I drink my only cups of coffee when I do dedicated and hour long sessions with my Zettelkasten. Coffee has specific effect that could described as narrowing the focus. Alcohol on the other hand has a widening effect.
I couldn't bring myself to take a nootropic a friend recommended to me.
Do you have any experience with the combination of drugs and knowledge work? (Personal Message if you have something to hide from the public..)
I am a Zettler
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Water is my drug of choice; it's pretty much the only fluid that I drink. Lots of water, a good night's sleep (regularly) and a hot shower seems to get the brain functioning just fine
To me the drug is Serotonin.
Young Ref introduces four methods to increase serotonin
without using drug: improvement in mood, exposed to sunlight,
exercise, and good diet.
And I found cycling is my best way to achieve this. As long as I am on
the bike, I feel good. I can see the fantastic surrounding which is not
available to most people in the neighborhood. Second, I will be
exposed the sun and I cannot escape that. Third, cycling is a sport
and it can be extremely brute when I perform at my threshold level.
And finally, being in a competitive cycling group, I need to find
good food to energize my body after hard workout to be competitive.
without drugs. Journal of psychiatry \& neuroscience: JPN, 32(6),
I would never take anything that improved my knowledge working abilities unless I could be absolutely certain that it doesn't have any negative side-effects in the long-term (and with synthetic substances I don't think you can ever know for certain).
I don't do anything to improve my brain functions apart from trying to have a healthy diet and lifestyle in general. If I was in a situation in which I felt that my job would force me to take drugs in order to keep up, I'd seriously consider changing my job.
I'm very curious about this topic but haven't tried anything beyond coffee. I find the relationship with knowledge work a little more nuance. While it does help with focus, I find that it also makes my mind more creative because it makes my mind more active.
I'm very curious about other stuff but haven't tried anything and I'm very skeptical of the nootropics stuff as there is a lot of bunk science involved in supplements. Need more research!
I think the biggest boon to knowledge work would just be getting ones sleep and stress at an optimal state such that you can put in the time required for knowledge work. Because consistently working on something for a very long time I think is underrated in society and people are bad at doing.
I've looked into the nootropic area, but never really taken the plunge.
I'm a heavy coffee drinker, and I'm not sure caffeine has any effect on me. Whether thats a physical impossibility, and my body has just gotten used to the amount I drink, I'm not sure, but what I do know is, I can quite happily drink a double espresso right before bed, and sleep the whole night without stirring...
Due to me being Type 1 Diabetic, I've never been experimental with any sort of drugs, aside from smoking a little bit of weed when visiting friends in Amsterdam (even then I did research on the specific effects on Diabetes before trying). No proper nootropics, nada.
I drink maybe 1 beer an evening since COVID hit the world, but before that, it was maybe 2 or 3 a week, usually on a single evening, or spread across 2.
Onto the other "options" I've looked at...
I did start taking Omega oil supplements, due to Arthritis running in the family, and reading that Omega oil helped, but only if you take it long before you start having symptoms...
When I looked into the other side effects of Omega oils, I found that ones with high amounts of EPA and DHA, were very good for the brain. I found a supplement that had ~540mg of EPA, and ~340mg of DHA from Holland & Barrett in the UK. Beneficial effect of each are supposedly ~250mg.
I noticed my concentration improved considerably where I felt like I was able to join the dots better.
The problem I had here though was that at the same time, I was on a bit of a fitness boost, so I was going to the gym almost every day doing a mix of cardio, resistance, HIIT, etc. So I can't really put the improvement down to the Omega oil specifically.
Something else I've tried, and stuck with, was a high-ish dose of Lions Mane mushroom powder.
This is supposed to have very good cognitive effects. Its been a long time since I've done the research, but I seem to recall mycelial extract being better than fruiting body extract. I found out that higher polysaccharide count was best, but there's always a downside. The polysaccharide count from most of the mycelial extracts around, tend to come from the growth medium (mostly rice or grain), so you need to be careful of the high polysaccharide counts that its not coming from the growth medium itself.
Like I said, its been a while since I did the research so I could be wrong on some of the above, so worth doing the research yourself.
I found a supplement that I liked, and stuck with it.
The Four Sigmatic coffee additives are good, but they only give 1.5g of lions mane. I was initially using ~3g per day as thats what research showed to be effective.
A personal story on this...
Before adding the lions mane into my diet, I was getting burning sensations around my torso for about 6 months. It progressively got worse, starting off just having sensitive skin for a while, to the point it felt like I was badly sunburned all over, where I was in pain just washing/drying myself.
Burning sensations is a sign of diabetic neuropathy (I've been T1 for 36 years, with very few side effects), but it usually starts out in extremities (fingers/toes/etc). Its essentially the beginnings of the cause of diabetics having amputations, as the thicker blood can't get down to the tiny capillaries, and the nerves start being destroyed. It doesn't usually start on major parts of the body because the extremities are the first bits that start losing sensation due to the smaller blood vessels, etc. The doctors said thats its not unheard of for neuropathy to start elsewhere on the body, but its unusual.
I had CT scans, MRI's, etc, and the only thing they found was that my spinal cord was a little close to the "tube" that runs down my spine, but nothing more.
Now Lions mane is also known for having nerve growth factor, and about 2 weeks after I started taking high doses of it, my torso starting itching a HUGE amount, again just like sunburn does when it starts healing.
Supposedly, itching is also a side effect of nerves healing themselves.
I carried on taking the supplements through the itching, and after another 2 weeks, the itching slowed down, and stopped altogether.
I dropped the supplements down to a Four Sigmatic coffee additives every working day of the week, so I get 1 box per month from Amazon on a subscription.
I've not had any pain since then.
All of this COULD just be coincidence, but theres a LOT of stars that would need to have aligned. There was no science involved, no documentation (aside from this forum post), no involvement from doctors, etc.
All of this is just what I experienced. There could well have been something else that made this go away, but I'm still taking the Four Sigmatic sachets daily, as I don't want to have pain like that again...
Just to note here: I'm not a shareholder of Four Sigmatic, nor do I work for them, or owe them any money, etc. I'm just a customer, who is getting more and more interested in mushroom supplements after experiencing this, and keen on foraging for Lions Mane around my local area... Haven't found any as yet though, and I think its a bit late in the year now
One other option that is not being recommended by me. Just something that I've heard about...
Microdosing psylocybin mushrooms apparently is all the rage in Silicon Valley at the moment. Heard about this on the Joe Rogan podcast with Paul Stamets who is a well known mycologist, where incidentally he also talks about how cool Lions Mane is for about 20 mins.
Never read anything about a writer or creator whose work would have been improved by drugs. Watch Ringo Starr about the Beatles'sessions under drugs, watch Gilles Deleuze about intellectual work and alcohol... (Abécédaire "B comme boisson", watch Dylan, Ron Wood and Keith Richards' "Blowin' in the wind" during Live aid...
@sepuku , thanks for the tip on Lion's Mane / Four Sigmatic. A friend of mine gave me some mushroom coffee to try and I loved it, but I couldn't effectively track it down!
To add my answer for @Sascha et al., I'm a big fan of butter coffee/tea. While I'm not always a fan of Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Coffee or his other tools, I do find that putting MCT oil (or ideally, MCT + butter) in my morning cuppa gets amazing results. MCT is already well-suited for good digestion and all that, so I find that I feel satiated (by the fats) and alert (the vitamins and minerals). (I now also wonder if Four Sigmatic would work with the Tibetan butter tea recipe I use, replacing the black tea...)
That said, I have done knowledge work while using low doses of other substances. Upon reflection, most of the work was not as brilliant as I thought at the time. One exception may be a dialogue I wrote for a Philosophy of Language course, but I had been working on those concepts for weeks before I finally crafted the written work in a sprint session of 3-4 hours. I'm willing to say that it was weeks of subconscious work, not the substance, that led to such good work. I'm not saying I discount nootropics -- I'm only meaning that I don't see nootropics as a part of that success. I personally save my experiences with psylocibin for spiritual and psychological insight, in the same category as mediation. It enhances my knowledge work downstream, but not at the source.
Lots of amazing work done by people on drugs. Maybe one needs to go beyond the limts of our own mind to get some new perspectives...
Here is Hunter S. Thompson (a great writer) daily routine:
Maybe that's because those whose work would've been improved by drugs actually was. Ha.
As someone born with spinal muscular atrophy, I have often had a difficult time "getting my blood pumping." I use a wheelchair and can't really work out at all- I envy people with access to exercise for it's antidepressant, motivational effects.
After many years of meditation and self-help reading, the solution that finally took was drugs. I'm currently taking a daily low dose of Vyvanse and it has improved the quality of my thoughts significantly. Before that, I was talking Concerta but found that it made me irritable. I took Provigil in college because I was wary of the amphetamine based drugs; this was a mistake. It kept you awake but only in the thinnest sense of the word.
I'm not ignorant of the risks these drugs pose but for me, it's worth it. I feel like I can think again.
@Sascha I've tried a few nootropics and the only one I have reliably used is L-theanine. This is extremely well studied and very safe. It is the other active ingredient in green tea, besides caffeine. Essentially when you drink green tea you get an energy boost and you have a sense of calm focus. The focus comes from the L-theanine – it "smooths out" the jitters from the caffeine and helps improve focus. A pill of L-theanine is simply extracting that one component into powder form.
A common "stack" involving L-theanine is simply 100mg caffeine and 200mg L-theanine. This is if the caffeine is taken in pill form. With coffee I would simply take a 200mg L-theanine pill.
I'm actually using one right now with my morning caffeine. It works extremely well and again is very safe and well tolerated. If you would drink a cup of green tea then this is effectively the same as doing that.
Edit: corrected the dose. Whatever the dose chosen the ratio should generally be 2:1 theanine:caffeine.
Also link to an actual study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18681988/