Coffee, it is probably a remedy you or most people around you use every day. It is not the coffee we desire but the caffeine in the coffee that gives effects of enhanced wakefulness. So the real question is does caffeine qualify as a nootropic? To be truly considered a “nootropic” the substance must follow some basic rules.
First, the supplement or drug must obviously contribute to some area of cognitive enhancement whether it be, memory, learning or focus. Second, the supplement or drug must demonstrate a good safety profile which includes: low side effects, tolerance or addiction potential. Many nootropics also offer neuroprotective effects as an added benefit.
There is a big difference between stimulants and nootropics. Stimulants can often be confused with nootropics because they offer short periods of cognitive enhancement. These bursts of energy are often followed by a “crash”. This is simply due to the fact that stimulants work to boost certain monoamine neurotransmitters which offer effects to enhance wakefulness. These effects often do little for other areas of cognitive function like memory and learning. In essence, they do nothing to actually make you smarter.
This wakefulness enhancement of stimulants can bring a great burden to the endocrine system and while, it may offer needed bursts to increase focus and productivity in the long run it can hurt the body. Also, over time, your body may become used to a certain stimulant effects which can induce both tolerance and addiction. Nootropics generally have a very low risk of addiction and tolerance while stimulants like amphetamines do have this risk.
Caffeine: A Stimulant or Nootropic?
Many people dispute the effects of caffeine as a nootropic and simply state it as a stimulant however, caffeine may fall into both categories. Mainly, caffeine has most the properties of a stimulant. This includes enhanced wakefulness and focus. This may only happen for a short period of time and may be followed by a crash. Caffeine can also become addictive overtime.
How Does Caffeine Work?
Caffeine works differently than amphetamine type stimulants. It works simply to block a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits the central nervous system. This neurotransmitter is known as adenosine and its main function is to help one sleep and relax. It is not to be confused with GABA or melatonin, which also contribute to similar functions.
Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors and helps to block the effects of fatigue. During this process, other neurotransmitters are increased. Of these neurotransmitters many of them have nootropic functions like dopamine, glutamate and acetylcholine. Therefore we can conclude that caffeine has stimulatory and nootropic effects.
Sometimes we victimize caffeine or caffeine containing supplements. The truth is, caffeine in realistic doses is a great nootropic. It should not be victimized as unhealthy because usually the unhealthy part of caffeine containing products is the substances combined with it.
Caffeine many also be great to be used in a nootropics stack. Many nootropics like piracetam may not have the effects of wakefulness so adding in a nootropic stimulant can help this stack. It is even possible that the two may work synergistically. So let us rethink caffeine and how it is used. It can be abused like a stimulant or used as a tool for higher cognitive functioning.