Should You Use Nootropics and Smart Drugs? (2024 Update)

Nootropics and Smart Drugs

If you are like most people, you would be thrilled to hear about a supplement that promises to enhance mood and brain function, reduce anxiety and inflammation, and increase energy levels- all without side effects- you would want to be the first one in line!

Manufacturers of brain supplements from ginseng to Ginkgo biloba to CBD gummies all make these claims. These are known as nootropics, or “smart drugs”. You can get these “smart drugs” over the counter at your local pharmacy in most cases. However, is there really any truth to what they are claiming?

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are one of the newest categories of supplements available over the counter that are said to improve mood and cognition. These supplements promise to improve memory, enhance mental speed and alertness, reduce brain fog, support a healthy mood, and improve verbal recall without caffeine. They are labeled as dietary supplements and sold under brand names of:

  • Rocket Focus
  • Qualia
  • Alpha Brain

However, you should also be aware that many of the active ingredients are available individually in pill form.

Nootropics are said to affect GABA, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that keeps your anxiety and emotions under control. According to the experts, the more GABA you have in your system, the calmer you are likely to be.

Ingredients Found in “Smart Drugs”

Below, we’ll list some of the ingredients found in these “smart drugs”

Cognitive Enhancers

The ingredients that are believed to enhance cognition include the following:

  • Huperzine A
  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Panax ginseng
  • Rhodiola rosea
  • L-dopa
  • L-theanine
  • Curcumin
  • Lion’s mane mushroom

Chemicals naturally produced in the body and also found in nootropics:

  • Citicoline
  • Taurine
  • Magnesium
  • Tyrosine
  • Alpha-GPC

Synthetic ingredients found in nootropics:

  • Noopept
  • Adrafinil
  • Piracetam

It is important to understand that, while early research indicates that these ingredients are safe and effective, more research is required to confirm these findings.

Supplements and FDA Verification & Approval

When it comes to supplements, it’s important to know that most of the claims made by supplement manufacturers are not verified by the Food & Drug Administration. At this time, there’s not enough information on any of the ingredients besides Ginkgo biloba, which has been around for some time and is one of the most researched supplements related to treating cognitive decline.

Some research indicates that when taken on a regular basis, Ginkgo improved memory and attention of patients who had been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as middle-aged study participants with normal cognitive functioning.

While results are promising, the efficacy of Ginkgo is controversial. Plus, due to the contraindications, you must be careful when you are using it. Anyone that is at an increased risk of strokes or brain bleeds, as well as those who are on blood thinners, should avoid Ginkgo and other natural supplements.

Therefore, it is recommended that before you start taking any smart drug, whether a vitamin, supplement, or stimulant, you should have a conversation with your medical provider regarding the effects of the drug on your personal health status and the medications you are taking. Even if you are healthy with zero issues or medications, it’s important to have this conversation.

CBD & Nootropic Properties

CBD, or cannabidiol, is an ingredient found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. It does not have the same psychoactive properties that THC does. This means that it does not make you feel high, but there is some research that has shown CBD can reduce anxiety and inflammation. More recently, researchers are investigating the use of CBD to treat pain and insomnia as well. In recent years, CBD has surged in popularity and is now available as capsules, edibles, oils, and so much more.

Research shows that CBD products sourced from hemp plants contain lower levels of CBD than CBD products sourced from marijuana plants. It’s important to note that its difficult to extract CBD from the plant without also extracting some of the THC as well. As a buyer, it’s hard to know how much CBD you’re getting in a product or if the recommended dosage is best for your personal needs.

Unfortunately, when it comes to dosing, there are no regulations on CBD. You can request a spectrum analysis from the manufacturer to find out what is in the supplement and many of them actually provide this information on their website. However, there is a lot of information out there and some of it is contradictory, so it can be confusing.

With so much hopeful information out there, many people expect to experience instant effects when taking a supplement for brain health. However, as with most of the other plant-based products, you will need to use it for some time, allowing it to build up in your system, to experience results. This is exceptionally true when you’re taking a product that has been minimally processed.


While a “magic” pill sounds great, actual results require consistent effort. According to experts, you must EARRN your emotional, mental, and physical health. This acronym stands for:

  • Exercise
  • Attitude
  • Rest
  • Recovery
  • Nutrition

When it comes to treatment, your philosophy should be “food first”- meaning you must think about what you’re eating before you add a supplement to your routine. Unless you have a clearly defined deficiency, you won’t really need to add a supplement.

In order to reduce inflammation, you should increase your consumption of foods high in fatty acids and antioxidants, as well as cruciferous foods. Additionally, you may want to consider the FODMAP diet, as well as reducing your consumption of gluten-containing foods and animal products. Experts believe that this may reduce the inflammatory stress response in your body. Plus, it can help with brain fog and fatigue.

In order to improve your mood, consider moderate-intensity exercise. This will release feel-good endorphins to reduce your anxiety. Additionally, get outside in the natural sunlight to get a boost of vitamin D. this will reduce symptoms of depression. Plus, getting out and socializing, as well as challenging yourself with new hobbies and other experiences can keep your mind sharp.

That being said, there are some people who can benefit from using supplements. If you are considering adding a nootropic to your healthy lifestyle, make sure to consult with your own medical provider or a dietitian/nutritionist. They can help you focus on holistic, whole-food options to help with your health goals, as well as reduce your dependence on synthetic ingredients.


“Ginkgo Biloba Uses, Side Effects & Warnings.”,

Harris, Dorothy. “What Is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)?” CNBS,

Healthline’s Medical Network. “What Does Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Do?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 26 Oct. 2018,

Mayo Clinic. “Alzheimer’s Disease – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 26 June 2021,

National Institute on Aging. “What Is Dementia? Symptoms, Types, and Diagnosis.” National Institute on Aging, 2021,

“Nootropics | Psychology Today.”,

“Spectrum Analysis – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.”, Accessed 15 May 2024.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page.”, 2021,

WebMD. “Cannabidiol (Cbd): Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.”, 2019,

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