhys-Roberts wrote:

> If done regularly, meditation (i.e. sitting quietly and patiently
> allowing the contents of the mind to settle) does have a beneficial
> effect on one's ability to concentrate,

Definitely. There are many forms of meditation; I'm sure an online search
brings up more than you want to know :)

> I'd like to think your wandering attention is not all your fault! We're
> human beings and should not expect to perform like machines.

Possibly providing some time for your mind to purposely go wandering
without purpose :) helps it staying focused at other times. What that may
be is probably different for everybody. Some paint or play music, others
have long talks with a friend while watching sunsets... :)

Gerhard

2007\07\19@114220 by Charles Rogers

picon face

----- Original Message -----

Subject: Re: [OT] Nootropics - Mind-enhancing drugs


> Matthew Rhys-Roberts wrote:
>
>> If done regularly, meditation (i.e. sitting quietly and patiently
>> allowing the contents of the mind to settle) does have a beneficial
>> effect on one's ability to concentrate,

For all who have replied to this particular discussion I think it
would be very helpful for all to consider a particular book from
Borders book store or a vendor of your choice a book,
"The fine art of RELAXATION, CONCENTRATION, and MEDITATION"
by Joel and Michelle Levey.

The cost of $14.95 is probably cheaper than any addictive drugs either
OTC or by prescription.

CR

2007\07\19@121709 by Russell McMahon

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> While I also suspect that there in fact are huge differences between
> people
> WRT to "mind control" (another word for self discipline, maybe
> avoiding
> some of the negative associations of "discipline" :), I also believe
> that
> the rewards of working on it are much higher than the rewards of
> using
> drugs. They may not come instantly, though, and require more
> dedication.

I wrote what I wrote with careful consideration. My opinions on a
range of things relating to the behaviour of individuals has changed
quite a lot in the last 4 years. I am much less of the opinion that
anyone "should be able to help themselves if they really applied
themselves to the task" than I may have been before then. I have
decades of experience of involvement with people with social problems
to varying extents. I am not consistently "in the thick of it" - I'm
an engineer, not a social worker. BUT I'm also substantially involved
with a church whose given task (not by the members :-) ) seems to be
to be a haven for people who are somewhat socially unusual. It's not a
major centre for social support and doesn't run major social programs
but it seems to attract a statistically unrepresentative number of the
worlds less fortunate. One of the members is both an ex minister AND a
psychiatrist, but you'd never pick him from the crowd :-). So I've
seen over time how well people can harm themselves, or let the world
harm them, and how well people can or can't manage to extract
themselves from their problems. BUT despite my years of gentle
experience I have only in recent years really appreciated how hard
some find it to do what others can manage with enough will power and
enough gritted teeth and enough "just do it" ing. Some people just
can't do it by themselves. No amount of wish, of hope, of good
intentions, of planning and all the rest will work for them. But, the
large majority of "successful" people who manage to achieve the
stickability required in life will not acknowledge that others may
find things work differently for them.

> In general I think that the strong focus on drugs in everything
> health
> related is misguided, partly by a "snake oil mentality" that we all
> have to
> some degree (just go get something in the next drugstore and all
> your
> troubles go away -- who doesn't occasionally dream of that? :)

There is no doubt that the use of drugs is vastly overdone. But just
because society as a whole abuses drugs and uses them as an
unnecessary prop does not mean that they are not a valuable and
sensible aid for some in some cases. We all know this, but it can be
hard to know where the boundaries should be. The classic example is
the "snap out of it / get over it / just do it / ... " advice to
people with clinical depression. This is about as realistic as telling
someone with a broken leg to get on with life and ignore it. [[I once
broke my knee at a gym and tried to keep exercising, thinking that I
had just received a bad knock and that the pain would go away if I
persisted :-). It took a wee while to realise that it wasn't going to
hurt any less for quite a while. Knees heal by themselves, with a
little help. Clinical depression largely doesn't. ]]

> and partly by the capitalist principle ...

no argument there.

BUT

> Taking away these two strong "drug enhancers" from the criteria that
> go
> into the judgment, I tend to believe that often there is little
> positive
> left.

"Often" needs to be used carefully there. It's liable to be true in
the majority of cases - which justifies the use of "often", but, as
above, we need to be most wary of letting the excesses of society AND
the abilities of some to cope and recover, blind us to the very real
problems that some face. For them the appropriate drugs can be a
lifeline.

I'm blessed in not suffering from depression but I have both relatives
and friends who do, and the difference to a life that an average of as
little as 5 milligrams a day (or even less) of an appropriate drug can
make to some lives is beyond rational imagining. One such drug for
some people is Prozac. For those who need it it can spell the
difference between leading a life of utter misery and being a highly
productive and well balanced member of society. For others its a
crutch or worse. For those who have no experience of all of depression
it can be almost impossible to imagine what it's like. At one stage in
my life I would very very occasionally wake up at about 3 or 4am and
the world would seem a very different place. My whole perspective on
events, tasks to do, ability to cope and more would be devastating.
These sessions occurred many months apart and it hasn't happened for
perhaps a decade now. But as far as I can establish these brief and
terrible experiences matched what some (not all) who suffere
depression constantly are exposed to. I am and was puzzled about why
these events occurred and wondered why they were so intermittent. I am
grateful for having had the experience and for the infrequency and for
the fact that they have stopped !!!!! I would not like to live my life
under such a burden and I'll be most glad if it never happens to me
again, but it gives a bit of perspective of what others go through.




       Russell

2007\07\19@125813 by Russell McMahon

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flavicon
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> For all who have replied to this particular discussion I think it
> would be very helpful for all to consider a particular book from
> Borders book store or a vendor of your choice a book,
> "The fine art of RELAXATION, CONCENTRATION, and MEDITATION"
> by Joel and Michelle Levey.

While on books and ADHD, which someone suggested as a possible thing
to look at. One book (of the many many available) which is highly
regarded is "Driven to Distraction" by ? Hallowell. ADHD is a much
debated subject. Whether it exists as an actual condition or whether
it is (as are many psychiatric 'conditions') a descriptive locus or a
range of descriptive loci, is not too too important in dealing with
it.  ie if you have symptoms or characteristics or behaviour or
experiences that match extraordinarily well with those that other
people have, then you may benefit from whatever it was that they also
derived benefit from. And you may not :-(.  But it's often liable to
be worthwhile investigating what others have done when they
encountered what you are encountering, whatever it may be.

FWIW, caffeine, which has already been warned against, can be of
immense benefit for some people who have concentration problems. And
have no benefit for others. The brain is fearsomely and wondrously
made and knowing what is going to work for any given brain is often a
matter of trial and error. Often lots of error :-(.





               Russell




2007\07\19@134347 by James Newtons Massmind

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Other people have offered good advice on specific topics. I'd like to offer
a sort of overview.

Drugs should be seen as a last resort. Either after everything else has been
tried and failed or when there is no time to try other options.

Each person is different and what works for others may not work for you.

If you have the time, the best path to follow is:
- Mental health treatment and training. This includes counseling especially
group therapy with others who have the same issue (e.g. A.D.D. support
group) and mental exercises and training such as self help books,
meditation, self examination and exploration.

- Life adjustment. Such as finding a job that you are a better match for.
E.g. one where you can always sleep till 9 (as one person mentioned) or
perhaps where you are always given clear guidance. Other possibilities
include changing where you live, your mattress (better sleep) or lifestyle
including diet, exercise, etc...

- Medical treatment. Drugs, hypno, surgery, shock therapy, etc... Mostly
drugs, but I wanted to list those other things to put drugs solidly in that
same class where it belongs. Drugs are invasive. Not to say that they aren't
sometimes necessary (I've taken Imipermine, Zoloft and Zantac, not to
mention Alcohol at various times in my life).

If you don't have the time, e.g. the student taking diet pills to cram for
exams, take the drugs, but at the same time or when there is time, go back
and explore the other options. Try to get away from the drugs when you can.
Exercise and cognitive therapy removed my need for Zoloft (mostly) and
sleeping at an incline, avoiding milk and having a late night snack removed
my need for Zantac (mostly). AA removed my need for Alcohol and the
Imipermine just about killed me so it was easy to quit.

Finally, let me note that food IS absolutely a drug. Changing diet can make
amazing differences in people. Good old healthy food like veggies, organic
and locally grown foods have made a huge difference in my life as well as
finding out what I can't eat (milk) and avoiding it like the plague.

Best wishes and I must say I'm impressed that you have the guts to ask a
question like this.

---
James.



> {Original Message removed}

2007\07\19@141754 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Russell McMahon wrote:

>> While I also suspect that there in fact are huge differences between
>> people WRT to "mind control" (another word for self discipline, maybe
>> avoiding some of the negative associations of "discipline" :), I also
>> believe that the rewards of working on it are much higher than the
>> rewards of using drugs. They may not come instantly, though, and
>> require more dedication.
>
> I wrote what I wrote with careful consideration.

So did I :)

> I am much less of the opinion that anyone "should be able to help
> themselves if they really applied themselves to the task" than I may
> have been before then.

This is not what I meant. For someone who needs help, the help may be drugs
-- or something else. The contraposition to using drugs is not only

> gritted teeth and enough "just do it" ing.

The help can come (and be given) in many other ways.

> There is no doubt that the use of drugs is vastly overdone. But just
> because society as a whole abuses drugs and uses them as an
> unnecessary prop does not mean that they are not a valuable and
> sensible aid for some in some cases. We all know this, but it can be
> hard to know where the boundaries should be.

I agree with this. But I think (from experience) that most tend not even to
try changing their life to address chronic problems, and rather take a drug
with a list of side effects no sane person would accept. (Maybe that's the
issue here :)

> The classic example is the "snap out of it / get over it / just do it /
> ... " advice to people with clinical depression.

Nobody knows how someone else is feeling, what someone else is capable of.
I can't tell Marcel whether drugs will help him or not, he'll have to find
that out. But he asked about opinions, and, well, he got mine -- that's all
I have :)

> One such drug for some people is Prozac. For those who need it it can
> spell the difference between leading a life of utter misery and being a
> highly productive and well balanced member of society. For others its a
> crutch or worse.

Most I know who are taking it both have serious side effects and started to
take it on prescription of a doctor without ever even being asked (or ask
themselves) to try any alternatives (like meditation, prayer, regular walks
in the outdoors, a regular sport, better nutrition, dedicate more time to
love one's family and friends, or any of the many ways one can try to
improve one's life). Saying that it's the only alternative is a mere guess
in those cases. That's the ones I was thinking of, not the ones who resort
to it after a decade of trying other options.

Gerhard

2007\07\19@175649 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
James Newtons Massmind wrote:

> If you don't have the time, e.g. the student taking diet pills to cram for
> exams, take the drugs, but at the same time or when there is time, go back
> and explore the other options.

There is a line of thought that says that if someone needs drugs to pass
exams, he/she might be on the wrong track, and changing the track rather
earlier than later could be beneficial for that person's health.

After the exams things won't get a whole lot easier, and needing drugs to
do a job could be an indicator that this person is not made for that job.

Gerhard

2007\07\19@193524 by James Newtons Massmind

face picon face
> James Newtons Massmind wrote:
>
> > If you don't have the time, e.g. the student taking diet
> pills to cram
> > for exams, take the drugs, but at the same time or when
> there is time,
> > go back and explore the other options.
>
> There is a line of thought that says that if someone needs
> drugs to pass exams, he/she might be on the wrong track, and
> changing the track rather earlier than later could be
> beneficial for that person's health.
>
> After the exams things won't get a whole lot easier, and
> needing drugs to do a job could be an indicator that this
> person is not made for that job.


Yeah. Oops there.

In retrospect, that didn't come out well... I was trying to refer to an
example of something another poster on this thread had decided to do and it
came out as if I were recommending his choice to others.

I do not recommend taking diet pills to cram for a test.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

---
James.


2007\07\19@213045 by Marcel Birthelmer

picon face
Everybody,
thank you very much for your opinions - I'm glad I asked.
Regards,
- Marcel

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