Until recently nootropics, or smart drugs, were reserved for a brave few biohackers willing to experiment with compounds in order to test the limits of what our brains are capable of. But a new surge of startups and companies are now taking nootropics mainstream, taking smart stacks out of the hands of internet users, and putting them into the hands of the average person.
One of the most interesting recent applications of the mainstream nootropics is in esports, one of the most lucrative and rapidly growing spectator sports in the world. Thanks thanks to long periods of intense concentration and fast reaction time, cognitive enhancement could potentially give players a mental edge.
The consequences of using brain enhancers is already starting to be addressed in professional esports. In 2015, non-prescribed Adderall was officially banned from some esports competitions with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) announcing it would develop stricter policing of performance enhancing drugs. But what kind of enhancement though and what that actually means remains up for debate when it comes to looking at what role smart drugs will play in the future of the industry.
Nootropics still encompass a wide array of compounds including everything from naturally derived substances like caffeine and melatonin to substances found in prescription drugs like Modafinil and Adderall, and regulation and testing surrounding stacks is in early stages.
For Geoff Woo, CEO and co-founder of Nootrobox, a San Francisco based startup developing nootropics stacks made from naturally derived compounds, the intersection of brain enhancing drugs and esports is an obvious one, and one worth exploring.
In the third episode of Humans+, Motherboard went to San Francisco to meet Ben Watley and Alex Novosad, two members of the esports team Gankstars who recently became one of the first esports teams in the world to be officially sponsored by a nootropics company. Ben, Alex and the rest of the team have been taking Nootrobox stacks for a month and logging their progress in an attempt to see if these smart drugs will enhance their performance.
Nobody really knows yet what role Nootropics will have in the future of esports. But early partnerships like these are starting to test the waters of how we’ll regulate brain enhancement.