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What are Nootropics? A Nootropics FAQ

Nootropics FAQ

Nootropics are taking the health and wellness spotlight in a big way, but users need to answer a few important questions before jumping on the nootropics bandwagon. We’ve put together this convenient nootropics FAQ to get you prepped and ready to decide whether nootropic supplements are right for you.

So without further ado, let’s get into it and answer all your questions about this exciting class of health and wellness tools!

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are a broad category of drugs, supplements, herbs, and other substances that improve cognitive/mental performance — sometimes known as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers”. Nootropics may have various effects; the most common include benefits to energy, memory, attention, focus, and/or executive function (decision making in pursuit of a goal).

It is important to note that many substances marketed as nootropics are currently unregulated. Users should be cautious when considering a nootropic and should always do research to ensure that their ingredients are safe and supported by research. Unfortunately, several nootropics manufacturers using unapproved drugs or mislabeling their products. As always when shopping for your health and wellness, be sure only to buy from reputable vendors.

What are “Natural Nootropics”? Are They Different From Other Nootropics?

Nootropics are a very broad class of wellness tools. Some are natural herbal extracts or are otherwise made from pure plant material. Such unmodified plant-based based nootropics are known as “natural nootropics”.

On the other hand, many of the more (in)famous nootropic supplements are synthetic drugs — that is, they are created by processing and combining man-made chemicals or by chemically altering natural ones.

The health and wellness community generally advocates the use of natural nootropic supplements rather than synthetic ones. Typically, natural nootropics have a longer history of use and research, which is a stronger indicator of both effectiveness and safety. By contrast, synthetic nootropics tend to be newer, unproven, and with less research to back their safety and effectiveness.

Are Nootropics Legal?

Yes, most natural nootropics are legal in the US. In fact, many nootropic supplements are widely available as over-the-counter products with no prescription needed.

However, many other nootropics (especially synthetic nootropics) are highly regulated or even prohibited. Depending on the jurisdiction, it may be difficult or impossible to secure a prescription for such nootropic drugs.

See our list of the most common nootropics below for examples of both categories.

What are the Most Common Nootropics?

Although the term “nootropic” is only recently gaining popularity, many nootropic substances have been regularly used for centuries. Some of the most common and popular nootropics include:

  • Caffeine: a natural nootropic found in coffee and tea that increases alertness, attention, and reaction times. Caffeine is arguably the most widely-used nootropic in America, thanks to the US’s love affair with coffee.
  • L-theanine: an amino acid and natural nootropic found in many teas. L-theanine promotes a sense of calm and may be linked to increased creativity. Its effects are enhanced when taken together with caffeine (also present in many teas).
  • Ginkgo Biloba: one of the most well-known natural nootropics, Ginkgo Biloba has been linked to improved memory, mental processing, and ability to adapt to stressful situations. These effects are well-supported by many studies, but further research is required to determine the extent of its impact.

While the above natural nootropics are widely available and are generally proved safe for daily use, that is not the case with all common nootropics. Prohibited or restricted nootropics include:

  • Nicotine: a naturally occurring chemical found in tobacco. Multiple studies have shown that nicotine can boost alertness, attention, and motor function. However, nicotine is highly addictive and severely toxic in high doses.
  • Amphetamines (Adderall): a highly restricted synthetic drug, Adderall is commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. It has been shown to increase attention and energy levels in otherwise healthy adults, but high doses can cause long-term harm.
  • Modafinil (Provigil): another highly-restricted synthetic nootropic, Modafinil is commonly prescribed to improve energy levels and reduce drowsiness. Modafinil is particularly effective for sleep-deprived individuals.

Is Kratom a Nootropic?

Kratom is a potent ethnobotanical with a long history of use for a variety of purposes. Depending on the kratom strain and dosage in question, kratom users report a wide variety of effects, many of which kratom shares with some of the most common nootropics. These include boosted energy and attention levels, reduced anxiety, and improved focus.

However, official kratom research is still in the early stages. More studies must be completed before we can conclusively determine whether kratom is a nootropic.

In the meantime, however, the wealth of anecdotal accounts strongly suggest that properly-dosed kratom can fulfill many of the same roles as other natural nootropics.

As always when buying kratom, it’s essential to shop only with reputable vendors like Kratom Spot, who can prove the purity, potency, and safety of their products with independent lab results. It’s the only way to ensure you’ll get a safe and effective natural nootropic kratom experience.

Note: many Kratom Spot users report a positive nootropic experience with very small doses of kratom. For more on this, see our in-depth guide to microdosing kratom.

What is “Nootropic Stacking”?

Nootropic stacking is the practice of simultaneously using a number of different nootropic supplements with complementary effects. For instance, a user might take a creativity-boosting nootropic alongside an energy-boosting nootropic in hopes of achieving both the drive and the inspiration for a lengthy creative session.

Proponents of nootropic stacking argue that the practice can dramatically improve the results of nootropic use and offer greater clarity, energy, and drive than a single nootropic alone.

However, mixing substances can come with additional risks. If you are considering nootropic stacking, it is important to consult a healthcare professional to ensure that the mixture of nootropic supplements will not cause adverse reactions.

Are Nootropics Psychoactive?

Yes, but the term “psychoactive” is frequently misunderstood.

Many users believe that psychoactive substances will get you high, cause hallucinations, or otherwise intoxicate you. However, that is not an accurate definition.

Psychoactive substances are any that can affect the mind, whether by intoxicating users, increasing their attention span, or any other mental effects.

Because nootropics are used to improve focus, mood, energy, creativity, or attention (all of which have to do with the mind), they are, by definition, psychoactive. However, these effects may be precisely the opposite of the intoxicating high that users often associate with psychoactivity.

Note that some nootropics may cause impairment with improper dosage. Always be sure to take nootropic substances as directed, and consider reaching out to a physician to clear up any questions about proper use.

Do Nootropics Show Up on a Drug Test?

Depending on the nootropic in question, it may show up on a drug test. While most natural nootropics will not show up on a drug test, many synthetic nootropics will.

Most standard drug tests are looking for synthetic or processed drugs (like cocaine, PCP, amphetamines, opiates, and THC) or their metabolites. Most common natural nootropics are completely legal and will not show up on such tests. More regulated nootropics, such as Adderall, are very likely to trigger a positive on such a test.

If you are considering using kratom for its potential nootropic benefits, note that kratom does not show up on standard drug tests. Depending on the testing agency, however, they might possibly be testing for kratom alkaloids. If you are in doubt, it is best to contact the testing agency to see if kratom is allowed.

Nootropics FAQ Wrap-Up!

That’s it for our nootropics FAQ. We hope it’s helped you get a better handle on nootropics and how they can work to improve cognitive performance.

Didn’t see your question answered here? Reach out and let us know, and we’ll be happy to add your questions to our nootropics FAQ!