Do nootropics work?

Nootropics have been around for a while now, but there is still some confusion about what they are and what they do. In this blog post, we will discuss the science behind nootropics and answer the question of whether or not they work. We will also take a look at some of the most popular nootropic supplements on the market today. So, if you’re curious about nootropics, read on!

What are nootropics?

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian neuroscientist, coined the term nootropic in 1972. He believed that smart pills should be developed and made available to the general public for the purpose of increasing human intelligence.

Nootropics boost cognition, memory, attention, alertness, concentration, creativity, and attention,” Amira Guirguis of Swansea University in Wales, U.K., a senior lecturer in Pharmacy says. “They were dubbed cognitive enhancers because they enhance how the different cognitive processes in the brain operate and how we process information.”

Today, nootropics raise ethical concerns and scientists and product developers are still looking for medicines that improve the brain in a helpful, sustainable, and safe manner. The nootropics available today have one of three potential drawbacks: questionable effectiveness, the risk of abuse and addiction, or undesirable side effects.

Prescription nootropics

global nootropics market report

One of the most popular categories of nootropics, especially among students and professionals, is “smart” prescription medicines such as stimulants that are believed to improve attention for hours at a time.

According to a study of cognitive enhancers published by Guirguis in the journal Brain Science, methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) and amphetamine-salt-based stimulants like Adderall and Mydayis are the most popular smart drugs. “These prescription medicines are utilized by individuals with cognitive impairments such as ADHD, as well as some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia,” Guirguis explained. Healthy persons sometimes misuse them, though, in order to focus on their job or schoolwork.

A further group of stimulant-based sleep medications is also quite effective. Modafinil (Provigil) is a popular and frequently abused narcolepsy and shift work-related medicine that keeps people awake for long periods of time in healthy individuals.

Nootropics that aren’t made by the same company as Piracetam include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia medications. Donepezil (Aricept), which is used to improve memory, and selegiline (Zelapar), which works as an antidepressant, are two examples of these drugs. Other antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are sometimes referred to as smart pills.

“These medicines work by increasing the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline, which will help with memory,” Guirguis stated. “However, if you think about it, if I intentionally use a large amount of that to improve my mental function, the amount of these neurotransmitters in my brain may cause cognitive deterioration.” This is because the brain becomes accustomed to increased quantities of these neurotransmitters and has trouble readjusting when they are suddenly removed.

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Studies have shown that drug users who regularly take tranquilizers, such as Valium and Ativan, are more likely to abuse other types of drugs. These medications work by lowering the brain’s sensitivity to or reaction to the neurotransmitter GABA — generally to produce a more calm state. Diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan) are examples of these drugs, which are sometimes used as brain boosters but have a more soothing impact that some claim boosts memory.

Safety and risk factors of nootropics

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While prescription stimulants or other medicines may provide you a boost when you need to study or concentrate on a large project at work, it can be hazardous to do so.

“​​If you just take a prescription medicine without any instructions and monitoring from a healthcare professional, and you just start taking it the way you want, it’s gonna cause some harm,” Guirguis said. 

“There is a very high danger of dependence for stimulants, in particular,” Guirguis explained. “You will feel awful if you don’t take the medication; you will want to return and take it again; you would want to take more of it; therefore there is an element of addiction as well.”

Those who take these medications on a regular basis may put their brains at risk of long-term damage. It’s conceivable that continual usage might have significant cumulative effects, given that these medicines are taken while the brain is still developing, as with teenagers.

“I don’t want to use the term brain damage because it’s a scary word, but I’d say there’s a possibility for brain plasticity loss,” Guirguis added. “If you give these medications to healthy growing brains — especially kids— during adolescence or early adulthood, they can lose that flexibility, which might affect learning, cause neurological impairments in areas related to behaviors and addiction.”

Additionally, the potential adverse effects of these medicines when utilized illicitly in normal populations are unknown. According to Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark research, side effects include an increased risk of suicide, psychiatric problems, and heart disease.

Even the most popular nootropics have drawbacks and can result in addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine is used by many to start their days or invigorate their afternoon, but for some, it causes shakiness or anxiety. Nicotine has genuine stimulant effects, yet it has several negative side effects including narrowing of blood vessels that can cause heart problems and difficulties during pregnancy.

Vitamin and mineral pills on the market over-the-counter do not appear to be quite hazardous, but it’s good to double-check that they’re made by a reputable business. According to a 2018 study in the journal Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, supplements themselves are insufficiently regulated, posing the potential for adverse effects or toxicity.

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“Most plants include hundreds and hundreds of phytochemicals — chemicals that may influence our bodies in order to alter our natural processes. And are they ever tested? “No,” Guirguis responded. These phytochemicals can have adverse side effects, including the possibility of interacting with prescription medicines and influencing how they are handled by the body. n”If someone is taking frequent medications for a chronic illness,

If you’re considering using any of these brain booster pills, make sure to read the labels carefully and discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Are nootropics effective?

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There are certain medications that can help people with certain conditions manage their brain problems. Stimulants may be beneficial for those suffering from attention issues, and modafinil is a useful treatment option for those suffering from sleep disorders.

However, the scientific evidence is mixed.

“There’s a lot of placebo effect,” Guirguis added. However, prescription stimulants do appear to improve attention, arousal, wakefulness, learning and memory in many people, she said.

A comprehensive analysis of prescription stimulant efficacy in healthy individuals was published in Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark in 2021. Some research suggests moderate improvements in attention and drowsiness, as well as enhanced confidence, while other evidence suggests that these are more likely to be placebo effects.

The 2011 study in the Psychological Bulletin found that stimulants such as amphetamines enhance learning and memory retention a week after use during a research session. These medications have the ability to “improve learning in ways that may be beneficial in real life.”

On the other hand, supplements and over-the-counter brain boosters are less likely to work. “The evidence of their efficacy, effectiveness and safety is quite limited,” Guirguis said. And that’s why there isn’t sufficient evidence to prescribe them.

According to a 2015 review published in the Canadian Geriatrics Journal, nutrients, dietary supplements, and vitamins had no impact on memory in healthy middle-aged or older people. In certain circumstances, other supplements may exhibit some efficacy, but they require more substantial evidence.

Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages are commonly consumed to wake people up. However, they’re habit-forming and addicting, as is nicotine. While caffeine might sometimes backfire and make users feel more tired, it does help the body stay awake for longer periods of time.

Who takes nootropics and why are they popular?

sports industry

Many individuals desire a better brain at some time, and many people use cognitive enhancers and nootropics to get there.

According to large research published in 2017 in the International Journal of Drug Policy, over 30% of Americans have used prescription stimulants as cognitive enhancers at least once in the previous year — up from 20% in 2015.

Popular culture, such as the film and TV series ‘Limitless,’ may contribute to the popularity of nootropic medicines. The film, which debuted in 2011, was a long-overdue commercial success with Bradley Cooper playing a man who discovers a new smart drug that enables him to live an extremely productive life.

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The movie fueled the bio- and brain-hacking world, which had previously been known only to the tech world’s Silicon Valley. In 2008, TechCrunch dubbed modafinil (Provigil), an anti-sleepiness medicine, as an ideal entrepreneurial drug.

“Modafinil might keep you up for three to four days,” Guirguis said. “It may be seen as a wonderful choice for high-achievers looking to boost productivity and replace sleep with time to work or study,” he added.

Medical experts, such as surgeons and other high-stress professionals like pilots, report that higher rates of smart drugs usage can be found among students at prestigious institutions, highly accomplished individuals, and top performers.

According to the Brain Science review, the military has tested smart drugs on soldiers, giving them modafinil and amphetamines to help them stay awake on assignments.

According to a review in Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark published in 2021, students use smart pills to enhance their brain power, enhance their attention, decrease their stress, optimize their time, extend their waking hours, have more free time, and just because they are curious.

For example, some illegal drugs are “bath salts,” which produce a high similar to kratom. These drugs are popular, perhaps in part, because they are simple to obtain online or through friends who have prescriptions. The real question is whether they work.


Do nootropics work? The answer is that it’s complicated. While there is some evidence to suggest that certain nootropics may improve cognitive function, there is far from a consensus on which ones are effective and safe. In addition, the long-term effects of taking nootropics are largely unknown. If you’re considering taking a nootropic, it’s important to speak with a doctor first to discuss the risks and benefits.


Are nootropics actually effective?

There is some evidence to suggest that certain nootropics may improve cognitive function, but there is far from a consensus on which ones are effective and safe.

How long do the effects of nootropics last?

The long-term effects of taking nootropics are largely unknown.

Are nootropics addictive?

Some people may find that they become habituated or addicted to nootropic drugs, while others will not experience any addiction symptoms. Speak with your doctor if you’re concerned about addiction potential.

Do I need a prescription for nootropics?

In most cases, yes — you’ll need a prescription from a doctor in order to take most nootropic medications. However, there are some over-the-counter supplements that may have mild nootropic effects.

Can I take nootropics if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

There is very little research on the safety of nootropic drugs in pregnant and nursing women. It’s best to avoid taking any medication during pregnancy and nursing, including nootropic drugs, without speaking with your doctor.

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