Nootropics for fun! (and profit, if you value extra hours in the day.)


I’ve just started a new stack of nootropics, based on experimentation and research I’ve done over the last year or so.

Phenylpiracetam, piracetam, sulbutiamine, caffiene, theanine, adrafinil, and choline (in the form of citicoline.)

None of the above have any documented studies in aggregate, but I’ve found each to be efficacious on their own, or in discrete combination, in the case of caffeine and theanine.

Adrafinil is a prodrug of modafinil, a schedule IV prescription drug being used by professionals and college students all over the US. There aren’t many side effects. The most worrisome is elevated liver enzymes, which can mask liver problems, but these findings are based on a study funded by Cephalon, the company that’s marketing modafinil, the newer, more expensive version that takes an hour less to kick in. I’m not certain of the veracity of the elevated liver enzymes, but will be monitoring my bloodwork over the next several months and tracking the results.

Adrafinil metabolizes into modafinil, whose mechanism of action seems to inhibit the reuptake action of the dopamine transporter, thus leading to an increase in extracellular and thus synaptic concentrations of dopamine. Translation: you’re more consistently awake. There is no euphoria or high, just a smooth maintenance of wakefulness. There also seem to be cognitive benefits, with increased activity reported in the thalamocortical loop. Your hippocampus and thalamus play important functions in retention and learning - increased activity generally correlates with increased level of retention. It’s anecdotally reported to improve memory and decrease the amount of time needed to learn abstract concepts.

Phenylpiracetam is banned by most sports organizations as a performance enhancing drug. Most famously used by Russian olympic athletes, it improves stress endurance, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. It’s mechanism of action seems to increase the amount of neuroreceptors D1, D2 and D3, and decrease the nACh and NMDA receptors. The net effect seems to augment muscle memory, improve physical stamina, increase task retention, and improves blood flow in the brain. There are no known side effects. Studies are limited.

Piracetam is the granddaddy of nootropics. It’s safe, doesn’t have side effects, and has a well recognized mechanism of action: it is an ampakine and calcium channel inhibitor. It generally takes large doses to be perceptible, and there are some well understood and quite nice effects. It encompasses part of what people expect from the drug in the movie Limitless - the best way to describe it is that it makes thoughts flow. Again, there’s no high, but there’s a sharpening of focus, increase ability to attend to tasks, and I’ve noticed the ability to throw myself into an experience and lose track of time. I feel more “me,” like I’m operating at 100%.

Sulbutiamine: I’m dubious about this one. Purportedly able to cross the blood brain barrier, where it is metabolized into two Vitamin B1 molecules (thiamine,) there are anecdotal studies reporting increased attention span and mental acuity. I’m including it as it was recommended by some guy on the internet on a very detailed and cogent forum posting. I’m going to experiment, but with otherwise proper nutrition, I’m not sold on supplementation of B vitamins.

Caffeine and L-Theanine work together synergistically. I wish I had better studies to reference. I love the combination - I get the familiar caffeinated alertness, without the physical tension or jitters, and a gentle transition back to normalcy. The theanine is calming and gives me an intent attention to detail without a noticeable fixation. I can move between tasks easily and without having to spend a lot of time thinking about the details of separate tasks.

Choline is brain fuel. It supports almost every neural metabolic pathway in one way or another. When you’re constantly on, a depletion of choline is very noticeable. On the flip side, having a ready supply of choline keeps you going.

The upsides: You’re given the increased cortical efficiency afforded by piracetam, physical stamina and neuromotor ehancement of phenylpiracetam, alongside complementary improved blood flow, ampakine augmentation and calcium channel inhibition. From Adrafinil, you get augmented dopamine levels, heightened interregional activity in the brain, better retention and learning rates. From caffeine and theanine you get adrenaline, faster bloodflow, increased dopamine production, increased memory retention abilities, as it inhibits glutamic exotoxicity.

In short: better attention, memory, and scope of thought, with physical relaxation and increased endurance. I’m going to try to find some muscle memory tasks to exploit the phenylpiracetam. I have an alternative keyboard I’ve been meaning to learn to use exclusively.

So…here’s the subjective experience: I can feel it kick in around 70 minutes after taking them all at once. I save the caffeine and theanine for after I feel the rest start working. Caffeine/Theanine take about 3 minutes to fully arrive. I don’t feel a high or a rush, but an intensity of experience - I’m fully invested in everything I set out to do. I can juggle tasks effortlessly - I’ve written this post while working, handling customer calls, network troubleshooting 6 tickets, the alarm console, and writing substantive hourly updates.

I’ve had an extremely productive night. I’ve had a tension around the temples, which I’m blaming on the sulbutiamine - I get the same tension from 5 hour energy.

My sense of smell is heightened. I’m normally a supertaster, but have had a sharp reduction in my senses of smell and taste over the last year. Something in this stack is returning these senses to their previous levels. I can’t express how awesome that is… I’m a big foody. I went out and foodgasmed over truffle fries and aioli sauce on a turkey burger today. It was the most intense food experience I’ve had in a long while.

My thoughts are fluid, and I’m able to execute plans of action in rapid sequence. I’m operating with many steps envisioned, with effortless motion between steps in the sequence. I’m able to construct multiple series of steps and branch between them as available - multitasking is easy. I don’t feel tired at all.

I’m going to create a checklist and have my blood work done so I can track the effects. I’m going to attribute everything to placebo for the first week. I’ll have a consistent dosage schedule for week 2, and finalize it on week 3. With the checklist tracking subjective and objective results, I should have a nice anecdotal 1 man study logging the effects of the stack.

On week 4, I’m going to start adjusting my sleep schedule downward each week, .5 hours at a time. I want to have my 3 weeks of baseline to be able to monitor the effects of any sleep deficit. I may adjust dosing and schedules as time goes on, so the entire experience will be scientifically subjective, but hopefully give me a tool to optimize my personal daily experience.


I would be interested in knowing the long term and short term effects, and what the chances, if any, are of starting to develop a resistance to any of the nootropics you are taking. I don’t think choline is one you can develop a resistance too, but I know that the same levels of caffeine cause a lessening effect of each subsequent dose of caffeine (i.e. you need more for the same effect).


I slept 6 hours last night (this afternoon), unintentionally, and woke up feeling rested. This is day 3, and I’ve removed sulbutiamine, and I have no tension around the temples (it felt like an impending headache… not quite there.) I’m still feeling great.

Cycling may be necessary to keep the effects going - I’ve found that caffeine performs the same for me, day to day, in conjunction with theanine. I don’t need as much to get the effect I’m looking for, so tolerance may be mitigated. I’ll be doing more reading on other’s experiences to see if there’s any good information out there.


Gwern is well worth reading on nootropics, as he is on all things.


We still don’t know the long term effect these things have on the brain. I’m terrified of trying them only to wake up one day at 55 and find out my brain turned into Swiss cheese.


I don’t know about you, but I like my computational substrates pungent.


I’m still enjoying a certain fluidity of thought, and multitasking like a madman. Multitasking like that is, however, not unusual for me. I think there was probably a degree of placebo on the second night. I didn’t like sulbutiamine very much - it had an effect, but that pre-headache sensation isn’t worth it.

My tentative dosing is 3.2g piracetam, divided into 2 daily doses about 5 hours apart. 200 mg citicoline and 100mg phenylpiracetam to start the day, and 2 doses of 300mg adrafinil split with the piracetam . Caffeine throughout the day with coffee, and 2 150mg doses of theanine.

The biggest effect I notice is in conjunction with caffeine and theanine. The two by themselves are noticeably effective, but the result is definitely more apparent with piracetam. I haven’t noticed anything significantly new with phenylpiracetam, but it may be augmenting the racetam effect. Adrafinil should take another 2 days to kick in with my dosage, so I’ll be on the lookout for those effects.


I’m 9 days in. So far so good - the piracetam is starting to kick in, but it will be a couple or 5 days before it’s in full swing. I’m normally a voracious reader, and I was given a set of books for Christmas, the Iron Druid chronicles. I’m on book 4, and the series is great. I’ve also been reviewing my code, working on my cheap diy recipe, and pulling 12 hour days at work. I’m not feeling stressed at all - I feel 100% with everything I’m doing.

Based on previous experience, it will be the third week when I start feeling the full effects. I ran out of money during my last run with nootropics (my previous job didn’t like my rent increase very much.) I basically cold turkeyed when I ran out of piracetam and aniracetam after week 4, but that week was one of the most productive in my adult life.

Great read - I love the honest look at these.

I’ve been an AI buff and reading on how intelligence and the brain function for almost a decade. One thing that I’ve been following intently for several years now is the memory-prediction framework of intelligence. It describes a simple scalable mechanism for the foundation of intelligent thought and behavior. When considered in the context of biology, it provides a cogent and concise framework that is capable of explaining precisely how our minds work. The neat thing about the theory is that it isn’t dependent on a particular algorithm, like perceptrons or deep learning or bayesian networks, but that it describes a metacognitive system capable of incorporating and explaining the roles of all of our biological inputs.

I believe it provides a critical insight into how these nootropics (ampakines) actually work. The effects seem to augment the scope of sequences available for activation. In practice, this means that more neuroreceptors are available for wider activation, and that in general more activity occurs in the cortex.This means that the patterns you recognize activate larger sets of sequences, and that correlated sequences converge on more precise resolutions of patterns. It’s cyclical, and you’re able to utilize choline more efficiently . This also enables the hippocampus to more actively feed back up the hierarchy of cortical columns, meaning you get a higher burn-in rate. You learn sequences faster when they’re validated through multiple channels. It follows that this would make perception more precise - the focus and “sharpness” reported by regular racetam users - from having more actively perceived details of a given pattern.


Very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to post. I had started using piracetam and wasn’t getting any results, so I paired it with Citicoline. It made me feel spacy and unfocused; worse, it seemed to bring on mild nausea. By itself, I don’t notice any effects at all, good or bad. That’s quite a cocktail you’ve mixed up there; I’ll have to ease into it.


Are you not scared of something breaking without you receiving a warning first?


Not at all. Nothing I’m doing is physically strenuous and I enjoy my work intensely. I get 2 day weekends for downtime. I’m making the best of every minute :slight_smile:


I think ruipacheco means “breaking your mind”, not your body :smiley: or I might have misunderstood your reply!


As to breaking my mind, well… no guarantees, but I’m still not worried. I’m pretty self aware. Maybe I’ll take up meditation or something to keep balanced.


That’s the problem with the mind - who watches the watchers?

If you sprain your ankle your mind says “ouch”. If you sprain your mind, the police takes you in because you think it’s perfectly reasonable to go shopping in your undies only.


WAIT. I can’t shop in my undies?! THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!


That’s why you take the nootropics - to give you the capacity to watch yourself. I’m told LSD has a similar effect.


Erm… no. nononono. Triple no. With LSD you can watch many things, none of them your real self.


Ah, sorry - my fault - I’m British, and so sarcasm is assumed unless indicated otherwise. Pretend I put sarcasm tags around my previous post.


Excellent post, as always.

If you haven’t seen it already:

Warning, anecdotal experience ahead:

Piracetam’s effects will be minimal, as will essentially all other racetams. Noopept will contribute most strongly but the main effects you’ll get are from the b-vitamin derivatives (theanine, sulbutiamine, choline, etc.) and stimulants (adrafinil, caffeine, etc.) which do ware off over prolonged use. Cycling is optional, but I’ve been using these for about 13 months off and on and can say with some certainty, the effects diminish over time. Either that, or I’ve gotten very used to the effects.

The effects are indeed real, however, as far as I can tell - not placebo or nocebo effects. Clarity of thought is the biggest, I often feel less tempted to take easy answers or use system 1 thinking when I should be using system 2. I’ve always enjoyed deep thought but it seems to come a little easier than it did before. That’s about as much as I can really measure. Mental energy varies from day to day and seems to depend more on how I’ve slept, ate, and exercised than anything. It also depends on what portion of the off/on cycle I’m in.

Tips for success:

  1. Sulbutiamine is actually fat soluble and is the only one in your list that is. Be sure to take it with food that has some fat or oil.
  2. Don’t start on full doses of choline/sulbutiamine/picamilon, you should start low and taper up to avoid headaches.
  3. Always take your racetams with a stimulant of some sort, otherwise you’ll just feel groggy and tired, as sleepiness is a side effect.
  4. Always fill the prerequisites for mental health before worrying about this stuff. Enough sleep and exercise is key along with eating a diversity of healthy fats. Seriously, this will dictate your mental state way more than any nootropic ever would and there are mountains of studies to back it up.
  5. Take breaks. This is a huge problem I’ve noticed with most nootropics. You feel like you can go forever, but you’ll stop retaining things after about 90 minutes straight of work or your retention will slump dramatically. Anyone who has ever taken adderall for exams can tell you so.

The problem with these things is that there’s no real way to measure thinking. Tracking performance is about the best mechanism we have, but that’s really only tracking the symptoms of good thinking, not whether or not the thinking itself is good. We have no way of measuring the speed and potency of neural connections, so most of this really depends on whether you feel it helps you or not.

As for long term consequences, we do not know. Such is the case with most prescription and non prescription drugs, however, modern medicine doesn’t want to wait 60 years on a trial group where it is near impossible to isolate variables anyways. Short term side effects seem to be our best indicator of long term consequences.

Hope this helps.


I’d like to preface this by saying I’m not an expert, I’m relatively new to the field, etc, but since I started I’ve read about just about every online resource I can find on all of the substances listed. I’m by no means authoritative, this is just my personal experience thus far. I’ve personally started a nootropic stack, out of lack of ability to focus enough during semesters and a general drive for mental abilities that fit my needs. I’m on the following

  • Sulbutiamine
  • Bacopa
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Piracetam
  • aniracetam
  • citicholine

With fish oil and some headache pills. I’m on day 12 and messing with dosages by the day, today seems to be the best thus far and I have excellent effects across the board. I’m avoiding the pure stimulants like modafinil because they are depilatory in nature, using up neurotransmitters and gradually reducing the brains physical resources: like revving up a car with bad oil. The list of what I’m using is providing an excellent clear, and cumulative bonus by the day, and I’m smarter and more focused each day I come back on it.

Sleep too is important, you can’t really neglect it.

Personally, in 6 months I hope to have a job in my field of engineering and I hope to design a supplement stack that synergisticly merges the effects of various body building, injury repair, nootropic, anti-oxidant, anti-aging, mitochondrial biogenesis supplements.

The brain is the organ most susceptible to toxin buildup, oxidative stress, energy issues in the body, due to its rapid use of energy, barriers, and difficulty removing toxins. If you can build your system to improve energy production, toxin removal, mitochondria function improvements, signaling systems, cardiovascular health and strength, muscle systems, and anti-aging work, while still keeping amounts low and balanced enough to avoid any kind of issues in any of the organs of the body, the potential health benefits are unthinkable. As would be the monetary cost.

I’d like to add oxiracetam, PQQ, CoQ10, Inositol, Picamilon, Phosphatidylserine, methylcobalamin, saffron, vit E, C, K2, ALCAR, beta-Alanine, Glycine to that list, combined with a stronger exercise regiment. The list I’ve assembled takes into account minimizing possibility of long term harm or build up in any major organs and creating productive, strong long term gains.