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Seen At 11: Some Turn To ‘Smart Pills’ To Improve Mental Sharpness

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — “Smart pills” promise to help with memory, concentration, attention and intelligence — no prescription necessary.

But do they work? Are they safe?

As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported, the pills are part of a family of supplements called nootropics.

“What we’re trying to do is put the best brain fuel into a monthly box,” said Chris Thompson, chief executive officer of smart pill creator truBrain.

Even Hollywood has jumped on the smart pill bandwagon with the blockbuster movie “Limitless,” starring Bradley Cooper.

But in real life, Shawn Kolodny said he takes smart pills to help him manage long and irregular hours as the owner of restaurants and nightclubs.

“All the things I notice are relatively subtle, but when you actually think about them, really big,” he said.

Charlie Bathgate takes them, too. He said he needs to stay sharp to run a multimillion-dollar hedge fund and an online trading program.

“I just felt like things had been stimulated a little bit; that I had a little bit more focus, a little bit more energy, a little bit more mental endurance,” Bathgate said.

They both said taking the pills has given them more mental clarity.

“Not necessarily smarter in terms of learning more content – but what they tend to do – there are some differences – they tend to improve retrieval ability,” said Dr. Gerald Tramontano, a clinical psychologist.

Tramontano, a clinical psychologist, agreed the pills can be effective for some, but he warned not to expect a miracle. He said the pills don’t necessarily allow people to learn more content, but they might improve retrieval ability.

“People feel like, ‘I have more cognitive power, I have more cognitive endurance,'” he said. “That’s a hard thing to test.”

For the same price as a gourmet cup of coffee, the pills might be worthy a try, Thompson said.

“It’s for people who want to make the investment,” he said. “If they can be a little more productive, a little more efficient, they can multitask a little better. It will be worth it.”

Anyone interested in trying the brain enhancers should consult their doctors first to ensure they don’t interfere with anything other medication or supplements they might already be taking and to make sure they’re not be taken to mask an underlying condition.

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