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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Apr 29, 2021


Thanks to the 852 of you who took the 2020 SSC nootropics survey.

I asked people to rate various nootropics on whether they “worked” or not, deliberately leaving the question kind of vague. This is using a broad definition of “nootropics” - any supplement or taken-outside-the-usual-medical-system drug that’s purported to have mental health effects. Most of the chemicals I asked about were supposed stimulants, anxiolytics, or antidepressants.

I'll start with the headline results, then go into details:

Nootropic (sample size in parentheses), adjusted mean rating 1-10 (note truncated axis!), and 95% confidence interval. Click to expand.

I tried to include a mix of common and well-studied nootropics as a baseline, plus some newer rarer substances nobody had looked into before. Predictably, the common substances got large sample sizes, and the rare substances got small ones. I excluded etifoxene, RGPU-95, and white jelly mushrooms from the graph because the sample was so small that the confidence interval would have covered the entire displayed range. A few substances on there are based off only 5 - 10 data points. I did a sort of ad hoc Bayesian adjustment where I assumed a prior of "average" for every substance and let the data try to push it away from that, which helped the numbers swing around a little less wildly.