Fun Contest—Identify Brain Enhancing Chemicals and Their Legal Status


A new contest being posted by brilliant Princeton University biologist, Lee Silver, should definitely appeal to the competitve instincts of Reason readers. The contest features five different substances that millions of Americans take in order to boost their mental capacities in some way. Some are legal; some are not. The goal of the contest is to identify the chemicals and their legal status.

Go here to test your chemical and legal acumen. Chemists and biochemists may not participate. 

I interviewed Silver for Reason back in 1999. 

NEXT: Failed Russian Rocket Breaks Up Over Australia — Leaves Dangerous Debris and Nice Pictures

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I managed to get the first three before I gave up and looked in the comments thread.

    The first is the molecule of champions.

  2. Without cheating, I’d say:
    1) Caffeine
    2) Nicotine
    3 and 4- Don’t know.
    5) Vasopressin, maybe? Or L-dopa?

  3. Well, 2 out of five ain’t band.

  4. Chemical 3 is oatmeal. And while it’s not illegal, it ought to be.

  5. I can’t believe he left out HFCS. He must be diss’n us, it’s the only explanation.

  6. From the description he gave number 4–legal but with a difficult to obtain prescription and used by college students everywhere–I can safely say its probably methylphenidate (Ritalin).

  7. 1) caffeine
    2) nicotine
    3) ephedrine
    4) methylphenidate
    5) ????

  8. Ditto Tym’s answer, methylphenidate being the active ingredient in Ritalin.

    Number 5 would appear to be Vitamin B 12.

  9. Since when is it difficult to obtain a scrip for Ritalin? Just say your kid isn’t sufficiently quiescent and obedient.

  10. Number 6,

    Most doctors require you to produce an actual child. If you don’t have one or can’t rent one, ritalin becomes a wee bit more difficult.

  11. Completely off topic, but has Radley seen this:

  12. The last one looks like THC. Just a guess.

  13. #6, it’s a controlled substance. Here in CA, at least, you need a new prescription every month to get it, which, at least for my doctor, requires you to appear in person, or send a courier.

  14. 1. caffeine
    2. nicotine
    3. phenylpropanolamine
    4. methylphenidate
    5. taurine (the amino acid in all the XTR33M D00D drinks)

  15. …so I was glancing down the Hit & Run headlines, and somehow read this one as: “Identify Breast Enhancing Chemicals and Their Legal Status”

    Next contest, anyone?

  16. There are also several other, less well known stimulants, khat, ginseng, etc. It would be interesting to see a similar comparison with those drugs included. Also, bupropion (Wellbutrin) has some stimulant properties.

  17. 1. Tetrahydrocannabinol
    2. Psilocybin
    3. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide
    4. Dimethyltriptamine
    5. Caffeine

    I thought I would pass the word along to people here, I stopped drinking coffee a long time ago because I had a problem being addicted to it and I tore up my stomach really bad. There is a south American tea called yerba mate that is naturally caffeinated and in my experience works just as well if not better than coffee.

    It is also more likely to come from a business that is kind to it’s employees, because it’s appeal overseas is not high enough to warrant industrial production. It is well known locally and an integral part of American tradition. is a good place to get some. I have made many purchases there and I would like to promote them to this site because I spoke with some of them on the phone and they were very nice people.

  18. Ah, khat. Yet another plant made illegal by fiat of the DEA for no good reason, unless you count “used by scary brown foreign people”. One of the worst laws of recent times, IMO, was the Controlled Substances Act, allowing the DEA to almost unilaterally “schedule” (a euphemism for “ban”) drugs, thereby bypassing the normal legislative process. Asking the DEA if something should be banned is like asking the barber if you need a haircut.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.