In Silicon Valley, the world is fast-paced and never sleeps. Countless workers dedicate themselves to innovation and design, hoping to be the one to discover the next big breakthrough. Given the way technology evolves and develops, it can create a pressure to perform that many succumb to. In an effort to improve the way the brain functions and try to gain an edge over the competition, entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are turning to “bio-hacking,” which is the process of trying to improve brain functionality through the use of supplements. On the surface, this description does not sound dangerous or questionable as these supplements—called nootropics—are often a combination of FDA-approved supplements, vitamins, botanicals, and synthetic compounds. However, the danger lies in the way these substances evolve over time. In many cases, people end up experimenting on themselves with substances that have not been tested for safety or effectiveness.
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs”, are designed to improve cognitive function. The drugs are intended to help people perform better, maximizing brain function and potential, while simultaneously improving memory and concentration. While in many cases nootropics are considered safe and some studies suggest they preserve brain functioning, many fail to recognize the potential dangers associated with long-term use. While current research indicates the drugs are safe, there are no long-term studies to support this claim. Given the varying ingredients in different nootropics, it is impossible to know with certainty that what is being taken is safe or effective.
There are hundreds of nootropics available online, all with slightly different ingredients. Since these drugs affect the brain, it is important to consider one’s age and the dosage taken when using nootropics. Critical stages of brain development occur during adolescent years and well into a person’s mid-twenties. When substances are used during these phases, it is possible that the brain will not form important connections, which may have long-term consequences. Additionally, the dosage a person consumes may have a negative impact. In some cases, a person may find the use of nootropics provides them with the outcome they want, and in order to increase its effectiveness, will continuously up the doses to enhance its effects. This can cause dependency on nootropics and a need to continuously increase dosage in order to achieve the same outcome.
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The frequency and duration of use can be problematic as well. The longer a person uses a substance, the greater the risk that it will alter brain functioning. Over time, dependencies develop that require a person to use the substance just to feel normal. This causes the brain to rely on drugs in order to function, especially in cases where a person uses the drug several times a day. Nootropics can become a form of self-medication, making it difficult for a person to dial back their usage or remove feelings of dependency.
Nootropics in Silicon Valley
Due to the fast-paced environment found in Silicon Valley, the practice of “hacking” one’s brain through the use of nootropics is not outlandish. The competitiveness and need to be on the cutting-edge of technology can push even the most innovative workers into the world of nootropics. The supplements are manufactured to be taken in a variety of ways. Some users choose to use fasting as part of their regimen in order to improve their competitive edge, but habits like these can lead to dangerous outcomes. Instead of eating, people are relying on nootropics to power them through their work days, and while some believe these substances are improving their overall functionality, there is no evidence or research that suggest nootropics make a person smarter or able to go beyond their natural limits.
Unfortunately, this mindset and practice has been adopted by countless people across the country, and only time will tell what the long-term outcomes of nootropic use will be. Silicon Valley in particular holds a great influence over the ideas and practices of others due to its innovative reputation, making it partially responsible for the growing popularity of nootropics. A person’s individual lifestyle, genetics, and environment all play a role in determining the effects of nootropics, and although many are reporting that nootropics currently have little to no negative influence, this does not mean that will be each user’s experience. The safety of these products is still under investigation; however, any substance that alters brain chemistry to affect performance should be viewed with caution.
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