Nootropics are a class of supplements and nutraceuticals that are also known as cognitive enhancers, brain supplements, brain boosters or smart drugs that are growing enormously popular as the demand for substances to enhance mental performance such as memory, focus, concentration, brainpower and even mood grows worldwide. Their effectiveness has generally been made quite clear but are Nootropics safe to use and what are their potential side effects?
In the early 1970’s, Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, the founding father of these compounds originally set the lesser known qualifications for what are known today as Nootropics stating they must be very safe and non-toxic to the human brain even considering the protection and promotion of brain health.
Since than there has been a substantial amount of progress in this field including ongoing research into the potential clinical uses of certain Nootropics and how they may help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, ADHD, post stroke recovery and even cognitive decline due to aging.
As brain enhancing supplements, we are excluding medications that are referred to as “smart drugs” like Adderall and Ritalin that are known to improve cognitive functions under certain conditions but would not match the original criteria of Nootropic drugs.
Some of the most commonly used Nootropics to date have been extensively researched with hundreds of research studies backing their general safety when used responsibly by adults however, some are newer and comparably untested.
Over decades, mainstream use of this class of supplements has grown rapidly. Students, business persons, shift workers, truckers, athletes and many others looking for maximum peak mental performance, increased productivity levels or a “limitless mind” are turning to Nootropics and creating the demand.
Since the 70’s, the Nootropic supplement market has seen a continuous growing range of substances and compounds from herbal Nootropics made from plant ingredients or extracts, used historically for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic healing systems (Hindu system of medicine) to a smaller group of powerful synthetic Nootropics that work within your brains natural chemistry but the question remains are Nootropics safe to use?
Nootropics Safety Overview
Most research indicates that the commonly used Nootropics are generally safe and well tolerated for adult use when taken responsibly. Some Nootropics have even proven to act as neuroprotectants, shielding the brain from potential damage caused by factors such as oxidative stress, inflammation, excitotoxicity and even aging.
Furthermore, apart from prescription “smart drugs” in the world of Nootropics, most are considered to have a low risk of adverse side effects, are non-addictive and are generally not known to cause physical symptoms of withdrawal after discontinuing use (other than potentially Phenibut and Sulbutiamine when taken frequently and/or in extremely high doses). Some Nootropics may even create long-term benefits for the brain after terminating use.
However, it is important to note that there are over 100 compounds or substances with their own unique mechanisms of action and therefore their own safety profiles under the Nootropic supplement umbrella with over 7 billion people in the world.
Individual factors and usage such as age, pre-existing health conditions, current use of medications, individual body chemistry and importantly dosage and frequency of use, all play a role in the safety and efficacy of Nootropics and it would be a disservice to claim that all Nootropics are safe or right for everyone.
Additionally, there is a large variety of powerful Nootropics offering varied benefits such as improving mood, reducing anxiety, boosting energy levels, enhancing memory and overall cognitive function that are used by thousands or even millions of people safely and effectively while for others they can pose considerable risks of side effects and long-term complications.
This is why it is important to best familiarize yourself first with Nootropic supplements, consider the safety factors, potential side effects and advisably consult with a healthcare professional before starting a supplementation regimen.
Individual Factors & Circumstances
There are a few very important individual factors and current circumstances to take into consideration prior to starting any supplementation routine.
A large portion of Nootropic users are typically young adults but some research cautions that there is a greater safety risk when using these substances when you are younger than 25.
Most experts suggest that the human brain is not fully developed until our mid 20’s, specifically the area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex which is involved in the management of complex processes like logical thinking, problem solving, planning, attention, social behavior and the development of personality.
While popular Nootropics such as Aniracetam, Noopept or Phenylpiracetam promote enhanced cognitive functions like focus, concentration, clarity of thought, learning capacity, memory and even heightened energy levels, they work by modulating brain chemicals.
Although this has not been undoubtedly proven, it is largely believed that using Nootropic drugs under the age of 25 disrupts the natural balance of these chemicals which may affect the proper development of the prefrontal cortex and lead to long-term negative effects on cognitive and emotional functions.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
People diagnosed with or have a predisposition to medical conditions such as cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, liver or kidney diseases should take extreme care before using Nootropics.
Nootropics often have stimulant-like properties which means they can increase heart rate and blood pressure, posing serious health risks for people with cardiovascular problems.
Additionally, some Nootropics like Noopept have shown to alter glucose levels and caution should be taken for individuals with diabetes. Other Nootropics such as Adrafinil are processed in the liver which presents serious risks for people with liver conditions.
It is always recommended to consult a medical professional first before starting a supplementation regimen to ensure that a compound or substance is safe for you, especially when you have a medical condition.
Combining Medications & Drugs with Nootropics
Nootropics are potent substances that work through several systems and organs in the body. While these substances are often safely taken in combination together or what are referred to as “stacks” in order to achieve synergistic effects, combining these types of supplements with certain prescription medications you are already taking can have negative interactions and can be very dangerous or even deadly when taken together.
Even over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol can have adverse interactions with certain Nootropics. It is very important to do your research first and be aware of the possible contraindications and interactions with pharmaceutical drugs before considering using Nootropics and consult with a medical doctor first, especially when you are currently taking medications to ensure the substance is safe for you.
Nootropic Types & Usage Influencing Safety
Nootropics can provide substantial boosts in cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, alertness, an enhanced ability to focus, learn, mentally perform and even boost mood but they each have their own unique mechanisms of action, working within a persons individual body chemistry.
This means there can always be an element of risk when introducing the body to a new substance and what may be well tolerated and be completely safe for one person may not apply for another.
While most Nootropics are considered to have low risk of negative effects or serious long-term effects when used responsibly, the type of Nootropic and how you are using it can play an important role in its effectiveness and safety. Consulting with a medical professional first and being aware of these factors may also serve to avoid or lessen the risks.
Researched Backed Nootropics
Some of these substances have been around for centuries and have a substantial amount of scientific studies backing their safety, while others are newer substances on the market and comparably have very few, if any studies ensuring their safety or long-term effects.
In the same way that it is very important to do your research on a particular Nootropic you are considering taking including potential side effects, how it may impact your body and/or brain, possible interactions with medications and so forth, choosing Nootropics that have years of backed research as opposed to those that have limited research can serve to potentially lower the risk of harmful long-term problems.
Recommended Dosages & Frequency of Use
Although most Nootropics are considered very safe for short-term use and non-toxic tools to help enhance mental performance and mood when they are taken within the recommended dosage and usage guidelines, using these types of supplements for extended periods of time without breaks and/or taking larger than normal amounts can raise the risk of unwanted side effects and serious complications.
While it is noted that most will experience no issues or limited, if any side effects when taking Nootropics properly, they work within our individual body chemistry and they all have potential side effects such as headaches, dizziness, elevation of blood pressure, changes in blood glucose levels, rashes which can occur, especially when taking excessive amounts.
In addition, most of these compounds work by modulating neurotransmitters and their receptors, although others may work as anti-oxidants or cerebral circulation boosters and continuous prolonged use or exceeding the recommended dosages when attempting to alter brain chemistry raises the risk of serious complications that can even lead to cognitive deficits.
Staying within the recommended dosage guidelines, following the suggested cycling recommendations and using them on an occasional basis or as needed for a cognitive boost is considered the safest course of action and the most effective.
Tolerance occurs when the body gets used to a substance from consistent or long-term daily use and becomes less responsive, raising the temptation to take larger or more frequent doses of a Nootropic to achieve the desired effects which is never recommended.
Although tolerance is not the same as dependence or addiction, developing tolerance is a possibility depending on the Nootropic and taking excessive doses to compensate can be toxic to your brain and even dangerous.
Taking these types of supplements occasionally rather than regularly or cycling (on for a few days or weeks than off for a period of time before reusing it) is the best way to avoid this possibility and to experience the original optimal results.
Nootropics are powerful tools for enhancing memory, overall cognitive function, mood and energy levels and most are considered generally safe for adult use with limited adverse side effects, if any, providing you use them safely. Using Nootropics in higher dosages than recommended not only has shown to provide less benefits but can produce unwanted negative effects.
Although there is always some risk associated with taking compounds or substances when pursuing manipulation of your own biochemistry, being aware of the potential side effects, possible interactions, contraindications prior to using Nootropic supplements and following dosage and usage recommendations are very important steps to using them as safely as possible.
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