The legal status of Nootropic supplements can be very confusing since there are over a hundred unique natural, herbal, synthetic or semi-synthetic substances available promoting to enhance cognitive performance, memory and mood additionally having varying definitions of what they are.
For starters, most Nootropics you encounter daily are legal to use in most countries. The exceptions will be listed below country by country as of date. The stricter rules mostly apply to the marketing, selling and importation of Nootropics, targeted at retailers and suppliers.
Generally, the main reason for most of the confusion is that almost all substances including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, some herbal supplements derived from plants, prescription drugs or non-prescription drugs that may have a positive effect on brain function are “grouped” together and called Nootropics.
Specifically, the terms “smart drugs” or “smart pills” used to refer to non-scheduled substances or drugs made in a lab believed to enhance a person’s focus, memory or general cognitive functions can get bundled together with prescription medications such as Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil which are all controlled substances used to treat medical conditions such as ADHD and sleeping disorders.
The second point of confusion are the international laws in regards to synthetic or in some cases semi-synthetic Nootropics.
Some of these substances are banned in certain countries while in other countries these same substances are available and approved to be sold without a prescription.
While the majority of Nootropic supplements fall under the category of nature-based or nutritional substances, most are fully legal to buy, use and possess.
However, with over 100 compounds, substances or chemicals that fall under the “Nootropic” umbrella, it can perhaps become very confusing to consumers as to what is permissible to buy, use, possess or import when you are considering purchasing these highly effective cognitive enhancers. We will try and clear up the small group of exceptions where there are restrictions depending on the country you live in.
The laws in regards to Nootropics can change frequently and it is always a good idea to check the current laws in your country. Below serves only as an informational, general guideline on how Nootropic laws may affect you and is not intended as an extensive review on Nootropic laws in each country.
Do Nootropics Require a Prescription to Buy?
In general, most Nootropics do not require a prescription to buy at this time. Excluding vitamins, minerals, some herbals or amino acids, there are some exceptions that do have buying and importing restrictions in certain countries.
For starters, it is important to note that some Nootropics are classified as research substances or chemicals and are not formally recognized as an official class of drugs by controlling bodies such as the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), Health Canada, TGA (Therapeutic Goods Agency), MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) and others.
Although they are legal in most countries with a few exceptions, they cannot be sold as dietary supplements or marketed in the way most traditional supplements normally are.
This is why in the US, you won’t find highly popular Nootropics such as Piracetam sold online in major marketplaces such as Ebay or Amazon but can be purchased through companies providing you agree to their terms of service.
In addition, some of the most popular and widely used Nootropics to date such as the Racetam class including Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam, Coluracetam and related Noopept can be tricky and legally complicated in foreign countries (outside the US) where some are considered prescription drugs while others are not.
In some countries it may be legal to import prescription drugs for personal use providing you have a valid prescription where in other countries it is not permitted.
This makes it important to additionally check the laws in other countries if you are travelling with certain Nootropics before going through customs at your destination.
Are Nootropics Legal Around the World
Australia & Nootropics
In Australia, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) branch of the Department of Health is the regulatory agency for prescription medications and over the counter medicines.
Within Australia, Nootropic drugs such as Piracetam (regulated on a special list) requires a prescription to purchase within the country. However, it can be imported from outside suppliers in amounts considered for personal use (up to 3 mths supply) once you have a prescription.
Piracetam has been referred to in Nootropic communities as “a poison” grouping it with substances like cocaine or MDMA but it is actually a Schedule 4 prescription medicine (Nootropil) in Australia. It is also generally considered less toxic than even table salt.
Racetams in general should not be sold within Australia due to a lack of proper regulatory coding and cannot be sold as medicines within the country but most other Racetams such as Pramiracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Coluracetam and Noopept are allowed to be purchased, possessed and imported without a prescription in amounts considered for personal use (up to a 3 months supply).
In addition, Modafinil and Adrafinil are schedule 4 substances in Australia, which means they require a prescription to purchase within the country. If you are importing them from outside suppliers, it can only be in amounts considered for personal use (up to 3 months supply) and requires a valid prescription.
Although it is legal to import prescription only medications purchased from outside sources, the TGA recommends you provide a copy of the valid prescription to the seller to be included in your package.
Phenibut is a schedule 9 prohibited substance that cannot be sold legally in the country and importing this Nootropic can be seized at customs or likely will be.
Canada & Nootropics
In Canada, popular Nootropics such as Racetams (Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam, Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam and related Noopept) have not been assigned a DIN (Drug Identification Number) by Health Canada, which means they cannot be sold commercially in Canada.
However, Canadians are permitted to purchase, possess and import Racetams in amounts considered for personal use (3 months supply or less). They are not allowed to be imported for distribution or commercial purposes. It has been reported in forums such as Longecity that importing from overseas may result in packages being seized by customs so it is probably best to order from US suppliers.
All popular herbal Nootropics such as Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri, Vinpocetine, Huperzine A and others including Alpha GPC, Citicoline (CDP Choline) are all permitted to buy, consume or import into Canada.
Modafinil (or Provigil), Armodafinil (or Nuvigil), Adderall, Ritalin and other “smart drugs” require a prescription to buy within Canada. Most prescription drugs cannot be imported into Canada from international sources by mail or courier which is established in The Administration of Health Canada Acts and Regulations Relating to Certain Controlled, Prohibited or Regulated Goods.
The United States & Nootropics
In the United States almost all Nootropics, including the Racetam class of Nootropics (Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam, Coluracetam related Noopept and others) are legal to buy, consume and own with no restrictions on the amounts providing they are purchased domestically.
Nootropics that are not vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids or antioxidants cannot be marketed as anything else other than research compounds, for example Piracetam is permitted to purchase and import in the USA for personal use but it cannot be sold as a dietary supplements within the US.
Modafinil, related Armodafinil and “smart drugs” like Adderall are controlled substances within the USA and require a prescription to purchase.
If you are importing Nootropics (defined by customs) from overseas, you can only buy and import up to a 3 months supply or less at a time. However, this is unclear since there are no established dosages or indicated monthly supply amounts. To avoid the potential of customs seizing your package, it is a good idea to order from websites within the USA or order from abroad within reasonable quantities.
China & Nootropics
The CFDA (The China Food & Drug Administration) is the agency that regulates food and prescription drugs. China is the home of the largest Nootropic Drug dispensary in the world and imposes high quality control standards on these products and other drugs.
This makes it easy for Nootropic users (other than in Hong Kong) to purchase most of these substances without the need for prescriptions.
In China, Piracetam and other racetams are sold over the counter in most pharmacies. Smart drugs such as Modafinil are tightly controlled in China and this substance is not found readily in drugstores. Its closest alternative, Adrafinil is not regulated in China but may be a little hard to access.
Huperzine A was originally developed in China and is sold both over the counter and as a prescription medicine in this country where it is used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The United Kingdom & Nootropics
In the United Kingdom, the MHRA (The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) is the executive agency responsible for regulating medicines.
Piracetam is a prescription only medication (POM) in The United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, there are strict laws on suppliers in the UK which led to many Nootropic vendors playing it safe and halting the sale of all additional Racetams locally.
This is due to the psychoactive substance act in the UK which was a law that was passed in 2016 prohibiting the import, export, supply or production of most substances that are considered capable of having a psychoactive effect by stimulating or depressing the central nervous system. This means substances that affect mental functioning and/or emotional states.
We have not found a definite list of Nootropic drugs that fall under this law. Popular Racetams such as Oxiracetam, Aniracetam and Pramiracetam are not regulated as medications in the UK thus far but since they are closely related to Piracetam, you may have difficulty buying them for personal use from outside sources and importing them. They have never been allowed to be imported for commercial use or distribution.
Both Modafinil (or brand name Provigil) and Armodafinil (or brand name Nuvigil) are POMs (prescription only medications) in the United Kingdom. You will need a prescription to buy these drug within the UK.
The UK allows for herbal supplements, vitamins, aminos and antioxidants with Nootropic properties to be sold without a prescription providing there is accurate and non misleading labeling. These Nootropics are not affected by the new law.
Brazil & Nootropics
In Brazil, the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) is the regulatory agency responsible for the approval of food supply & pharmaceuticals and their policies require that most drugs and/or psychoactive medicines sold within the country can only be available by prescription.
This means Nootropics in Brazil including all Racetams, Sulbutiamine, Vinpocetine, Ginkgo Biloba, Citicoline are considered “red stripe medicines or red stripe psychoactive medicines” and all require a prescription to purchase within the country. Importing these Nootropics from sources outside the country for personal use are likely to be seized in customs.
Available information on buying and importing other Nootropics to Brazil is very slim. Most reports by users suggest that orders can take a long time to receive if they are not held by customs altogether.
France & Nootropics
In France the ANSM (National Agency for the Safety of Medicine and Health Products) is the regulatory authority in charge of the safety of drugs. Prescription drugs are listed as “Ordonnances”which include Piracetam (Nootropil) and Vinpocetine which means you need a prescription to legally purchase these in France.
Other related Racetams such Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam, Noopept and many other popular Nootropics all appear to be permitted to buy and import in amounts considered for personal use (3 months supply or less).
Germany & Nootropics
In Germany, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) regulates the licencing and registration of finished medicinal products. The laws are strict in regards to importing non-officially approved Nootropic drugs from other countries, which in Germany are considered recreational substances.
Within the country, the potential approval of a Nootropic is based on its medicinal value. Piracetam is a medicine in Germany and requires a prescription to purchase legally, it is also not allowed to be imported. Other Racetams such as Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam and others are not regulated but may be difficult to import even in amounts considered for personal use.
Scientists in Germany lead in the research on Gingko Biloba, an herbal supplement that is readily available over the counter in most countries and widely used around the world. In Germany, it is a prescription medication used in the treatment of cardiovascular issues.
Russia & Nootropics
In Russia The Ministry of Healthcare (Minzdrav) is the executive body responsible for regulating pharmaceutical drugs. Some of the worlds most advanced research on Nootropics comes from this country which highly supports their development and promotion, making legal access to most of these substances within the country fairly easy.
Many physicians in Russia and Eastern Europe commonly prescribed Nootropics even though they can be purchased over the counter. However, the prescription status can differ depending on the brand name.
Nootropics like Piracetam (substance name) which originates from Russia, is sold over the counter but Nootropil the trademarked version for Piracetam requires a prescription to legally purchase. The same situation applies for Phenylpiracetam (a phenylated analog of Piracetam) under the brand names Carphedon and Phenotropil.
Japan & Nootropics
In Japan, The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices agency (PMDA) is the regulatory authority on the safety of drugs and medical products. Both highly popular Citicoline (CDP Choline) and Sulbutiamine, a Vitamin B1 derivative originate from this country.
Although over the counter access to Nootropics in Japan seems to be slowly increasing, they have very strict rules in regards to the importation of unapproved substances by mail or in person.
Piracetam, Vinpocetine and Sulbutiamine all require prescriptions to legally purchase in Japan. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin appear to have a zero tolerance policy in regards to importing these drugs into the country.Additionally, stimulant-like Modafinil also falls into these rules but can be legally purchased in Japan providing you have a prescription.
European Union (Others) & Nootropics
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the evaluation of medicinal products in the European Union. The qualification of drugs can be vastly different by individual governments so we will provide general information on which Nootropics are legal and those that do require a prescription to purchase.
We will continue to update this article as we are able to source information on the legality of Nootropics in other specific countries in the EU.
The legal status of Piracetam varies from country to country in the European Union. In the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Belgium (available under brand name Nootropil), it is permitted to buy and use and does not require a prescription.
In other countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, Poland (Nootropil & Memotropil), Italy, Finland, Spain (Nootropyl), Switzerland and Sweden, Piracetam is a prescription medication.
Similar to Huperzine A, Vinpocetine is observed as both a natural herb and drug however, in most countries in the EU it is sold under the brand name Cavinton and is considered a drug which requires a prescription to purchase.
In addition, you will need a prescription to buy and use Citicoline (CDP Choline) throughout Europe but it is a popular choline source and fully legal to purchase without a prescription in many countries outside Europe.
Nootropics: Legal Vs Regulated
In US law, legal and regulated have different meanings. The general guideline for a Nootropic is whether it is a scheduled or controlled substance (the control of the drugs use) which determines it’s legal status.
Controlled substances are prescription drugs and ranked under groups called “schedules”. Most Nootropics are not scheduled and therefore not controlled substances in the USA such as Aniracetam, Piracetam, Oxiracetam, Noopept, CDP Choline, Phenibut and almost all others.
This means they are legal to buy, possess and use. However, they are not approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), whom regulates drugs and other chemical products for medical or dietary uses and they would require going through the regulatory processes in order to be approved.
“Nootropic products” and their regulatory status as a whole can fall under several categories depending on what they are regarded as such as herbs and herbal extracts, dietary nutrients or synthetics (synthesized in a lab).
In some cases certain supplements are considered food-related products or supplements which do not require regulation but their safety standards regarding expiration, purity etc must be followed by manufacturers. Others may fall under nutritional supplements and/or prescription medications which do qualify for regulation but only in relation to their quality assurance procedures and methodologies.
Finally, some are regarded as prescription medications or orphan drugs (synthetics) but are not regulated in terms of their possession which is the situation that many Nootropics fall under.
Which Nootropics Are Illegal To Use?
There are some Nootropics or “smart drugs” that are illegal to purchase and use without a prescription from a doctor such as Modafinil, Armodafinil, Adderall which are scheduled drugs in the USA.
However, their status can vary in different countries which may result in purchase availability from international pharmacies but this does not mean that they are legal to use or import into your country.
Substances, including those that require prescriptions in certain countries fall under the jurisdiction of the country in which they “land”. While some countries allow for prescription only medications to be imported providing you have a prescription, some countries do not and can seize the product at customs. If you do not have a prescription altogether, it is possible that there can be legal consequences.
In addition, there are Nootropics that are illegal to use in professional sports. If you are a professional athlete or planning on competing in sport competitions, Phenylpiracetam, Adrafinil, Modafinil, Selegiline and others have all been banned by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). You can find the full updated list of prohibited substances on their official website.
In conclusion, there are variety of powerful Nootropic supplements that you can buy, possess and use without legal concerns depending on the country you live in.
If you did not find your country in this article, regulations or policies were not clear to us but sharing information in the comments below for fellow readers is always welcomed and we will continue to update this post.
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