At present, there are several drugs on the market that improve memory, concentration, and planning, and reduce impulsive behavior. Many more are in different stages of development. The most commonly used class of drug is stimulants.
These drugs are used primarily to treat people with cognitive or motor function difficulties attributable to such disorders as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and ADHD. However, more widespread use is being recommended by some researchers. These drugs have a variety of human enhancement applications as well, and are marketed heavily on the Internet. Nevertheless, intense marketing may not correlate with efficacy; while scientific studies support some of the claimed benefits, it is worth noting that not all of the claims from certain nootropics suppliers have been formally tested.
The main concern with pharmaceutical drugs is adverse effects, and these concerns apply to cognitive-enhancing drugs as well. Cognitive enhancers are often taken for the long-term when little data is available.
Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea originally coined the word nootropics for brain-enhancing drugs with very few side-effects. Racetams are sometimes cited as an example of a nootropic with few side-effects and a wide therapeutic window. In the United States, unapproved drugs or dietary supplements do not have to have safety or efficacy approval before being sold.