High School Dropout to Ivy Med Student with 3 Smart Drugs

This is a guest contribution by William Cantrell.


A book about an intellectually disabled man who temporarily becomes a genius through an experimental treatment.

By the time I was sixteen, I was a huge bum. I was expelled for repeatedly skipping Spanish class. My academic performance was substandard. It’s an understatement to say that I was socially maladjusted.

But I did turn my life around, go to college, and find something to work toward – something that mattered to me.

My calling turned out to be medicine. Discovering smart drugs (or nootropics) was the catalyst. If you’re unfamiliar, smart drugs are drugs or supplements that are purported to enhance cognitive function.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Flowers for Algernon, but if not, I highly recommend it. It’s about an intellectually disabled man, Charlie Gordon, who triples his IQ with an experimental surgery. The narrative gets dark quickly, because the intelligence increase is only temporary, and Charlie eventually reverts to his original state.

Smart drugs aren’t going to triple your IQ. I would be surprised if they even modestly increased your IQ.

But they can unlock latent potential. Smart drugs increased my drive, desire for accomplishment, and verbal fluency. More importantly, they made it possible to start applying myself to important life goals that remained unrealized until that point.

Success is Fungible!

I don’t know if anyone has told you this – but success is inter-convertible. It’s fungible. What the hell am I talking about? I’m assuming that most of you know what fungible means, but just in case:

Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution. That is, it is the property of essences or goods which are “capable of being substituted in place of one another.” For example, since one ounce of pure gold is equivalent to any other ounce of pure gold, gold is fungible.

What I mean is that success in one aspect of life makes it easier to be successful in other aspects. If you excel at the gym, it will be easier to excel academically. If you make a few close friends, that social support system will help you flourish.

I don’t care if your passion is backgammon, beat-boxing, or belly dancing. Simply getting excited about something, and getting your shit together enough to actually get good at it, will enrich other aspects of your life. If that’s what your into, hooking up with lots of girls (or guys) can give you the confidence to invest in yourself academically and occupationally. Success is fungible.


At 16, I was living in a little trailer parked in my parents driveway. I’d dropped out of high school, voluntarily. At least, that’s what I’d told myself (and my parents) – the truth is I was expelled.

You have to understand something about my family. I’ve got two brothers and one sister (I’m the youngest) and they all went to Yale. I definitely felt like a black sheep.

I naturally discovered nootropics (smart drugs) online, since all reclusive teenagers are internet addicts. Actually, it was more because I was interested in neuroscience.

From ages 17-24 I trialed a lot of nootropics. I want to discourage you from doing that. For those who take 20+ nootropics simultaneously. Please for the love of God only put a few things in your body at a time.

Let's talk smart drugs

There are only a few things that work, and a lot of hype to cut through.  These are the best nootropics they will give you the highest return on investment (ROI).

Note that all of them (except nicotine) were the highest rated nootropics in SlateStarCodex’s survey of nootropics users. They are:

  • Modafinil (or related compounds like adrafinil or armodafinil)
  • Coluracetam
  • Phenylpiracetam
  • Caffeine (coffee bitches)
  • Nicotine (not recommended if you're an adolescent)
nrating_mean Survey of nootropics users conducted by SlateStarCodex

I won’t discuss these at length because how they work and what they do is fleshed out elsewhere.

The TLDR is that modafinil is a prescription wakefulness enhancer. You can get it from AfinilExpress, or read this full review.

Modafinil is used to treat disorders like narcolepsy because it increases vigilance and connectivity of the default mode network (DMN). The DMN is just a fancy word for the pattern of neural activity when you’re brain is at rest, engaged with nothing in particular.

Coluracetam and phenylpiracetam are racetam nootropics. Coluracetam affects the neurotransmitter acetylcholine; phenylpiracetam behaves like a mild psychostimulant.

Caffeine needs no introduction. It’s the most popular drug in the world! Coffee consumption tends to protect people from Parkinson’s disease and dementia.  Nicotine gets a bad rap due to its association with tobacco smoking, but it in low doses (2mg) it is quite safe.

I hope I’ve set you on the right track with nootropics. There are lots of resources about these compounds here on BrainProTips and elsewhere (Examine). Here’s a good place to start your research:





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