Smart Drugs for Mood Enhancement

01/04/2014 Tags: all, mood

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We can all feel a little low or down from time to time, but for some people these feelings are more regular, persistent, and can severely affect their day to day lives. Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health disorders, and although exact figures are difficult to obtain as many people do not seek help, it is believed that at least 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience some form of depression during their lifetime.

Traditionally, a class of drugs known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been used to treat depression under the assumption that it is caused primarily by an imbalance of brain biochemistry. While these medications work well for many, some sufferers of anxiety and depression have found them to be ineffective, or unsuitable due to the numerous side effects that are associated with them. This may be particularly true in cases where a doctor has prescribed multiple SSRIs, and this is a routine medicinal practice despite the fact that there is little evidence to support it. Furthermore, studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that while SSRIs like Prozac and Paxil may be effective for severe depression, their effectiveness is limited when concerning milder forms, for which they are most often prescribed.

Another problem with these medications is that they work on principles that are far too simplistic; considering just how complex the brain is, it is unwise to assume all cases of depression and anxiety are caused by an imbalance of a single neurotransmitter. Fortunately, more modern supplements are constantly being developed that address other possible causes of these mental health problems, or work using different mechanisms. Among the most prominent of these are smart drugs. Used by many to enhance cognitive performance, some of these supplements are thought to have mood enhancing properties, and may provide a suitable alternative to traditional anti-depressants. This article was written with the purpose of detailing what some of these mood enhancing smart drugs are, and how they work.



Tianeptine is a smart drug that is often taken for non-medicinal purposes to improve mental clarity and provide a sense of well-being. It has also been used in the treatment of depressive episodes ranging from mild to severe, and has significant anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) properties. Classed as a monoamine reuptake enhancer, it works by increasing serotonin uptake in the brain. Interestingly, this is the exact opposite mechanism of many traditional anti-depressants which prevent serotonin reuptake, and researchers have yet to establish exactly why these two different mechanisms can result in many of the same effects. Tianeptine is also thought to enhance the concentration of extracellular dopamine, and modulate dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is another important neurotransmitter that is partly responsible for mood regulation, and increased activity in these pathways can result in some profound mood enhancing effects. Tianeptine may also have some effect on glutamate receptors that play a vital role in reversing the impairment of neuroplasticity, which is often linked to stress.

Although it is just as effective as traditional SSRIs, Tianeptine has far fewer side effects. Its lack of adverse sedative, anticholinergic and cardiovascular effects means it is a suitable for the elderly and those who are more sensitive to psychotropic medications. It also appears not to cause any type of tolerance or addiction, and may even be useful in treating other issues like social anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders.



Inositol is naturally occurring carbohydrate that can be found in fibre rich foods such as corn, brown rice, wheat bran and beans. It is also synthesized by the kidney in humans at a rate of a few grams per day, and is involved in many important functions from the formation of cells, to transporting fats and gene expression. Inositol is used by some as a cognitive enhancer to improve thought processing and focus, but it is also known to provide mood enhancing benefits.

Taking inositol is thought to supplement the body’s own supply of myo-inositol which may become lowered or depleted as a result of anxiety and depressive states. It is also thought to play an important role in modulating serotonergic activity by reversing the desensitisation of serotonin receptors. Inositol can also reduce symptoms of excessive fatigue characteristic of depression by improving metabolism and providing the user with more mental energy.

Preliminary results on inositol containing supplements show a great amount of promise in regard to the treatment of disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, unipolar and bipolar depression. A number of double blind studies have shown that this supplement is equally effective as SSRIs in treating OCD, and more effective than Fluvoxamine (an SSRI) when concerning anxiety. Participants that suffered from anxiety attacks saw an average reduction of 4 panic attacks per week when using Inositol, compared to just 2.4 for Fluvoxamine. Additionally, inositol showed no side effects whereas those using Fluvoxamine reported fatigue and nausea. Other research suggests that inositol contributes to a significant improvement of symptoms in depressed patients, with no adverse effects on kidney or liver function.



Originally developed in Russia during the 1960s, phenibut is a synthetic derivative of GABA, the body’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is noted for being able to reduce stress and anxiety without negatively affecting cognitive function, as with some other anxiolytic supplements. In fact, quite the opposite is true as phenibut has shown to increase memory and cognitive performance.

Phenibut is essentially GABA with the addition of a phenyl ring structure that allows it to pass across the blood brain barrier. Upon entering the brain, phenibut acts as a GABA agonist meaning that it is able to stimulate receptors that would normally respond to GABA. Activation of these receptors causes hyperpolarisation (a more negative electrical potential) by allowing negative chloride ions into the neuron, and positive potassium ions out. As a result, it is less likely that neurons will fire (depolarisation) because they will have to overcome a greater negative charge. This inhibitory effect can aid in supressing the excessive neuronal activity characteristic of anxiety disorders, helping the user to feel calm and more centred.

As well as modulating GABA activity, Phenibut is also thought to have an effect on other neurotransmitters. By increasing dopamine concentrations, this supplement can help to improve mood and motivation, something that individuals suffering from depression generally lack.


Picamilon is another supplement that was developed by Russia in 1969. Like phenibut, it is also a GABA derivative, and works using an almost identical mechanism. It is however, slightly structurally different, with a niacin group instead of the phenyl ring seen with phenibut. This supplement provides similar anxiolytic benefits to phenibut through altered GABA activity, and may be useful in treating social anxiety as it lowers inhibitions.

Unlike phenibut, Picamilon also shows some mild stimulatory effects. This is due to the niacin component of the supplement that works in several ways. Niacin acts primarily as a vasodilator, increasing cerebral blood flow, and providing the user with greater mental energy to combat fatigue. Greater blood circulation may also lead to an improved ability to focus and reason. Additionally, niacin can help to detoxify the brain and is used to treat migraine.



Sulbutiamine is a synthetically derived dimer of thiamine (vitamin B1) that originated in Japan in response to widespread thiamine deficiencies. It is used by many as a cognitive enhancing compound to improve memory, concentration, and learning capacity but also has therapeutic uses. Although it is not considered to be an anxiolytic substance, it may be useful for treating certain types of anxiety disorder.

This supplement has multiple mechanisms that affect three major neurotransmitters; dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. These neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating several types of behaviour, but perhaps the most relevant when concerning anxiety is dopamine. While some traditional anxiolytics may work by supressing excessive neuronal activity, this can sometimes lead to drowsiness. Sulbutiamine on the other hand modulates dopaminergic activity to induce a more positive mood without such tranquilising effects.

Sulbutiamine is the only medication prescribed for asthenia, a condition that is characterised by a chronic fatigue similar to that seen in depression. This condition has neurological origins, and by targeting the areas responsible for such symptoms, sulbutiamine can aid in reducing fatigue in asthenia and depression alike.



Aniracetam belongs to the racetam class of smart drugs, and is a more potent version of piracetam, one of the first smart drugs developed. It is among the most popular racetams, and second only to piracetam, perhaps due in part to its mood enhancing effects. This supplement functions as an ampakine that can activate AMPA receptors and stimulate glutamatergic activity. In addition to combating fatigue by providing increased amounts of energy, glutamate also functions as a precursor to GABA that can aid in calming an overactive anxious mind. Aniractam has also been observed to increase extracellular dopamine and serotonin levels, contributing to a better mood, and providing many of the supplement’s anxiolytic effects.

Aniracetam’s efficacy in treating anxiety and depression is supported by a wealth of experimental evidence. A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology demonstrated that in animal models, administering aniracetam increased levels of social interaction, and reduced anxiety as a result of environmental stressors. User reviews of this supplement report that it provides a feeling of calm and relaxation, allowing individuals to more effectively cope with stressful scenarios. In addition to aiding with general anxiety, aniracetam is particularly effective in combatting social anxiety. By lowering inhibitions and increasing verbal language proficiency, it has proven to be useful for those who suffer from anxiety in various social situations, from public speaking to conversational interactions.

For recommended dosages and more detailed information regarding these smart drugs, you should refer to their individual descriptions. Although most smart drugs by definition are considered to be safe for use with low toxicity and few side effects, you should always remember to thoroughly research them, and consult a qualified healthcare professional for guidance before using any of these supplements.