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Smart Drugs, Bad Decision? A Look at Nootropics

Smart Drugs, Bad Decision? A Look at Nootropics

If you could take a pill once a day that would make you smarter and boost your memory, would you?

While it sounds like the work of science fiction, there may be some truth behind this claim. Unfortunately, there may also be some unforeseen risks.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics, also nicknamed smart drugs or cognitive enhancers, are a group of drugs and supplements that are thought to improve cognitive functioning and support brain health. Depending on the specific drug, nootropics are thought to improve memory, counteract cognitive decline, and improve focus, among a variety of other benefits for the brain and cognition. The term is also sometimes used to refer to dietary substances. There are both prescription and over-the-counter nootropics. People of all ages take nootropics; you may have even taken one of these substances without realizing it.

Examples of nootropics include:

  • Caffeine pills
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • L-theanine
  • Racetams
  • Creatine
  • Donepezil
  • Axura
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • & many more

Are Nootropics Effective?

Some of these drugs are prescribed and used to treat conditions affecting the brain such as ADHD and dementia. Other smart drugs are supplements that people buy over the counter and take at their own discretion. Because of this wide disparity, the effectiveness of smart drugs is hard to define.

Prescription nootropics that are prescribed by a doctor to treat people with specific conditions are generally effective and have been well-researched. The efficacy of over-the-counter smart drug supplements that anyone can buy is not well-known. There is little evidence to show that these drugs are effective, but there is also little research on the topic overall. Doctors are torn on the topic as some believe nootropics could be beneficial to some degree while others fear there could be unforeseen side effects.

The Negative Effects of Nootropics

All drugs come with side effects that will vary from individual to individual. While not all nootropics have been extensively studied, there are some nootropic side effects that people should be aware of.

Prescription nootropics like Ritalin and Adderall can have some side effects like anxiety, stomach pain, nausea, and sleep pain, but they also have the propensity for abuse. Students looking to study and adults looking to get ahead at work will sometimes take these drugs to help them focus. Unfortunately, continued abuse can lead to addiction and a variety of secondary problems that come with substance abuse. If you or someone you know has become addicted to these drugs, a prescription drug detox and treatment program could help before matters get worse.

Smart drug side effects for over-the-counter supplements is largely under researched and, because of their newer appearance on the market, long-term effects are mostly unknown. Some people worry that some nootropic supplements could have unforeseen side effects. A series of case studies involving these drugs found that they could have adverse effects like sudden psychiatric symptoms for people with a history of mental illness or substances abuse, especially cannabis.1 Substance abuse and mental health are often intertwined, and sometimes certain drug use can trigger underlying mental health problems and make them worse. When this is the case, dual diagnosis treatment is usually necessary to help the individual with both conditions. While the case study is limited, it suggests that there may be a connection between smart drugs and adverse mental health effects.

Like with any drugs, you need to be careful with what you put in your body. Especially when drugs and substances interact, there could be negative side effects or problems.

At our residential rehab in Stuart, we help people just like you stop abusing substances and work towards long-term sobriety. If you or someone you know is abusing substances of any kind, you should get help. Long-term abuse could lead to serious side effects for both physical and mental health.

To get more details about our various programs or to speak with an intake counselor about yourself or a loved one, call us today at 888-280-4763.


  1. NCBI - Probable Nootropicinduced Psychiatric Adverse Effects: A Series of Four Cases
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Smart Drugs, Bad Decision? A Look at Nootropics
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