2017 Update: When I got into self experimentation with smart drugs 5 years ago I had hoped that the industry was on the cusp of growing up, that the fly by night supplement marketers would be put out of business by consumers choosing Nootropics with rationally and science.
Instead, today scammy Internet Marketing products abound and weird research compounds lacking human studies will hit the market to be voraciously consumed by pharmaceutical thrill seekers. I'm more concerned than ever about a major ethics crisis giving the Biohacking industry a bad name.
After personally trying over 90 different Nootropics I'm convinced of two things:
1) Enhancing your cognition requires self quantification; I've created a 5 part DIY experiment for determining the impact of smart drugs on Working Memory, Reaction Times, IQ, Verbal Intelligence, Stress Response and Mindfulness - Download it here.
2) Only consume Pharmaceutical grade Nootropics.
Anyone considering taking nootropics to boost their brain power is presented with an overwhelming amount of information as they begin their Google searching: competing brands and stacks, along with hundreds of different ingredients both synthesized and organic to consider. Unless you are a nutritionist or have a formal science education it's close to impossible to know where to draw the line between fact and disinformation, between credible science and clever marketing.
Anyone who's seen the film Limitless knows that an NZT-48 like smart drug that really works stands a good chance of increasing your earning potential by several too many thousands of dollars a month. The lost opportunity cost of a taking a Nootropic that doesn't work is ultimately far more than the $35-$100 monthly cost of your average Nootropic. In my long term experience, less than half of them work.
A Quick Story...
I was alone in my office on a Friday night after an eventful and demanding 11 hour day working on an invoice to send out to a client.
- I was mentally juggling about 10 different projects at the moment.
- I had not had a proper meal in +7 hours.
- I was also in the middle of texting friends, solidifying our social plans for the evening.
- I was worried about a site software upgrade my hosting company was demanding.
As much as I wanted to press the invitingly blue 'Send Now' button, fire off the invoice and shut down my computer I double checked the accounting on the invoice, cross referenced my email threads with the client and caught an error that would have cost me $70.
A couple of evenings later I was on a date; savoring a meal at one of the nicer restaurants in downtown Medellin, Colombia and a surprisingly stimulating conversation with a 22 year old girl. The thought crossed my mind that my accounting 'save' was essentially paying for the rich ambiance, flavor and beauty that surrounded me.
At the time I was on a downright expensive Nootropic cocktail. Can I credit all my attention to detail, discipline and general coolness under fire to the smart drugs flowing in my veins? That's hard to say for sure...
I've had enough moments while on Nootropics that my focus, attention and creativity either saved the day or delivered the rock star results that people pay me the big bucks for.
This is my system for picking smart drugs that deliver an excellent ROI in productivity, imperviousness to distraction or rich life experiences.
This article will take a common sense approach to determining which Nootropic products legitimately have the highest chance of making you feel spectacularly Limitless. Most Nootropic products come in a one month supply, with at least several hundred Nootropic products on the market you could easily spend an entire decade sampling different products until you find what actually works best for you. We are going to outsource a fair proportion of our decision making process to the wisdom of crowds - which products are highest rated and reviewed by real people like you and me?
By the end of this article...
You will have a specific process for determining credibility of a product or supplement. If you apply this process consistently (as opposed to impulsively clicking 'Buy Now' buttons) your chances of ever being duped into buying a bad value (or outright scam) supplement are next to ZERO.
This list was originally +15 supplemental products but upon thorough analysis we found that some of those products had faked a lot of their reviews or that there were not legitimate companies, businesspeople or science behind the products. Based upon these 6 objective criteria we've determined the top 6 Nootropic stack products on the market.
Average Rating on Amazon: Amazon.com is the largest consumer supplement marketplace in existence, the economies of scale that exist here allow us to collect meaningful data. Also due to the massive amount of people on Amazon a legitimate product can gain a number of positive reviews quickly.
Money Back Guarantee: A credible company selling a product that creates real results should stand behind it's product with some kind of guarantee.
Written Testimonials: Credible products naturally attract testimonials from satisfied customers. Everyone knows that written testimonials can be faked, luckily fake testimonials can usually be easily identified by
- Short length
- No photo
- No detailed information about the writer of testimonials (IE: Profession or location)
- Lack of verifiable profile.
We will consider these factors in determining the veracity of written testimonials.
Video Testimonials: Video testimonials are also a common way that customers express their satisfaction. These can be faked as well but it's pretty rare that a company goes to the trouble of faking video testimonials and it's often glaringly obvious when they do.
Clinical Studies: While clinical studies are not always 100% accurate, a company distributing a product should have links to published double-blind placebo controlled human studies done on the ingredients of the product.
Web Presence: We will search the web to determine if 'real' companies, people and science are behind these supplements. We will look for company founders (or managements) names on website, real addresses, Facebook or social media pages, etc.
Top Rated & Reviewed Nootropic Supplements
Average Rating on Amazon: 4.0 Stars (+500 Customer Reviews), impressive considering it's price tag, usually higher priced items are more harshly reviewed.
Money Back Guarantee: You can cancel your subscription at anytime and for any reason. No questions asked. If for any reason you are unhappy with any of our products at any time during the first 90 days you may also return them for a full refund or replacement at no cost to you. You only pay for the S & H.
Written Testimonials: Yes, Amazon reviews appear legitimate.
Video Testimonials: Yes, +10 Pages of Results on Youtube, their own channel with +1200 subscribers.
Clinical Studies: Yes, links to extensive scientific studies, clinical trials and peer reviewed articles.
Web Presence: Yes Facebook page with +1000 fans and Twitter page
Average Rating on Amazon: 3.4 (+900 Reviews)
Money Back Guarantee: 100% money back guarantee within 3 months of your purchase. For fraud protection, we require the return of unopened product for any refunds beyond the initial 30 capsules.
Written Testimonials: Yes, many Amazon verified purchase reviews
Video Testimonials: Yes, many video reviews. Overall very positive sentiment about the product, it also causes pretty sweet lucid lucid dreaming apparently.
Clinical Studies: Alpha Brain is an exceptional Nootropic in that there have been two human studies conducted on it specifically. Not merely on the ingredients it ostensibly contains. A pilot study and a flagship study which demonstrated that it hacks verbal memory, executive function and peak alpha brain waves (flowstate). An article in Science Based Medicine was critical of Alpha BRAIN.
Web Presence: Website gives background of company founders. Facebook page for Onnit Labs w/almost half a million likes and a Twitter page with a lot of people talking about it.
Money Back Guarantee: We do offer money back guarantee. If you're unsatisfied with the product, than you can ship it back and we'll give you the money back for the remaining product and shipping.
Written Testimonials: +600 Google results for "truBrain reviews". A number of bloggers have posted overall positive reviews
Video Testimonials: Yes several lifehacker/biohacker bloggers have posted vlogs on Youtube
Clinical Studies: Yes. Checkout links at https://trubrain.com/quality
Web Presence: This is one of my favorite supplement companies because of how transparent they are about who's behind the product. Website gives background of company founders. They have a Youtube channel with 6 nice videos highlighting the product and team.
Money Back Guarantee: 60 day 100% money back guarantee. No shipping or product return requirements..
Written Testimonials: Several detailed reviews in the Mind Power Marketplace, the user's reported experiences seem consistent with the effects of Racetams mentioned in the preponderance of human studies.
Video Testimonials: One very detailed and honest review by Jonathan Roseland.
Clinical Studies: Pharmaceutical grade ingredients of Caballo are supported by over 600 human studies and papers.
Web Presence: LimitlessCaballo.com warns that it may turn you into a James Bond villain (puffery!)
Money Back Guarantee: 30 day money back guarantee.
Written Testimonials: 4 reviews appear in the Mind Power Marketplace and there are 45 reviews on it's manufacturer's page, some are very short while some are quite detailed. Reviews also appear on several popular Nootropics blogs and there's several (mostly positive) discussion threads on Longecity.org.
Video Testimonials: Several positive reviews by videobloggers on Youtube.
Clinical Studies: Over 600 human studies and papers about Piracetam can be found on Pubmed.
Web Presence: PeakNootropics.com is a no frills and utilitarian ecommerce website. Ample (again mostly positive) discussion of their products can be found on Biohacker forums and Reddit.
An all natural Nootropic stack
Money Back Guarantee: 60 Day Satisfaction Guarantee (Bottle return required and shipping cost)
Written Testimonials: A number of bloggers have reviewed it but they appear to just be affiliate reviews. I used it myself for about a month and it works as advertised.
Video Testimonials: Their Youtube channel has several very good testimonials
Clinical Studies: No studies linked on their website
Web Presence: Yes, Mind Lab Pro has a Facebook page (+16,000 likes) & a Youtube Channel (+60000 views)
Is a strategy utilized by elite Biohackers to maximize the ROI of Nootropics using brain training software; it basically entails brain training under the influence of smart drugs and recording some results. Which is tantamount to a body builder that maximizes their gains in the gym while under the influence of a powerful preworkout supplement. Get a free download of my favorite smart phone fluid intelligence training App - the only one demonstrated in human studies to have 'transfer effects' to real life.
What about placebo effect/confirmation bias?
Isn't this crowd sourced approach susceptible to placebo effect? Yes and no, actually.
No, because the more the reviews a product has the more statistically accurate the average rating becomes as a predictor of effectiveness. The preponderance of statistical data will smooth out any wildly positive experiences that result from a placebo effect.
Yes, placebo effect is inevitable - You don't need to be a very informed consumer to add a review on amazon. However, in the case of cognitive enhancers - Nootropics that make you happier and more productive you actually want as much as placebo effect as possible.
Over the +5 years that I've tried +90 smart drugs I've experienced the placebo effect surprisingly little...
I had researched thoroughly, expected big things from and was downright excited the first times I tried Kratom, Noopept, Coluracetam and Ayahuasca, I was totally primed for the placebo effect - yet I ended up being totally underwhelmed by them!
I have also experienced the nocebo effect very little, which is the effect of negative bias on the pharmacology of a Nootropic.
I suspect that the placebo effect is a just a whole lot less common than the average skeptic thinks it is.
If you are the kind of person who takes the time to read a long article like this you probably have a very analytical personality that is a whole lot less susceptible to placebo effect. The antidote to the placebo effect is thoroughly researching what you are consuming, running self quantification experiments while on Nootropics, and cycling those Nootropics. The placebo effect really is a fascinating and often misunderstood phenomenon, check out this documentary on it
How to get Nootropics Internationally...
In the comments below please let me know what methodologies, criteria or critical thinking skills you use to avoid scam or bad value Nootropic supplements and identify the products that deliver the greatest biological bang for the buck.