Genius pills are no longer the stuff you see in movies — “Limitless” is now a reality.

Bradley Cooper’s character made it look cool to be limitless. Wouldn’t you want to be him or the girl in “Lucy?”

If you’ve been confronted with a mental challenge that feels out of your league, you’ve probably wished for a magic bullet that turbo-charges your brain. There’s this basic human wish to be able to unlock more of our brain’s potential. Have we found a key to that lock?

Move over caffeine and nicotine: Neurotropic (also go by Nootropic) pills are the latest buzzwords on boosting brain power and being hyperaware. Genius pills are no longer the stuff of movies like “Limitless” or “Lucy.” If the furore is to be believed, they are very much on the market and crazily in demand. The latest one trending on social media retails under the brand name “Neuro XR.”

Given its popularity in certain markets, according to one account, it is near-impossible to procure a bottle of Neuro XR (a.k.a “The Limitless Pill”), as it sells out faster than the manufacturers can restock. This “Viagra for the brain” also apparently retails on eBay at exorbitant prices.

After a brief daydream in which I hammer out the next Booker Awardee masterpiece, find a cure for cancer and make a killing on the stock market all in one week, landing onto hard solid ground looks somewhat like this:

  • My first concern is ethics. Considering that it gives some a very unfair advantage, should a drug like this even be legal?
  • Should users who have taken it before say an exam or interview be made to sign a declaration?
  • Should employers test for it as they do for marijuana and other drugs? Can it even be detected in hair, urine or blood?
  • I’d hazard a guess and say it is super addictive. What if the user cannot sustain it financially?
  • Are there withdrawal symptoms? How horrible are they?
  • Are the results sustainable over years of use?
  • Do weird side-effects manifest after decades? (though by then, in theory, the user might be loaded enough to afford any treatment!)

Turns out, I’m not alone. Twitter is rife with warnings and scam alerts.

This personal account of a health editor’s 4-week-long tryst with the drug NeuroXR is particularly compelling.[1]

As it turns out, it is the exact same……as another “health editor’s account”. Word for word. Only here the name of the genius drug (Brain Plus IQ — also referred to as the “Limitless Pill”) and the name of the person who tried it are different. This is fishier than cod liver oil, and I figured it out even with my non-boosted brain![2]

Both articles carry a link to an “exclusive trial offer.”

I found this out because I kept my thinking cap on and did my research. But would everyone?

Psychologists advise treading with caution where miraculous effects are touted. Some attribute this to the placebo effect: it works (or seems to) because we want it to. [3],[4]

Certain drugs like Ritalin or Adderall (used to treat ADHD) have reportedly been misused by students wanting to top their exams. Moreover, sometimes the reasoning of those who experiment with brain-boosting drugs, for instance, drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s, is that they could work for non-afflicted, healthy people too by boosting their memory. They are, however, not without side-effects.[5],[6]

Further digging into the fine print of the memory and cognition enhancing supplements on Amazon revealed a little legal disclaimer.[7]

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

In life, there are no free lunches, or, for that matter, easy A’s.

Using these over-the-counter insta-genius boosters does seem like a slippery slope. Me, I’ll stick with the proven effects of fish oil, a clean diet rich in antioxidant nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of caffeine, and regular exercise to keep the old grey matter in shape.[8],[9]

Meghana Joshi is a Biomedical Sciences major and writer, specializing in Science Communication. She has run her own socio-environmental venture to promote natural products, fostered abandoned animals, and co-authored ‘ROOMIES/FOODIES,’ a memoir-plus-recipe book for Indian students abroad. She now is Lead, Content Services at Avegen and is based in Pune, India.


Originally published at Connected Health Quarterly.