David Jay Brown Interviews:
John Morgenthaler is responsible for coining the term “smart drugs”, for writing the first books on the subject, and for much of the public’s awareness about how certain drugs and nutrients can enhance cognitive performance.
Morgenthaler co-authored the books Smart Drugs and Nutrients, Smart Drugs II: The Next Generation (both with Ward Dean, M.D), and he edited the book Stop the FDA: Save Your Health Freedom. He has appeared on many popular radio and television shows over the years–such as Larry King Live, 20/20, and The Today Show–talking about how people can enhance their mental performance by adjusting their neurochemistry.
Morgenthaler is also largely responsible for popularizing the notion that certain drugs, herbs and nutrients can be used to enhance sexual desire and performance. He co-authored the books Better Sex Through Chemistry(with Dan Joy), GHB: The Natural Mood Enhancer (with Ward Dean, M.D.), and The Smart Guide to Better Sex. John has been researching brain-boosting and sexually-enhancing substances for over a decade, and he has used what he’s learned to educate the public, and to design an array of herbal and nutritional formulas for Health Freedom Nutrition, with which he is associated.
I met John backstage on the set for the Montel Williams Show back in 1990, right after his book Smart Drugs and Nutrients was first published. I felt it was essential to include an interview with John on this site, because he’s the person who first inspired my interest in the subject of prosexual drugs and nutrients, and a large portion of what I know about these substances I learned from him. I interviewed John on October 5, 2003.
David: How did you become interested in drugs and nutrients that enhance physical and mental performance?
John: I originally became interested in this like many of the people who are seriously involved in it on the research level; my motivation was driven by a personal interest in healing myself. This goes way back, to my early college days. I was doing well enough that I made it to college, and I was getting good grades, but I knew that there was more brain power up there than I was able to tap into. My concentration and attention weren’t as good as I felt they should be.
David: When did you first encounter the notion of smart drugs?
John: The idea originally came out of a book. The book that got me started in nutritional medicine was Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw’s book Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach.
David: It was a very influential book for me as well. In fact, there’s an interview that I did with Durk and Sandy on this site.
John: Quite a few people in this field had that book as their original inspiration. In the book Durk and Sandy talked about hydergine, and a few other substances that they referred to as having cognition-enhancing effects. But their book, of course, was about life extension. The theme of cognition-enhancement was just a minor aspect of the book, but that’s were I picked up on the idea.
Then, in college, I started using a substance called Pemoline–which I don’t use anymore, and haven’t used in a long time. In fact, I believe it’s now illegal. A lot of people started using it for recreational purposes, and that was the beginning of the end of that. It’s a drug that, like Ritalin, is used for kids with attention-deficit disorder–or was anyway, as it fell out of favor. But, for me, at that time, that substance vastly improved my concentration and mental energy. I was very very impressed, not just with the effect of that drug, but impressed with the fact that a change of that magnitude could take place.
In other words, I realized that it’s possible to take a brain that is working at a suboptimal level, and use a drug or nutrient and get improvement gains ten, twenty, thirty percent–because I was experiencing that. And I sailed through the final years of my computer science degree with flying colors. I was very very impressed with what this could do. So that’s how I got started, and one thing lead to another. Pemoline fell out of favor, and I started researching the field of, what they called in the research, “cognition-enhancing substances”. Later on I coined the phrase “smart drugs”.
David: Didn’t you also coin the phrase prosexual drugs? What do you mean when you refer to certain substances as being prosexual?
John: I popularized that phrase, strictly speaking. I wasn’t the first to use that term. That came out of a scientific paper called “prosexual Nutrients”. It means any substance which can enhance libido or sex function.
David: What sort of relationship do you see between prosexual drugs and smart drugs?
John: Are you talking about on the biochemical level or in terms of the spirit behind the idea?
David: In terms of how much overlap there is between the effects of smart drugs and prosexual drugs. Often they’re same substance, like Deprenyl for example. When I interviewed Ward Dean, he told me that “anything that improves brain function is probably going to improve sexual function.” I know that intelligence is a powerful aphrodisiac, but I don’t think that’s the only reason.
John: Let me answer the question on several different levels.
First of all, there’s a philosophy behind both ideas–a philosophy of enhancement-medicine, or the use of medical technology for purposes of enhancement, as opposed to merely treatment of a pathology.
Even the trend towards preventive medicine, as a philosophic orientation, is not the same thing as what I’m talking about. Most conventional medicine takes the point of view that, if there’s an outright disease or pathology, we”ll treat it with medicine. Preventive medicine suggests the idea that well we prevent the pathology from occurring in the first place, and maybe even bring the person towards wellness.
But enhancement-medicine is the concept of using what we’ve got with medical technology to make yourself better than normal, not merely preventing a disease.
And that philosophy lies behind both of these. I didn’t make it up. It’s the same philosophy that was already there in cosmetic surgery, with its face lifts and tummy tucks. It was there in sports enhancement. Sports enhancement preceded both smart drugs and prosexual nutrients by far.
David: It was there in psychology too.
John: Yeah, Maslow paved the way with the whole concept of self-actualization, instead of Freud’s idea of merely treating pathology. So that’s the philosophical likeness between them.
There is also the fact that there appears to be tremendous overlap in these two areas, and we discovered this somewhat by accident when we got letters from many of the people who read the smart drugs book. The smart drugs book came out long before the work I did on prosexual supplements. People who use smart drugs wrote to us and reported all of the wonderful benefits that they were getting. We got hundreds and hundreds of great letters, and it really gave a lot of meaning to my work, to see that I was having this effect on people. And an awful lot of them