Smart Drugs, Nootropics, Concentration Enhancers

Nootropics, or so-called "smart drugs," are substances used to increase the faculties of the mind. The word derives from noos or mind and tropos to bend. Proponents claim that these substances enhance mental performance in a variety of ways, bolstering cognition, lucidity, memory, mood, oxygen and glucose utilization, or blood circulation in the brain, or a combination of the these or other factors.

This article is for the discussion of supplements and their beneficial effects (or otherwise) on concentration and trading.

Back when I first took up full time trading, I'd been developing quite a taste for coffee... something of a connoisseur I'd import exotic beans and hand grind them myself and as I was at the time spending 10-12 hours in front of a screen I would always have a pot of my filtered finest on the go. We all know caffeine is great for a kick in the morning, especially if you're starting early when the European markets open at 7a.m.

I became increasingly aware after six or nine months at my screen that my general health and certainly my concentration was suffering a bit. I'd definitely let my fitness regime slide, and the sedentary existence of slouching in a chair at my screen wasn't keeping my Herculean body in all its usual greek god/peter andre glory.

Add to that, that I'd unconsciously been getting into "chain drinking" coffee... I'd always have a cup on the go at the screen... I'd half drink it by which time it'd gone cold so I'd pour me another one. In a 12hr market session I'd probably be getting through about 20+ cups of coffee. Now you'd think all that caffeine would keep me wired all day (and night) but I was actually finding it hard to keep my focus in the afternoons and feeling very weary, and apart from gurning a bit I was also getting the occasional palpitation which was much more of a concern.

Now I'm quite aware that caffeine is a "real" drug as I had a bit of a bad experience in my mid teens with Pro-Plus - I was something of a raver at the time and wanting to be able to dance non-stop for 12hrs like my peers without having to delve into the world of speed and E, I somewhat naively hit upon the idea of buying a large box of Pro-plus and necked about 80 or 90 of these not-very-tasty pills in the pursuit of endless energy . I sort of got my wish as I was absolutely buzzing for about two hours before I was extremely ill and violently sick for about two days!   I later discovered that caffeine hits toxic levels at around 2000mg and I'd comfortably got well past the 4000mg level, so I'm probably lucky to still have a working liver.

Anyway, caffeine still doesn't seem to agree with me in large doses. I cut coffee out totally for about a month and got a few nasty headaches for the first few days as I cold-turkeyed. Your body does actually build a dependence on caffeine whether you're aware of it or not. So although I still enjoy an occasional coffee, over the last few years I've taken an active interest in "brain foods" and alternative supplements, as well as healthy drinks.

I've been taking the effervescent Berocca tablets for a while, in conjunction with a high concentration anti-oxidant "thermogenic" supplement called "Formula Power" from NutriHealth, along with vitamin E and Omega 3 that between them seem to give me a really clear head all day.

I've also been drinking a lot of green tea - which also seems to help keep me alert much better way than coffee (which gets me going in the morning, it just seems to make me muddled if I drink too much) and I've just recently started drinking herbal tea from Peru - which aside from the obvious content kick, contains all kinds of herbal goodness and bioflavanoids that seem to be contributing to a refreshingly clear head and good concentration.

A side effect of all these anti-oxidants also seems to be a really good complexion! Sitting in a hot office during daylight hours doesn't normally lend itself to a healthy pallor.

I also believe that a healthy body is part and parcel of a healthy mind, and I have made a point of trying to keep fit by running a mile or two every morning before the open, and I also recently entered myself for a half-marathon in September. I'm trying to build up my stamina and skeletal muscles and I've been taking a (legal) herbal extract supplement called Ephedrine during my weekend training.. I believe this product falls under "performance enhancing" rather than nootropics, but it certainly wires me up in a whizz-like way and I estimate my endurance is improved by around 40% compared to non-ephedrine runs. I'm not sure if there are trading/concentration benefits to be obtained from ephedrine as it makes me a bit fidgety when i'm sat down, and I'd rather be clear headed at the screen than bursting with energy.

Are there any other stuff out there that does not have side effects, but are beneficial in improving mental functions? I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else has done much experimentation or taken any supplements/substances that they've found to be beneficial personally.

Why other substances? I can imagine traders out there are using all of the following to some degree:

  • ADD stimulants/amphetamines - for traders who need that extra focus to keep themselves sharp during the trading day.
  • Anti-Anxiety medications - for traders whose anxiety keeps them from following their plans.
  • Opiates - For traders who want to block out all negative emotions at the cost of reaction time.
  • Tranquilizers - Same reason as opiates.
  • Alcohol - ermm...
  • A healthy diet and exercise - won't have anything NEAR the effects of the others but will help you live longer and feel better about yourself.
  • Eat an Apple. It's better than coffee to wake you up in the morning and get your brain going. This part of my post is true. This part is not. Wash it down with quaaludes floating in wood alcohol, and God himself will appear in a mist made of tiny flying turtles and give you his best stock picks, which will almost always include something about to be delisted.

Tom from Mississippi replied to this article with this comment about his experience in the military:

I spent 12 years in the military in parachute infantry and as a medic. Now if we were in the field for a long time without sleep or much food we would save our coffee packets and I would empty the coffee grounds into my mouth and suck on them before swallowing them. It would pump me up for about 4 hrs. But the military doesn't give you anything but a lot of grief.

Test Porpionate, the propionate is a compounding ester that any compounding pharmacy can mix up. This is very big for treating Andropause (man menopause). Even a lot of Doctors are using testosterone these days to enhance their sex lives.

The military also finds use for dextroamphetamine in CONOPS and SUSOPS conditions. Then uses sedatives such as benzodiazepines...etc to offset the Dexedrine.

Some say trading is a kin to war so people will strive to find an edge to win. I don't for a second advocate the use of Meds for trading. Its madness and the long term effects from it can be devastating.

But you can see why people try and take the easy way to control their mind set, without realizing the problems their going to have to deal with later down the line.

...all kidding aside, he isn't ly'in - check this Leader's Guide to Crew Endurance