Suits Get Souped Up on Energy Pills
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Career-driven individuals are increasingly relying on a new "smart drug" called "nootropics" to get through the work week. The category includes prescription analeptics like Nuvigil and Provigil, as well as supplements like New Mood and Alpha Brain (both available on Amazon.com for around $30 a jar) that are made of vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants. The pills claim to stimulate brain receptors and are said to boost motivation, intelligence, concentration, and memory—without the jitters associated with caffeine. "These drugs are being used in industries where there's less room for failure and immediate results are expected," says Roy Cohen, a career coach in New York City and the author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. "These people [who take them] thrive on accomplishment—it's in their DNA. It's incredibly seductive to have this potential for guaranteed peak performance." But experts warn that high doses of these drugs may be dangerous. And since they are often purchased online, instead of prescribed by a doctor, they may contain unregulated ingredients. Alpha Brain, for example, contains a potentially hazardous plant-derived substance called Huperzine A, which "can make you more alert or sharpen thinking," says Emily Deans, a psychiatrist in private practice outside Boston, "but if you take too much at once, you can make yourself psychotic." However, Deans notes that these smart drugs may be beneficial for some users. "I don't know if it's ethical to recommend, but for students using it to study or surgeons trying to stay up all night long, a [prescription nootropic] might be useful," she says. "If they were willing to not burn the candle at both ends for too long, it might help people do a better job."