Brain drugs are commonly known as smart drugs and recently their use amongst individuals has seen an incline. There is a good reason for that. These drugs, if used on a short-term basis, have been known to improve memory, focus and concentration and even brain health.
Claims have been made that they can be used for memory-loss disorders such as Alzheimer’s and senile dementia. However, these are just claims as no official research has been conducted so far and the evidence collected, has been on the basis of small and independent studies. Let us take a brief look at how these brain drugs work and why they are not as beneficial as projected!
How Brain Drugs Work!
Though the brain drugs comprise a large group of drugs and each one of them works in a different way, there are a few mechanisms that are common to all. They include the following.
- Brain drugs are known to improve and increase cerebral blood flow, leading to increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients. These is associated with an increase in brain functioning.
- All brain drugs are responsible for causing an increase in the release of neurotransmitters within the brain, particularly acetylcholine and the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
- Brain drugs are responsible for creating new synaptic connections amongst neurons and ensuring that there is smooth neurotransmission. Additionally, they also help in neuronal repair, preventing brain-aging!
Now that we know how brain drugs actually work, let us tackle the hype surrounding the use of these drugs. Remember that no research has been done to support the claims made by these drug manufacturers.
Brain Drugs Alter the Chemistry Within Nervous System
We all know that brain drugs work by increasing levels of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin. This not only helps in engaging a large number of neurons within the brain, but also helps in imparting a feeling of elation.
While these effects may seem positive for a shorter period of time, in the long run, incorporation of a larger number of neurons actually leads to hyperactivity, distractibility and even poor impulse control. Furthermore, over a period of time, there is a depletion of these neurotransmitters within the brain which further leads to complications.
Brain Drugs Affect Developing Brains
Brain drugs are commonly used by students, specially during exam season. Students claim that these drugs not only help them in staying awake but they also help them in improving cognition and memory!
However, there has been growing evidence that these drugs actually wreak havoc with the developing brain. Our prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that is responsible for judgement, logical thinking, behavior, emotion, decision making and even memory. This region continues to develop during our twenties and thirties.
Neurotransmitter levels go up and down naturally within the brain to help in normal maturation. Taking brain drugs earlier in life can mess up this natural process. This leads to alteration of circadian rhythm of the body, increased anxiety and can even lead to object-recognition memory problems, later in life!
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Long-term Use of Some Brain Drugs Has Been Related to Neurotoxicity!
Some brain drugs, particularly those that affect dopamine transmission, have been shown to cause neuronal damage if used over a longer period of time. It has been shown that certain drugs cause a depletion and subsequent disruption of dopamine-containing neurons. These neurons are ultimately damaged by oxidative stress as a result of accumulation of oxygen-reactive species!
Brain Drugs Have an Increased Addiction Potential!
Needless to say, when something makes you feel good and at the top of your game, it is no surprise that you would want more and more of that. The same goes for almost all the brain drugs.
Since brain drugs keep you at the top of your game and help in elevating your mood, the addiction potential and dependency is higher in this group of drugs. Who wouldn’t want to be the life of the party and still ace his/her exams? Once you get off a particular drug, chances are that you will suffer from withdrawal effects and they are certainly not going to be pleasant.
Some Brain Drugs Can Cause Psychosis
While tall claims have been made regarding the use of some brain drugs in the treatment of senile dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is no research to support it in the long run. In fact, larger, single doses of certain brain drugs have been implicated in causing psychotic behavior even in normal, healthy adults!
These symptoms resemble those of schizophrenia. It is believed that drug metabolites are involved in neurotoxicity and subsequent induction of psychotic symptoms in individuals.
Brain Drugs Are Tricky to Juggle as in The Long Run They Alter the Brain Chemistry to an Extent of Causing Severe Damage.
Be Careful When Using Them!