Nootropics: What are They?

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Imagine getting news as a student studying for your final papers about a drug that could boost your brain’s performance? What would you do? Most likely run down the streets to the nearest pharmacy to get the drugs and use them. Well, this was a similar situation sometime in 2019. Word went out about this drug, hiking its sales.

In fact, a study done in January 2019 showed that the industry which was worth about $1.3 billion in 2017,  and set to experience strong growth through 2024 to become a $5.9 billion market.

Chances are you have been hearing the word ‘Nootropics’. So what does this mean? What is this drug? Can you actually pop a pill and get smarter? Well, get a nice chair, and sit down, you are about to get the full details.

History of Nootropics

Nootropic is a complex word formed from the combination of two words. ‘Nous’ is Greek for the mind, and ‘tropein’ is Greek for bend or turn. This is roughly translated as ‘bend the mind’.

Originally, the word was used to define chemicals that had a specific function of enhancing mental abilities. Now the term defines any substance (natural or synthetic) which improves cognitive functions.

An experiment done in the lab in 1969 with a scientist; Corneliu Giurgea and his team led to the discovery of the first nootropic called piracetam. He noticed that this particular compound produced some unusual results, including having no toxicity and very few side effects. The first human trial showed improved memory, heightened cognition under stress, and other results that impressed the scientists. This led to an in-depth study on this compound.

What are nootropics?

Nootropics are also called smart drugs. They are a class of substances that improve the cognition of the brain. They include drugs, supplements, and related substances that enhance memory. Nootropics can be natural or synthetic (produced in a lab).


Profile of head with glowing brain and brainstem

Classifications of Nootropics 

  • Prescribed
  • Non-prescribed ( over-the-counter)

Prescribed nootropics have stimulant effects and medical practitioners give them as medication to people who suffer from; ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, Narcolepsy, or dementia.

Examples of prescribed nootropics include;

  • Adderall for patients with ADHD
  • Memantine for patients with Alzheimer's
  • Modafinil handles narcolepsy and its associated drowsiness. It also handles sleep apnea.
  • Methylphenidate to manage both ADHD and Narcolepsy.

Like all drugs, these also have various side effects so people should only take them under prescription. Some of the side effects associated with this drug include;

  • High blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, insomnia, blurry visions, circulation issues, headaches, etc.

The side effects might be discouraging for patients, but there’s nothing to worry about, a doctor would be able to guide you safely through the use of these drugs.

Non-prescribed nootropics are got over-the-counter without a doctor’s prescription. Here are some non-prescribed nootropics;


Yes, you most likely have taken nootropics. Remember how people used to prescribe coffee when you needed to stay awake at night and do some reading? They actually had scientific backup.

Several beverages including coffee and tea all contain caffeine. In moderate quantities, caffeine has some positive effects on the body system. The problem surfaces by excessive consumption. According to the FDA, anything above 400mg of caffeine in a day is excess. Abusing the dosage has critical effects like, overdose, risk of pregnancy loss for pregnant women, and even death.


This substance is in black and green tea. A study in 2016, showed that L-theanine had the capability of heightening the alpha brain wave which will cause an alert and relaxed mental state.


These are synthetic compounds affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. In the Racetam class, we have piracetam, pramiracetam, aniracetam and phenylpiracetam.

Ginkgo Biloba:

This is an Asian herbal supplement. It is a tree that grows in China, Japan, and Korea. Research between a group that consumed the supplement for months and another group that did not, showed that the herb is essential for improving brain function.

CDP Choline:

This is famous in Europe as a drug. It improves memory in dementia patients.

While these supplements are great for singular use, a combination of two or more might not be the best choice, for example what is found in KINETIQ Renew

Who uses nootropics?

 Women Studying in library

  • Students: To improve memory retention, and improve cognition in the midst of stress.
  • Patients: Doctors prescribe nootropics for patients with Alzheimer’s, ADHD, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other mental illnesses.
  • Athletes: To improve focus, increase energy, and manage reactions due to tension.
  • Artists, writers, and other creatives: To improve creativity, focus and work capacity, a creative can take nootropics.
  • Over 55 years: Anyone over the age of 55 that wants an active mind can take nootropics to improve mood, memory, and brain health.

Are Nootropics functional?

This is the big question. Does it really work? There are several small studies supporting the claims of the functionality of nootropics. Some of these supplements like caffeine and omega 3 fatty acids enhance brain and general body health.

There is no evidence that supports the long-term safety and effectiveness of these supplements for people. The prescribed portions produce results in patients. The non-prescribed types do not have a solid claim of safety and effectiveness, and according to a study, they have some ethical concerns.

Dietary supplements vs Smart drugs

Due to its safer nature, most people prefer supplements as nootropics to drugs. Supplements are safer and have fewer side effects. The impact might be slower and more subtle, but in the long run, when you weigh the pros and cons, supplements will do better as nootropics than drugs.

Man Running with sunrise in background

You should not only depend on supplements to build your brain health. Other methods like regular exercise, a good diet, and healthy sleeping practices can keep your memory keen.

In summary, now that you know more about nootropics, purchasing it over-the-counter is another important consideration. With lots of suppliers available, you must buy from a reliable source. Companies like Kinetiq and others come recommended as they are genuinely interested in improving lives.