This Is What You Need For Your Next All-Nighter

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We’ve all been there. It’s T-5 hours before that 2000-word report you swore you wouldn’t leave until the last minute again is due. You’ve drunk more cups of coffee in the last hour than any human should ever consume and are now suffering the consequences of an increased heart rate and shaking hands, without any changes to how tired you feel.

If only there was some magic pill – something to get you back in the zone, take away the fatigue, the anxiety…

Enter nootropics.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are a broad category of drugs that provide some form of cognitive enhancement. There are currently hundreds of nootropics available that can be purchased online, ranging in price from $25-$69. Nootropics can be tailored for whatever it is your looking for; whether that’s memory enhancement, some extra motivation, or even a boost to your confidence.

So, with so many to choose from where on earth do you begin your search? To simplify things a bit I’ve broken down some of the most popular nootropics.


This naturally occurring amino acid is marketed as the perfect starter nootropic. It promises increased feelings of relaxation (without drowsiness), reduced stress and improved sleep quality. You’ve likely already had L-theanine before, as it’s present in green tea leaves. However, the average cup of green tea contains only 7.9 mg, compared to the 200 mg dosage in a capsule of an L-theanine nootropic.


This drug was the first ever nootropic, discovered back in 1964. Supplements of Piracetam claim to improve your memory, focus and verbal ability, with effects that last up to 7 hours. The drug is currently used to treat epilepsy, under the name Nootropil.

Modafinil (Adrafinil)

Modafinil belongs to a class of drugs known as wakefulness-promoting agents (eugeroics), used in the treatment of sleep disorders. It is sold as a nootropic under the name Adrafinil and promises increased alertness and concentration, allowing users to work into the small hours of the morning without feeling fatigued.

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But, Is It All Too Good To Be True?

We’d all like to believe that swallowing one of these capsules will magically turn us into some uber-successful, crazy productive genius – but how much of what these nootropics claim is actually true?

The short answer is unsatisfying; we simply don’t know for sure. In Australia, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) does not require manufacturers to provide any evidence that their products are actually effective. Furthermore, studies conducted into the effectiveness of nootropics such as L-theanine, Piracetam and Adrafinil reveal mixed results.

Piracetam has been shown to improve reading ability in dyslexic children, reduce post-stroke aphasia (language difficulties) and increase consciousness levels in coma patients. However, little research has looked at its effects on healthy adults. Only two small studies revealed a moderate increase in memory recall and reaction time as a result of Piracetam.

Finding any evidence of Adrafinil’s cognitive-enhancing effects proves even more challenging as the drug has only ever been tested in the context of providing treatments for sleep disorders such as narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness).

L-theanine’s relaxation effects on the other hand, seem to have some merit. One study found that participants’ heart rates significantly decreased during difficult mental arithmetic as a result of taking L-theanine, and another study demonstrated that L-theanine produces alpha waves in the brain that are characteristic of those experienced during a focused, meditative state.

What Are the Risks?

Before you’re tempted to try out nootropics for yourself, it’s worth mentioning that taking any supplements you buy online is not something that comes without significant risk. None of these nootropics are currently approved by the TGA, and no reliable studies have investigated the long-term effects of taking nootropics. So, despite what you might read online, nootropics can’t yet claim to be safe.

2 Responses to “This Is What You Need For Your Next All-Nighter”

  1. Chloe Pfeiffer says:

    Thanks for your comment, Tomas!
    Very interesting to hear your opinion as someone that’s tried nootropics.

  2. Tomas Haddad says:

    Admittedly, I’ve tried Modafinil in my undergraduate and the most I got out of it was extremely itchy eyes. I think I’m a bit of a genetic marvel in that stimulants don’t really work for me; caffeine has never woken me up, and the only reason I’d drink a Red Bull or a can of V is for the taste.

    I’m hopeful in the future of nootropics, as I do know of people who rely on these drugs to do well for themselves. It’s a relatively new field and we know so little about them, but from what I know they are shaping up to be a very promising product. Unfortunately I’m almost certain that nootropics are going to go down the route that steroids did; it’s unfair on those who do not benefit from nootropics (ie, me!).

    It’d be interesting too see university drug tests in the next few decades for these sorts of drugs. 😛