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Smart Drinks FAQ
by Anonymous
v 1.0 - ~1996
Erowid Note: This FAQ was not authored by Erowid. It may include out-of-date and/or incorrect information. Please check the version date to see when it was most recently revised. It appears on Erowid as part of our historical archives. For current information, see Erowid's summary pages in the substance's main vault.
The term 'Smart Drinks' was originally coined to describe drinks that improved cognition under the typical conditions often found in our lives: mental and chemical stress, as caused by environmental toxins, sustained mental effort, as when involved in late-night computer hacking, and the physical stress that can frequently be caused by lots of work, or all night dancing at high BPM's.

When I was approached by friends and asked to create my interpretation of what "smart drinks" should be for the first Bay Area cyberclub, ToonTown, I drew upon research I had read about the use of amino acid supplements to protect soldiers under battlefield stress, material I had read about defective dopamine transport mechanisms in many people because of genetic abnormalities, and what I knew about the drugs commonly consumed at raves.

I ended up with several formulas that worked for me, but people should experiment with what is available to them. -A warning, it is expensive to make good "real" smart drinks. An attempt I made to market two barely adequate products was foiled by high amino acid commodity prices. So- I will make an attempt to simply descrbe some ingredients that can be used in smart drinks. Please submit your experiences.

An interesting sidenote to the smart drink story is that a growing body of research seems to indicate that some of the nutrients (most specifically tyrosine and the now-banned amino acid tryptophan) that have been used in smart drinks may have value in helping people quit cocaine and amphetamines.(Tennant 1985,Geis,Smith and Smith 1986,Hixson 1983,Dackis,Gold 1985,Wyatt,Karoum and Suddath 1988,Sved 1983) This has sadly yet to be fully investigated.

One would take many small (500 mg. or so) feedings of tyrosine from the beginning till the middle of the day. DLPA may also be useful.

Some nutrients used in "smart drinks" include:

  • DL- or L-Phenylalanine - An amino acid that is the precursor of tyrosine and hence dopamine and norepinephrine, the main alerting neurotransmitters and those most depleted by stress,stimulant drugs etc. L-Phenylalanine is also the precursor of phenethylamine,a alerting amine thought to modulate libido and agressive behavior. DLPA may also have some use in treating depression.

  • L-Tyrosine - an amino acid and the most direct precursor of norepinephrine and dopamine. This is the nutrient most used in recovery. First used in a drink by Nutrient Cafe in 1990. Shows promise in many areas, particularly for people under stress or with abnormal brain function.

  • An interesting note: Studies have shown that tyrosine only significantly passes the blood/brain barrier when people are stimulated or under numerous stress-like conditions. However, these conditions are turning out to be quite common, and they may even be effected by genetic factors. Tyrosine may also prevent some neuronal changes caused by stress. Additionally some people with ADD/ADHD who take stimulants legitimately have also reported that tyrosine supplementation helps them better maintain mental clarity, when taken in the morning. Other studies have shown positive effects on tyrosine's helping cure or reduce other addictions, because, significantly, many addictions involve changes in the dopamine-based reward system. Interesting!

  • Choline (trimethylaminoethanol) - A B-complex vitamin that your body uses to manufacture acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in the formation and recall of memories. Take this with vitamin B5. Available in many forms, choline chloride and bitartrate being the cheapest. Can increase acid stomach problems markedly. Synergizes (as does DMAE) with the pyrrilidones. (piracetam/pyroglutamate family) Good in alcohol recovery.

  • Pyroglutamic acid, arginine pyroglutamate - Natural pyrrilidones, found naturally in high quantities in fruits and beer. Enhancing effect on some cognitive function, especially in people with brain disfunction. Some studies have indicated that pyroglutamate may help improve cognition in aging alcoholics. Many people with ADD have also found help from a close relative, piracetam (Glaxo "Nootropil" is best, available cheaply in Mexico.) Effect may seem to diminish with daily use.

  • DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) - A B-complex nutrient that is used,like choline, to manufacture acetylcholine in the body.DMAE is found in large quantities in fish, and this is thought to be why people have always thought of fish as "brain food". Also somewhat useful in alcohol recovery.

In addition to fish,other natural foods that are high in "smart nutrients" include soy products, almonds and other nuts, brewers yeast, some fruits,and raw chocolate.

Two herbs that also have been associated with smart nutrition are Ginkgo biloba (very useful, but quite expensive...Check the label of ginkgo products carefully.) and Siberian (eluthero) ginseng.

Other herbs and vitamins that may have cognitive-enhancement properties are St. John's wort (hypericin is a interesting site-specific MAO inhibitor), Syrian rue and passionflower, and the Amazonian vine banisteriopsis caapi.

Many vitamins enhance or inhibit various metabolic pathways, sometimes with nootropic effect. Read up on toxicity before overdosing onesself with vitamins, though.

For example, when taken in the evening, vitamin B6 (never more than 40 mg. / day) can help improve serotonin metabolism.A different, but synergistic effect can be derived from non-time-release niacin.

Although it's useful to promote sleep, I have not seen any evidence that melatonin has any nootropic properties.

Small amounts of GHB (a non-natural substance, and a drug) when used to assist sleep may be nootropic and help in some people. (I've seen it help friends with depression that wasn't helped by other drugs)

DHEA, a hormone, may also improve cognition in some, particularly aging people.

In response to many questions, in my (and many others) opinion, caffeine or Ephedra - i.e.: "Ma Huang" are _not_ an appropriate ingredient for smart drinks. Ephedra can be dangerous if combined with some drugs, and it isn't a clear-headed stimulant. It's primary use should be as a decongestant. Caffeine is a lot better consumed in coffee..

Just my two cents...