How Nootropics Can Help with Schizophrenia
The discussion around cognitive enhancing medication had heated up the medical community for decades now. Nevertheless, plenty of people appreciate their beneficial effects on functions such as memory, decision making and problem-solving. But are smart drugs a potential ally in the treatment of schizophrenia?
According to an article published by Schizlife, the pathophysiology of schizophrenia involves something known as neurological abnormalities. One example of this is a deficit of gray matter volume in the frontal and temporal lobes. Cited research performed on high-risk children has proven this fact.
This is a potential cause of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, which are represented by hallucinations, psychosis and other types of reality distortion. What is more, it also leads to poor cognitive function in patients. But where do nootropics come into play in this situation? Here is everything that you need to know.
What Are Nootropics?
In order to understand how nootropics can help in the treatment of schizophrenia, it is essential to first learn what they are and how they work. Nootropics are also known as cognitive enhancers or smart drugs, and their objective is to improve functions such as memory, focus, creativity or motivation among people.
The term was coined way back in 1972 by a Romanian psychologist and chemist named Corneliu E. Giurgea. It is composed of two Greek words, namely the one for ‘mind’ (nous), and the one meaning ‘to bend’ (trepein). Thus, according to the etymology itself, the main target nootropics aim for is bending your mind.
The most famous category of such supplements and the ones that started it all is represented by the racetam class. Examples include Piracetam, Pramiracetam, Fasoracetam, Coluracetam, Aniracetam, and Oxiracetam, to name a few relevant ones. Other substances with comparable results are L-Theanine, Tolcapone or Levodopa.
There are plenty of such supplements on the market, and they serve various purposes. The complete list of nootropics involves quite a few names, and each of them is targeted towards particular cognitive functions and processes. For example, Pramiracetam or Modafinil are excellent for improving focus, while Noopept and Coluracetam serve memory best.
Nootropics and Schizophrenia
As previously mentioned, the underlying gray matter deficit behind schizophrenia has a lot to do with poor cognitive function. Therefore, the intervention of nootropic substances has the potential to be beneficial. Although research on this is still scarce, there are a few studies which demonstrate the mildly positive action such drugs can have in this situation.
One older trial conducted way back in 1999 has shown that piracetam, the most popular nootropic in the racetam class, has advantageous effects on the cognition of schizophrenia patients. When combined with typical neuroleptics such as haloperidol, the drug has shown incredible therapeutic abilities that would make it a viable treatment options.
But the interest in treating schizophrenia with piracetam dates back two more decades to 1979. Then, a team of researchers based in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, analyzed the action the drug has on the cerebral cortex of schizophrenia patients. The results they managed to gather were more than promising.
Participants showed improvement in the department of skills such as counting and object naming, as well as overall better memory and learning abilities. Nevertheless, the actual symptomatology of the disorder wasn’t alleviated in any way. Thus, even though their ability to perform daily tasks had improved, they were still struggling with distorted perceptions.
Upon first glance, this might seem like a drawback of incorporating nootropics in the treatment of schizophrenia. However, this assumption is born due to a major flaw in judgment. If you consider right off the bat that these supplements are meant to put an end to delusions and hallucinations, then the results are more than unsatisfactory.
However, nootropics have never claimed to do such a thing. Instead, their main purpose always has and will be to improve cognitive functions such as memory, focus, motivation, decision making and other thought processes. Thus, they are best used as companions in the treatment of schizophrenia rather than a stand-alone solution.
After battling mental illness for a while, you will notice that your grasp on reality tends to get blurry. Furthermore, mental fog is a well-documented side effect of the antipsychotics that are usually prescribed to people suffering from this disorder of the mind. Confusion, impaired thinking and memory and an inability to coordinate movements can arise.
While it is true that nootropics are mild in effect, they also possess a valuable benefit for people in this situation. We’re talking about their capacity to slowly refocus and rewire the brain so that mundane responsibilities seem achievable once more. It might not sound like an incredible benefit for some, but anyone who has struggled with mental illness will beg to differ.
Being able to set your thoughts straight for once is a valuable prospect when you suffer from schizophrenia. The condition is famously characterized by erratic cognition which influences a similarly disorganized behavioral pattern. And even though nootropics might not put an end to it for good, they can indeed serve as a much-needed ally.
Because each class targets the improvement of various aspects of human cognition, what specific substances your intake can make all the difference in the world. Something like Pramiracetam, Armodafinil or Panax Ginseng to improve attention and focus can alleviate some of the confusion that the disorder tends to create.
What is more, schizophrenia is known for driving patients into isolation, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Medicine such as St. John’s Wort, Phenibut or L-Theanine have the potential to enhance mood and help patients regain their lust for life to some extent. Thus, you might also want to consider these.
The Bottom Line
A deficit of gray matter is one of the underlying causes of the cognition problems that are characteristic to schizophrenia. Cognitive enhancers can thus offer important benefits in this department when integrated into a treatment plan alongside classic antipsychotics and neuroleptics such as haloperidol.
Nevertheless, smart drugs shouldn’t be expected to cure the positive or negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations or depression. Instead, they are best used as a companion in order to enhance some of the functions that are lost in the mental fog brought upon by the illness and its medication.
When administered correctly, nootropics can help patients improve their memory, focus and overall thought process. Their mind thus becomes clearer and ready to handle everyday tasks in a more efficient manner. Of course, due to their mild nature, such improvements will appear over time. Just remember that that doesn’t make them less important.