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jimrandomh comments on Open Thread, August 2010-- part 2 - Less Wrong

3 Post author: NancyLebovitz 09 August 2010 11:18PM

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Comment author: jimrandomh 29 August 2010 02:23:31PM *  20 points [-]

My experiments with nootropics continue. A few days ago, I started taking sulbutiamine (350mg/day), a synthetic analog of thiamine which differs in that it crosses the blood-brain barrier more readily. The effects were immediate, positive, and extremely dramatic - on an entirely different order of magnitude than I expected, and probably the largest single improvement to my subjective well being I have ever experienced. A feeling of mental fatigue and not wanting to do stuff - a feeling that leads to spending lots of time on blogs, playing video games and otherwise killing time suboptimally (though not necessarily the only such feeling) - just up and vanished overnight. This was something that I had identified as a major problem, and believed to be purely psychological in nature, but was, in fact, entirely biochemical. On the first day I took sulbutiamine, I felt significantly better, worked three hours longer than normal, and went to the gym (which would previously have been entirely out of character for me).

That said, I do have a concrete reason to believe that this effect is atypical. Specifically, I believe I was deficient in thiamine; I believe this because I'm a type 1 diabetic, and according to the research reported in this article, that means my body uses up thiamine at a greatly increased rate; I was only getting the RDA of thiamine from a standard multivitamin; and the problems I had seem to match the symptoms of minor thiamine deficiency pretty well.

That said, searching the internet finds people without thiamine deficiencies who also benefited from sulbutiamine, albeit to a lesser degree. And trying sulbutiamine is safe (no credible reports of adverse effects ever) and cheap ($17 for an 85-day supply as bulk powder), so I recommend it.

Comment author: gwern 01 September 2010 02:32:39AM 10 points [-]

Oh, in other news, the FDA is apparently going after piracetam; smartpowders.com reports that it's been ordered to cease selling piracetam and is frantically trying to get rid of its stock. See

Comment author: wedrifid 02 September 2010 12:04:11AM 5 points [-]

Oh, in other news, the FDA is apparently going after piracetam; smartpowders.com reports that it's been ordered to cease selling piracetam and is frantically trying to get rid of its stock. See

That is infuriating! The fools!

Comment author: [deleted] 15 September 2010 07:36:23PM *  4 points [-]

This puts Robin Hanson's criticism of the FDA in a new perspective for me.

Comment author: gwern 02 September 2010 12:50:14PM 3 points [-]

They blew it up! They blew it all up! Goddamn them to hell!

(Wrong allusion?)

Comment author: SilasBarta 01 September 2010 02:55:21AM 1 point [-]

Yikes! Hits close to home for me! I had actually ordered bulk piracetam about a week ago, in an order with two other supplements. When the shipment arrived, the piracetam wasn't in it, and it had a note saying it was out of stock and I wouldn't be charged for it, but I'd be informed when it was available again.

I thought it was strange at first, since they wouldn't have taken the order if they weren't able to reserve a unit for my order. (This isn't fractional reserve banking, folks!) But that explanation makes a lot more sense. If only I had placed the order a few days earlier...

Comment author: gwern 01 September 2010 01:00:10PM 2 points [-]

(This isn't fractional reserve banking, folks!)

Just-in-time techniques always struck me as being very close to fractional reserve banking, actually...

Anyway, elsewhere in that Reddit page, users mention that other nootropics seem to be getting harder to find lately like choline and huperzine-a. (I tried huperzine-a and wasn't impressed, but I kind of need the choline to go with any piracetam.)

Comment author: SilasBarta 01 September 2010 02:00:02PM *  0 points [-]

Strange. My local grocery store with a health food/supplement aisle just started stocking a choline/inositol blend (saw it for the first time two days ago). I previously got the choline in a different supplement section, from a product called LipoTrim.

Comment author: ata 30 August 2010 05:17:21PM *  4 points [-]

Very interesting — thanks for the information. I'm trying piracetam right now, but this also sounds like something I'd like to try. I have similar problems with mental fatigue and low motivation... unfortunately, I don't yet have even a vague sense of the biochemical basis for my issues (my symptoms match chronic fatigue, but it seems like its causal structure is not well-understood anyway). But it's worth a try, I suppose.

Are you taking this and the piracetam at the same time, or did you stop the piracetam to try this?

Comment author: jimrandomh 30 August 2010 05:58:04PM 3 points [-]

Both at the same time. (I have no particular reason to think they interact, I'm just following the strategy of changing only one thing at a time.) I hope sulbutiamine works for you; but if it doesn't, don't give up, it just means the biochemical issue is somewhere else, and there are many more safe things to try.

Comment author: gwern 30 August 2010 05:53:30PM 3 points [-]

I tried both ways. They didn't seem to interfere or interact.

Comment author: pjeby 30 August 2010 03:53:03PM 4 points [-]

($17 for an 85-day supply as bulk powder)

I noticed that a lot of the reviews were complaining about the taste - were you using it in its raw form, or putting it into capsules?

Comment author: jimrandomh 30 August 2010 06:07:29PM 5 points [-]

I put it in capsules. Besides getting around the taste, it's also much more convenient that way; rather than having to measure and prepare some every day, I can sit down and prepare a month's worth of capsules in 30 minutes. The more different supplements you take, the more important it is to do it this way.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 01 September 2010 11:34:14PM 1 point [-]

I can sit down and prepare a month's worth of capsules in 30 minutes.

Have you considered buying or selling capsules? It seems unlikely that this is something you should do yourself, but only for yourself.

Also, before you said that you filled 10 capsules per minute. Do you take 10 capsules per day? Do you mix piracetam and choline in a single capsule?

Comment author: jimrandomh 02 September 2010 01:05:55AM *  2 points [-]

I've considered buying capsules, but decided to get powder instead because it's cheaper and allows more flexibility if I change dosage or decide to pre-mix stuff. I couldn't sell the capsules I make because I don't measure them precisely enough (they vary by +/-10% or so). I currently take 5 capsules day - two of piracetam, two of choline citrate, and one of sulbutiamine.

Putting together capsules sounds hard, but it's actually quite easy. You get empty gel caps, which come as two unequally sized pieces that fit together tightly enough to stay in place but loosely enough to pull apart. Take the pieces of the capsule apart, pack some powder into the larger piece, put them together, and drop it on a scale. If it's within acceptable range, drop it in the 'done' container, otherwise open it back up and add some or remove some. After a dozen or so, you get the hang of it and can hit a 10% tolerance pretty consistently on the first time. Wear latex gloves so the gel caps won't stick to your fingers and you don't get hair and sweat in the powder tub.

(Edit: the discrepancy between my saying a month's worth of capsules in 30 minutes, and a rate of 10/minute, is due to setup and cleanup time; and neither of these numbers was precise to more than a factor of 2.)

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 02 September 2010 02:09:16AM *  2 points [-]

I couldn't sell the capsules I make because I don't measure them precisely enough (they vary by +/-10% or so).

If it's good enough for you, it may be good enough for customers; it's just a different niche. It may also be an illegal niche.

ETA: flexibility is a good reason.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 September 2010 12:02:04AM 1 point [-]

Also, before you said that you filled 10 capsules per minute. Do you take 10 capsules per day? Do you mix piracetam and choline in a single capsule?

I'm not speaking for Jim but I note that I find mixing the racetams with the choline source convenient. It allows for simply adjusting the dose while keeping the same ratio.

Comment author: gwern 30 August 2010 05:54:52PM 3 points [-]

With nootropics, everything tastes bad. I dissolve my stuff in hot water when I make tea, and wash it down with the latter. It didn't taste worse than just piracetam+choline, FWIW - that's foul enough to mask pretty much any taste.

Comment author: gwern 30 August 2010 05:52:34PM 3 points [-]

That's quite interesting. I recently finished up my own 30g supply of sulbutiamine, and while I thought that it does work roughly on the level of piracetam without choline supplementation, I wasn't hugely impressed. But I am not diabetic nor do I match any of the descriptions of beriberi in Wikipedia.

(Didn't last me 85 days, however. 200mg strikes me as a pretty small dose.)

Comment author: gwern 22 September 2010 03:12:53PM 2 points [-]

While re-reading the reports here for summary in my personal drugs file, it suddenly occurred to me that your experience with sulbutiamine might be on the level of pica & iron deficiency, and so worth mentioning or linking as a comment in http://lesswrong.com/lw/15w/experiential_pica/ .

Comment author: wedrifid 02 September 2010 12:05:53AM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the reminder regarding sulbutiamine. That stuff is fantastic!

I'll add that sulbutiamine is one of the nootropics that is absolutely foul tasting!