Pills that help you to concentrate. For many students at UvA, that might have been a dream during the recent exam period. “Braincaps” – or the so-called “concentration pills” or “study-promotion-pills” – were previously available in vending machines at different locations across UvA’s campuses, alongside more conventional study aids, such as markers or note-pads. But couple of weeks ago, these pills disappeared from vending machines altogether. As such, students have been asking why these pills were removed, whether the hype was justified.
Braincaps pills were developed by Mucahit Yalanız, a medical student from Amsterdam who sought to better understand “cognitive enhancement.” According to Yalanız, the pills have a study-promoting impact by improving users’ concentration, memory and focus. Yalanız adds, that they are a “totally safe product, a natural substitute. It was actually developed so that students don’t take illegal drugs like Ritalin.”
Why were Braincap pills removed?
When 60-year-old Jan Trooster from Twente, who is studying in Amsterdam, came across the study pills in the vending machines, he launched a campaign against them. As a pharmacist, he considered the pills dangerous and argues in a Het Parool column that “the pills of the brand Braincaps Boost, pretend to help students to concentrate better, which is morally incorrect, and the university would better remove the distractions.” After having written an email to UvA, the pills disappeared as fast as they showed up. UvA has said they were not aware of the study pills before, as all inventory among students had been selected by School Supply, adding, “in response to questions [regarding stocking the pills] we have now decided to remove the Braincaps in consultation with School Supply.”
How do Braincap Pills (supposedly) work?
Pills using natural ingredients that help students concentrate and study while being completely legal may sound too good to be true. This suspicion is felt by Toxicologist Daan Touw of the University of Groningen, who argued in an interview with Folia magazine that “if you live and eat healthily, you do not need [these pills].” Mucahit Yalanız states that the pills are neither a wonder product, nor a drug, they are not even considered a form of medicine – otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to sell it.
However, “all the ingredients are natural and safe.” Yalanız states, that for developing the pills they looked at cognitive processes, such as where and how concentration and focus take place, and applied ingredients that can improve such processes. He asserts that he has received mostly positive reactions and rejects Trooster’s criticisms. These positive reactions are translating into booming demand for the Braincap pills, with the company reporting they receive more than 50 orders a day. As a result, they have developed a new product and are preparing it for launch, Braincap Nights, to help students with sleeping problems.
UvA falls silent on the issue
Mucahit Yalanız says he cannot understand UvA’s reaction: “I don’t understand why a university removed something that actually helps students, just because somebody who never took the pills himself complained about it.” He is convinced that UvA’s reaction is solely based on the fact that Trooster raised medical attention with this story, which threatened UvA, and he is disappointed that UvA simply removed the pills from the machines without investigating it further. Yalanız expressed his desire to open up a dialogue with the university about the situation, however, after contacting the university, he has received no response. “I hope that UvA will start a conversation with me, not only because we want to get our products back into the machines, but also about the fact that students were happy to have something that could help them to cope with the pressure they have nowadays.”
- Reporter (Fall 2018)