Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)

By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years). Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it — with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.

I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day.  Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect. As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well… recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.

In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down.  One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: “I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, “Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…™ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ˜Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day,™ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ˜Well, I’m beyond that…™

“The hipster crowd backed away. ˜I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”

Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types, not hippies, mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.

Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients… some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing. Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected. People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, which created a relaxed atmosphere for conversation, despite the overstimulating drugs.

R.U. Sirius


mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)

I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine, Piracetam, Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids. Any experiences you would like to share for publication? Read more “Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)”