Q: What can make you literally 'think faster?"
Nature Publishing, esteemed publisher of the British journal Nature, ran a survey and found that a surprising 20% of respondents, mostly in the U.S. reported using drugs to improve their concentration and focus.
A neuroenhancer is anything that provides greater focus, attentiveness...
Three drugs were commonly used...Ritalin, a trade name for methylphenidate, is a stimulant normally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, especially in children. Modafinil -- marketed at Provigil -- is prescribed to treat sleep disorders, but is also effective against general fatigue and jet lag.
Both medications are common currency on college campuses, used as "study aids" to sharpen performance and wakefulness. The third category was beta blockers, often prescribed for cardiac arythmia - it has a side effect of improving feelings of well-being as an anti-anxiety treatment.
Of course, for thousands of years people have been altering consciousness with various naturally occurring substances, for reasons that are not completely understood. Perhaps this is simply a shared human trait.
-The vision-inducing ayahuasca in South America
-Peyote in the U.S.
-Snowdrop in Greece and Macdedonia (in Homer's Odyssey as a memory booster)
-Ancient Egyptians ingested blue lily, drank highly fermented porridge-like beer
-Qa'at chewing in Oman and the Arabian peninsula
-Coca leaf chewing in South America
-Others fasted to obtain superior focus and cosmic awareness, including Tibetan monks, Early desert fathers of the Christian church, the so-called anchorites, Hunnish shamans, Native Americans prior to deer and buffalo hunts (a common practice from coast to coast) and probably the Palaeolithic artists of Lascaux cave.
Modern neuroenhancement in an academic setting is carried out for the same reason as the fasting and sweat-lodge of the deer hunter - getting an 'edge' and increasing the chances of success. The hunter did not want to return to the village empty-handed.