Stimulants – Ways To Wakefulness – But Be Wary

Exhaustion, stress, narcolepsy and distractions notwithstanding, we are all obsessed with trying to get more accomplished during the course of each day. Either we must become much more efficient in our utilization of time, or we must increase the number of hours of wakefulness we have “available” to us.

The traditional pharmacologicals of choice were caffeine, pseudoephedrine (Restricted Purchase, Over-The-Counter) and illegal amphetamines, i.e., methamphetamine (Controlled or Scheduled Drugs).

The choices today are far more extensive, but all have significant side effects, psychotropic effects, and work by mechanisms that are not wholly-understood.

There are prescription items such as Ritalin, Adderall, Wellbutrin and other CNS stimulants or atypical antidepressents which impact synaptic production and reabsorption of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. These are all highly psychoactive, whether they are prescribed for ADHD or clinical depression.

There are various orally-administered thyroid extracts (T3 and T4 supplements) which actually stimulate the body’s entire metabolism through a variety of systemic mechanisms which would occur naturally if you thyroid were producing adequate amounts of thyroxin.

The anti-Parkinsonian drugs, Levodopa (L-Dopa), carbidopa (branded as Sinamet), used with or without Deprenyl (an MAOI – type B, which is often referred to by one of its brand names, Selegiline), which actuates and potentiates the dopaminergic drugs, are excitatory, and are occasionally prescribed for senile dementia and early-onset Parkinson’s disease. These are highly psychotropic, but are being used in very limited doses by longevity buffs and champions of cognitive enhancement, many of whom claim that they heighten wakefulness, focus and vigilance.

The principal difficulties and dangers associated with most of these “stay awake and stay sharp” drugs are that they can affect different persons in very different (and often unpredictable) ways, and that their mechanism is very imprecise — they are not what some would term “clean drugs,” and can produce tremendous physiological and emotional swings. Using these substances to coax wakefulness has been likened to dispatching a housefly with a flamethrower [don’t even try to picture it — it is overkill in the extreme].

At present, two psychotonic drugs are very popular, and don’t seem to produce  the high-profile side effects of the dopaminergic drugs. They are supposedly able to create a state of wakefulness and enhanced focus that is not as physiologically or psychotropically electrifying or hyperstimulating as all of the other stimulant types. The two most widely-used are adrafinil (available in limited supply without prescription) and modafinil (sold by prescription under the brand name Provigil). These psychotonics are far-less agitative than their amphetamine-like cousins, or hormonal extracts.

The one particular non-prescription supplement which has been increasing in popularity is Phenylethylamine (PEA), which is found in limited quantities in chocolate products and has been called the “love drug” — it really isn’t — it has a mechanism like that of an amphetamine, and provides the burst of energy associated with an adrenalin “rush.” It’s effects are not as powerful or as long-lasting as the amphetamines.

PEA, by itself and in large enough doses can cause heart palpitations, excessive sweating and agitation — but these effects are very short-lived as the drug has a very limited active half-life in the body. Many self-medication enthusiasts are taking small doses of Deprenyl along with PEA, as the former has the ability to lengthen the duration (i.e., by delaying the deterioration or complete metabolization) of PEA’s effectiveness. Neither drug has been found to be addictive.

Sadly, there is no substitute for adequate physical and mental rest — but there exists the potential, on a limited and monitored basis, to be able to increase the hours of wakefulness through the day, and to intensify or strengthen the ability to focus. There are times when those could certainly come in handy.

I’m just about to have my third (and last) cup of coffee for the day.

Thanks for visiting.  Hopefully, you haven’t nodded off while reading this article.

Douglas E. Castle

Note: This article was simultaneously published in Reason Out Of Randomness and Life-Extension And Enhancement.