Feb 06 2012

Smart Drugs & Nutrients In 1991 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #5)


By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years).  Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it… with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.

I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day.  Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect.  As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well…  recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.

In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down.  One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: “I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, ‘Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…’ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ‘Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day.’ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to  be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ‘Well, I’m beyond that.’

“The hipster crowd backed away. ‘I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”

Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types not “hippies,” mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.

Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients— some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing.  Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected.  People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, so don’t blame the contributors below if it bothers you.  Blame yourself.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)

I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine,Piracetam,Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids.  Any experiences you would like to share for publication?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#1 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:26 PM)

Yesterday, I drank a packet of Dirk and Sandy’s *Focus* plus a packet of *Go For It*.  This translates into a big dose of choline and Phenylalanine, plus cofactors.  I felt a big lift and worked for many more hours than usual.

Today, I spoke with a nutritionist at UCSF who assured me that no scientific evidence exists linking amino acids to psychoactive effects.  I also read several scientific papers asserting that the effects of nootropics such as piracetam have not yet been conclusively demonstrated.  Am I experiencing a placebo effect?  Also, I recently went to a party where various smart drugs were served to a hip, young, club-hopping crowd.  I wonder if these mild forms of recreational pharmaceuticals will capture their interest.  Tonight, I drank a packet of Dirk and Sandy’s *Be Your Best*, which contains arginine, and then went to the gym and played two hours of basketball.  I didn’t notice much of an effect.  Perhaps a little extra perspiration.  I also have ten piracetam tablets hanging around and am waiting for an appropriate moment to take them. I understand that they should be followed up with regular doses.  Comments?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#4 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Thu 02 May 1991 (10:07 AM)

My understanding is that Dirk and Sandy license their name to a variety of retail companies.  *Focus* appears to be identical to *Memory Fuel* and *Go For it* is similar to *Rise and Shine*  I have noticed no effects on my libido.  I have noticed an appetite suppressing effect.  I only at one small meal yesterday, which is highly unusual.  This morning I am drinking *Rise and Shine* and *Memory Fuel.*  The experiment continues…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#5 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Thu 02 May 1991 (12:12 PM)

Nootropil/Piracetam works works WORKS!!!  Order it from  InHome Health Services  Box 3112  2800 Delemont  Switzerland.

Tell the nutritionist over at UCSF that, unless your dead, EVERYTHING IS PSYCHOACTIVE!!!

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#8 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Fri 03 May 1991 (01:41 PM)

.. the story is for Rolling Stone.  I would still love to hear about any experiences with smart drugs.  I suspect that there are some dedicated users out there.  The scientific evidence I have read so far seems inconclusive.  Piracetam and Hydergine definately have some effect, but the exact mechanisms are unknown and the effects vary from person to person.  Some feel nothing, some are blown away.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#13 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Sat 04 May 1991 (11:29 PM)

The measurement for intelligence is slippery, memory less slippery but a little wavy nonetheless.  I know pyschoactivity when I experience it though.  Can’t testify to the long term effects of this stuff though.

Smart Drugs are about to get alot of media-this year’s “virtual reality”.  & I think that smart drugs will come closer to living up to the promise & the hype, particularly if people go for Piracetan.  Remember LSD.  Chemistry is a most awesome kind of technology…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#14 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Sun 05 May 1991 (10:34 PM)

I just spent a day in Santa Cruz with John Morgenthaller, who very generously went through his files with me and pulled some of the papers cited in his book.

We picked up three college-age hitchhikers in Santa Cruz today.  All were clean cut students who used recreational drugs regularly– the war on drugs hasn’t done so good down there

I guess.  We asked if they would be interested in smart drugs.  All of them said they wouldn’t take them without a recommendation from a friend.  An anecdote, in other words.  It’s not scientific, but its how we decide.

I also did Vasopressin for the first time today.  It had a definate, but subtle, effect.  My dose was fairly small.  I suspect this is going to be one of the popular ones.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrient

#mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#46 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Thu 06 Jun 1991 (10:47 AM)

Question: How does Vasopressin work.  I had the pleasure of four big squirts courtesy of R.U. and now I’m curious.  It was a very pleasant experience.  I know it’s a synthetic pituitary hormone, but why should that make me happy?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#77 of 633: Flem (flem) Sun 13 Oct 1991 (06:57 PM)

I bought some Vasopressin from Interlab.  It works best for me when I am burnt out.  It doesn’t do anything if I’m already alert.  It burns my nostrils and smells like burnt matches.  I can’t wait to get more.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#108 of 633: Judith Milhon (stjude) Wed 22 Jan 1992 (11:27 PM)

i keep asking myself, is dilanting making me more creative, or is it just my imagination? why are all you non-epileptics doing dilantin? i have my own ideas on this, but the literature is so VAGUE. anecdotes are sweet, but can anybody sum up their experiences in the abstract, so i can understand them?

I think that dilantin focusses my attention while maintaining the latitutde and depth of that attention, unlike most stimulants.

I think that dilantin gives me an emotional detachment from tasks and events. hoop-la: it’s not an anti-depressant, but an anti-neurotic.

Anybody have any ideas on this?

After much talk about the Placebo effect, I lashed out…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#113 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Tue 28 Jan 1992 (12:14 PM)

I’ll repeat myself again.  I’ve been taking drugs *seriously* for 25 years now and I know how to tell genuine psychoactive effects from wishful thinking.

See back when I bought that clump of rat shit in the park in Cambridge in ’68 we didn’t know from a placebo effect.  We called it “getting burned.”  I’m not a mark, I’m extremely skeptical and I find this no-nothing dismissiveness … well, exactly what it is.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#114 of 633: Eugene Schoenfeld (genial) Tue 28 Jan 1992 (03:06 PM)

Ken with drugs like cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, DMT, even caffeine, the effects are so distinct that virtually all users note the effect. Among the so-called “smart” drugs, only vassopressin and the ephedrine(or other caffeine-like compounds) consistently produce notable effects, according to reports posted here on the Well(except for your reports).

I know you are aware that anecdotal reports are suspect because they don’t eliminate the placebo effect. That’s why scientifically valid studies are useful. Also, when one has a vested interest in a product, judgement is affected. Another reason for impartial trials.

So, what is the evidence that “smart” drugs have an effect, apart from the stimulants? You FEEL that they do? Come on, Ken, you’re smarter than that.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#283 of 633: magdalen (mdln) Thu 23 Jul 1992 (10:43 PM)

I think I fall into the ‘smart drugs, dumb users’ category, myself… my experimentation has been quite limited and very random.  The interesting thing about this approach is that it’s much like a double-blind test.  I ws taking L-Phenyalanine without much of an idea of what it was supposed to DO; it just seemed like some generic smart drug to try.

I turned into a raving, seething, foaming at the mouth bitch for about five days before I connected my moods to the L-pheny.  I haven’t taken it since, though I have found that L-Cysteine is a pleasing accompaniment to long evenings of hardcore partying (like I said, I’m a dumb user), and it’s nice to take some the morning after as well with my first cup of coffee.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

# 285 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Fri 24 Jul 1992 (10:53 AM)

I *like* raving, seething, foaming  at the mouth bitches.


This being Mondo, the talk turns naturally to LSD


mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

# 423 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Tue 01 Dec 1992 (02:02 AM)

A friend of mine took 1/4 hit ie 25 mics a day for awhile and found it useful.  After about a month though everything started to seem too… um *significant* and he stopped.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#437 of 633: magdalen (mdln)  Fri 04 Dec 1992 (01:08 PM)

I used LSD as a study aid through my last two years of high school, and found it to be quite effective and, much more importantly, entertaining in that role.  I’d do 1/4 to 2/3 blotter hits as a ‘pick-me-up’ and then wander off to English class, or say write a six-page essay on _Heart of Darkness_ on a full hit.  Admittedly, this was public high school and I probably could’ve passed the courses by turning in fingerpaintings, but I found LSD to be most compatible with Humanities work.

I’ve also been known to use the sub-tripping acid technique in theatre rehearsals, both as an actor and as a director, with absolutely wonderful results.

Problems only arose when I’d try this with a batch I hadn’t yet sampled.  I remember taking the tiniest sliver of a hit to get me through an all-night pasteup session when I was editor of my school paper.  Around midnight, the editor starts fully tripping!  Yikes!  The staff was staring at me as I spent fifteen minutes absorbed in playing with a roll of Zip-o-Line…

thanks to Gary Wolf and Eugene Schoenfeld for permission to use their words and to two other friends for permission to use their words as well.