Over the past 4 or 5 years I’ve taken a keen interest in researching nootropics and mental disorders. However, I found the treatments for some mental disorders to be especially interesting. I started the never ending quest to find out what is wrong with people, to help loved ones and myself in the process.
Almost every day I find myself digging deeper into the wealth of information available on the internet. While it’s full of subjective opinions, anecdotal evidence and misleading information, I can’t stress enough that it’s one of the best resources out there. If you’re able to take all of that information and put it into context, you’re able to learn a lot from it. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing for most of my life. Binding my personal experiences with the collective information out there has taught me so much.
As a kid I often found it perplexing how others would act or react. Often, I didn’t really understand a lot and was quite inattentive. I was very much inside of my own bubble for most of my life. I was very ignorant to most of what was happening around me. As I became more self-aware I discovered deep issues that have made me who I am today. While I wouldn’t want to change myself now, I still longed for answers to my troubles. I never socially developed well, I was adverse to change, I was behind in many ways and my memory was, and still is impaired. I never did very well in school and couldn’t concentrate on things that didn’t interest me. As a result, I started to research in an attempt to better myself.
My research begun with nootropics as a way to improve my lack of motivation and potentially subvert my negative cognitive symptoms. After years of hopping from one psychiatrist to the next, I was fed up with the usual diagnosis of just anxiety or depression. The treatments for those disorders were especially nasty for me, with side effects that always made my cognitive issues worse. I wasn’t getting anywhere and had already been on the usual slurry of SSRIs and everything else. After basic research I decided to try and continue trying different supplements to boost myself. Piracetam was one of the first, while it gave a slight cognitive boost, I didn’t find it to be very helpful. I tried many other nootropic supplements but didn’t find the majority of them to be helpful. After revisiting the topic on and off for years I got to where I am today.
The past few years I’ve really started to look more at the evidence rather than opinion or anecdotes. Reading studies became more interesting to me and seeing what could work based on trials, turned out to be much more useful. I found several supplements that I still believe are useful in their own ways. I also became interested in the potential for anti-aging drugs and supplements. These became my favorite supplements to date.
- Ashwagandha – A useful ‘adaptogenic’ herb used for reducing anxiety symptoms and reducing cortisol levels, in turn reducing feelings of stress. The useful compounds in Ashwagandha are called withanolides, so a higher concentration of those is preferred. I find this has the most significant effect at reducing stress.
- L-Theanine – An amino acid that can also reduce anxiety and stress levels. It pairs great with caffeine and can help decrease the jitters some have after consuming caffeine. The effects are subtle, but can be helpful for those with mild symptoms of anxiety.
- GABA – A neurotransmitter associated with reduction of anxiety symptoms. When taken as a supplement it’s not thought to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), although there is some evidence to suggest it can still be beneficial via the enteric nervous system (ENS). A lot of medications affect GABA in the brain. Although, the majority of them come with horrible side effects and should never be used long term (such as benzodiazepines).
- Magnesium – A mineral that everyone needs to survive and certain formulations support cognition. It can be difficult to get enough in your diet so I supplement it with chelated magnesium. There are many forms of magnesium supplements, but you’ll likely want the chelated ones. Specifically, I take magnesium L-threonate (Magtein) which is proprietary and shown to raise the levels of magnesium in the brain.
- Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) – A very interesting (proprietary) form of vitamin B3, that as a precursor is able to increase NAD+. NAD+ is in every living cell and increased levels are thought to be associated anti-aging. NAD+ declines as you age and it’s involved in approximately 500 enzymatic reactions in the body. An increase in NAD+ can have the effect of increased energy, cognition and an overall ‘young’ feel. I found this study to be particularly interesting on PMC. There’s a lot of interesting research about this molecule and it’s something I’m watching closely.
- Curcumin – A molecule found in turmeric that isn’t very bioavailable when taken by itself has been studied for its wide range of benefits. It’s mainly used as an anti-inflammatory, although there’s some evidence to suggest it can help with depression and anxiety. When combined with piperine or lipids (as in Longvida curcumin to survive stomach acids) it becomes much more bioavailable. I prefer the Longvida curcumin as it has been shown to pass the blood-brain barrier (BBB) as well. Piperine interacts with many medications negatively and can affect how they’re metabolized, so I tend to stay away from it.
A few others that I find interesting are resveratrol (supplement) and metformin (prescription) which each have anti-aging properties. Although I have had resveratrol, it doesn’t have much supporting evidence for its usefulness due to poor bioavailability. As with curcumin and other supplements, the bioavailability could be enhanced through special techniques in the future. I did however, find it very interesting that resveratrol has been shown to fight the MERS-CoV virus in vitro. MERS is related to the recently discovered coronavirus from Wuhan, China.
While these supplements have aided me on my journey, they only got me to a somewhat manageable state. Most of them were only helping with my anxiety anyways. I went back to another psychiatrist and my options for treatment were very exhausted. While cognitive issues were a large challenge for me, doctors have typically never wanted to touch on this. I was prescribed off label treatments for anxiety. Gabapentin, Mirtazapine and Propranolol. All besides Propranolol made my cognitive issues worse and made it even more difficult to manage things on a daily basis. Propranolol has been helpful for the physical symptoms of anxiety.
I didn’t enjoy this psychiatrist’s methods of diagnosis and resistance to touch on the topic of ADD/ADHD. This caused me to look for another psychiatrist who was willing to listen to me and give me other explanations. I had been prescribed 2 medications in the past, Adderall (before moving to another state) and Clonidine. The psychiatrist who prescribed me Adderall thought my anxiety symptoms could be caused by ADHD. He was very right, people with ADHD often have comorbidities and treating one can have an effect on the other. There are also several sub-types of ADHD, such as predominantly inattentive or hyperactive types. I believe I fall into the ADHD-PI sub-type. ADHD in adults is also more difficult to diagnose as it doesn’t generally have the classic stereotype of hyperactivity. Unfortunately, I believe it goes undiagnosed in many adults. Luckily something worked, Adderall was the only medication that had a significant effect on me. I felt like I was able to manage my stress, anxiety and work. I had motivation to complete tasks I’d otherwise rarely touch on. Thinking back, I realized that I need to revisit the topic of ADHD with another psychiatrist.
I found a psychiatrist that was able to review my history in-depth and look at it from a different point of view. It was clear that the various medications I had been prescribed in the past didn’t help much. It was time for a different approach, and one that ended up helping a great deal. I was prescribed Adderall again, while it’s light and day difference for the most part, it’s not a cure all and I have to rewire my brain in a sense. Having untreated ADHD for so long has caused me to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviors. Treating ADHD with stimulants has also been shown aid neuroplasticity and improve the structure and function of the brain with it. Overall, it has been a very long and drawn out journey. It’s one of success though, and I’ve ended up learning more than I thought I ever could.