IMR Press / FBL / Volume 26 / Issue 8 / DOI: 10.52586/4948
Open Access Review
Smart drugs and neuroenhancement: what do we know?
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1 Department of Medical, Surgical and Advanced Technologies “G.F. Ingrassia”, University of Catania, 95121 Catania, Italy
2 Department of Law, Criminology, Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro, 88100 Catanzaro, Italy
3 Department of History, Society and Studies on Humanity, University of Salento, 73100 Lecce, Italy
4 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Foggia, 71122 Foggia, Italy
*Correspondence: (Francesco Sessa); (Monica Salerno)
These authors contributed equally.
Front. Biosci. (Landmark Ed) 2021, 26(8), 347–359;
Submitted: 1 June 2021 | Revised: 20 July 2021 | Accepted: 21 July 2021 | Published: 30 August 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forensic pathology and forensic genetics: past, present and future)
Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by BRI.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license (

Introduction: Smart drugs are among the most common drugs used by students. It is estimated that they are second in incidence after cannabis. Although they are usually used for diseases such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dementia, in most cases the use of smart drugs is illegal and without a prescription. Methodological issues: A systematic review was conducted according to PRISMA guidelines. SCOPUS, Medline (using PubMed as a search engine), Embase, Web of Sciences, and Google Scholar were used as search engines from January 1, 1980 to June 1, 2021 to evaluate the association between smart drugs and neuro-enhancement. A total of 4715 articles were collected. Of these, 295 duplicates were removed. A total of 4380 articles did not meet the inclusion criteria. In conclusion, 48 articles were included in the present systematic review. Results: Most of the studies were survey studies, 1 was a prospective longitudinal study, 1 was a cross-over study, and 1 was an experimental study in an animal model (rats). The largest group of consumers was school or university students. The most frequent reasons for using smart drugs were: better concentration, neuro enhancement, stress reduction, time optimization, increased wake time, increased free time, and curiosity. There are conflicting opinions, in fact, regarding their actual functioning and benefit, it is not known whether the benefits reported by consumers are due to the drugs, the placebo effect or a combination of these. The real prevalence is underestimated: it is important that the scientific community focus on this issue with further studies on animal models to validate their efficacy.

Smart drugs
Cognitive enhancement
Brain effect
Fig. 1.
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