If you have seen the movie Limitless, you probably wished for the pill that Bradley Cooper’s character takes to be real (without those side effects, of course). Well, the truth is that something similar to that magical pill actually exists, giving your brain the boost it needs in order to help you enhance your cognitive functions and make you more productive.

The so-called smart drugs are becoming more and more popular these days and they are there for the taking. They are completely legal and, while some of them require a doctor’s prescription, you can easily purchase others, as they are available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores.

However, the recreational use of nootropics has become a hot topic of numerous debates among lots of doctors, as they are greatly concerned about potential side effects of these smart drugs. What very few people know is that, in order for a particular cognitive enhancer to be considered a nootropic, it must be completely safe and entirely non-toxic to the brain.

Regardless, when it comes to long-term use, there is a potential dark side to nootropics, as they can lead to certain side effects. This, however, doesn’t prove that they are dangerous to your health because, as you are certainly well aware of, any drug will lead to some side effects if you misuse it.

What Exactly Are Nootropics and How Do They Work?

Nootropics are cognitive enhancers that improve cognitive functions, such as memory, focus, alertness, awareness, attention span, creativity, and motivation, with the goal of helping people improve their productivity and reach their full potential. By taking a certain nootropic, your memory and learning are enhanced and you are able to easily focus on any task at hand, without anything distracting you, so you are able to maximize your brain’s potential.

While this may sound like a miracle drug that can help you instantly become a genius, it doesn’t really work that way. Since it enables you to focus and improves your memory and the ability to learn, what it does is help you retain information faster. Your neurotransmitters in the brain are responding faster, so you have the opportunity to learn and do more stuff in less time than usual.

This is what many people don’t quite realize, expecting for nootropics to immediately make them smarter and able to do things that they know nothing about, which is precisely why they increase their dosage and start misusing the drug, thinking that the effects will be greater that way.

What they also don’t realize is that, in order for some nootropics to take effect, they need to take them for several days or even weeks. On the other hand, there are those the effects of which immediately kick in so, if you are thinking about using nootropics, make sure you do your homework and know exactly what you are about to take before you head on that journey.

What very few people know is that, in order for a particular cognitive enhancer to be considered a nootropic, it must be completely safe and entirely non-toxic to the brain

What Are Potential Side Effects of Nootropics?

Are Nootropics Safe?

Although it has been proven that nootropics are quite effective, a lot of people are still concerned about their safety. As already mentioned, there can be certain side effects if you misuse the drug, that is, increase the preferred dosage, but they may also occur if you are taking the drug for the first time, because your brain may need more time to adjust to the new supplement.


One of the most common potential side effects of nootropics are headaches. They may occur due to the fact that your brain may require more acetylcholine than your body can actually produce. It is a chemical in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter and, as your brain starts working harder when your cognitive functions are enhanced, it needs more of that chemical, so that it can send more signals from your nerve cells to many other cells.

There are many food sources of acetylcholine, but what you can also do to get rid of the headache is add a source of choline, which is an essential nutrient that is water-soluble and acts like a vitamin, to your diet. There are many foods that are high in choline, but you can also take it in the form of a dietary supplement. Choline will provide your brain with the necessary chemicals that it requires when cognitive functions are enhanced, so you will no longer experience any headaches.


You may experience fatigue if you increase the preferred dosage of nootropics that improve your alertness. While they will boost your energy levels and make you more alert for a few hours, you may feel extremely tired after the effects wear off. If this happens, you can deal with the problem by simply reducing the dosage of a particular nootropic. However, if you are still experiencing fatigue, try and use some other nootropic, because they are definitely not a one-size-fits-all kind of drug.


Some nootropics that stimulate your energy and alertness may lead to insomnia, which usually happens if you take them in the late afternoon or in the evening. Since they make you more alert, they can negatively affect your sleep pattern.

This is actually quite obvious, because your mind is simply very active when you take a nootropic, so you cannot really relax and fall asleep. Even after you manage to fall asleep, your quality of sleep will be greatly affected, so you will wake up feeling even more tired.

This is why it is very important that you take stimulating nootropics early in the day, so that you can experience their effectiveness without this side effect. There are also relaxing nootropics that you can include in your regimen, as taking them later in the afternoon, when you no longer need to be fully alert, can improve your sleeping patterns and promote a good night’s rest.

Gastrointestinal Tract Problems

This side effect may occur if you increase the normal dosage of a particular nootropic. You may experience pain in your gastrointestinal tract and stomach, as well as diarrhea and nausea. The simple solution to these problems is to reduce your dosage, especially because your gastrointestinal system can process the nootropic much faster that way.

Extremely Rare Side Effects – Side effects that include restlessness, anxiety, depression, and mood changes, as well as increased blood pressure, dizziness, and skin irritation and rashes are extremely rare and they occur only if the recommended dosage is greatly increased or if several different supplements that are not to be mixed are used at the same time.

Therefore, before you go and start combining different dietary supplements, make sure you learn everything about them first and check whether or not they should actually be mixed. Also, make sure you are fully observant of any potential changes in your mood or on your skin, for instance, so that you can take proper action to deal with the issues.

As you can see, almost all of the aforementioned side effects may occur only if you increase the dosage of nootropics. The only potential side effect that you may experience even with the normal dosage is a mild headache, but you can resolve that issue before you even know it. Therefore, nootropics are safe if you use them safely, so never increase your dosage hoping that you will get better results, because all that you may end up with are the negative side effects.

The Potential Dangers of Nootropics

Are Nootropics Safe?Unfortunately, there are some dangers to using smart drugs, but it is very important to note that you may not ever experience any potential dangers if you start using nootropics. However, what works for others won’t necessarily work for you as well, so you should make sure that you learn everything about these dietary supplements before you include them in your daily routine.

Dependence and Brain Alteration

If you have been taking nootropics for a longer period of time, you may become very dependent on them. Such a dependence would lead to you not being able to perform cognitive tasks that are demanding without previously taking a certain nootropic. Your brain becomes so used to them that it no longer needs to work very hard in order to perform those tasks, because there’s a nootropic for that. It starts to rely greatly on nootropics and becomes completely tolerant to them.

Therefore, just as nootropics enhance your cognitive functions, their long-term usage may impair those functions and prevent you from performing advanced cognitive tasks. This can be very bad for you, to say the least, because it can be pretty tough to get back to your normal functioning, or even impossible, since your brain chemistry will be greatly altered.

Some nootropics may also impair some of your brain’s important functions and alter the way your brain works, especially if you use them before you turn 25, because that’s when the brain is fully developed.

Changes in the Nervous System

Some nootropics may cause changes in your nervous system, which is usually the case with stimulatory nootropics that improve your alertness and boost your energy levels. This is because they make you alert even when you are very tired, literally forcing your body to produce more energy in order to easily and quickly perform certain tasks.

What this does is disrupt your circadian rhythm, which includes all biological processes that your body goes through throughout the day. It is your internal clock that, when disrupted, can lead to restlessness, insomnia, mood disorders, and anxiety.

Therefore, by taking stimulatory nootropics for an extended period of time, forcing your nervous system to stay active longer, your body will be used to quickly using up all of its energy and your sleep-wake cycle will be disrupted, leaving you feeling extremely tired when the effects of the nootropic wear off. This will also greatly speed up the aging process.


While not everyone goes through the process of withdrawal after they stop using nootropics to enhance their cognitive functions, many people do experience withdrawals. This cannot actually happen if you take a nootropic several times, but it may happen if you have been using it for quite a while.

When you think about it, it is actually quite logical because, if a particular supplement changes the way your brain and body function, altering your neurotransmission and nervous system, it is very likely that you will experience some kind of a withdrawal after you start using it.  Again, this is very subjective, but you should still be fully aware of the potential risks.

Interactions with Other Medications and/or Supplements

As already mentioned above, some nootropics are not to be mixed with other supplements or various medications, and this is not only because of the potential side effects that may occur. Something like that could actually be fatal, which is why it is of paramount importance that you conduct thorough research or, better yet, consult with a doctor before combining any nootropics with other supplements or pharmaceutical medications.

Side effects may occur if you increase the dosage of nootropics, so make sure you always stick to the recommended dosage

Poor Quality Nootropics

Since nootropics are completely legal and don’t require the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) approval, because they are classified as dietary supplements, they are available for free purchase. This is why you need to be extremely cautious when purchasing a particular nootropic, especially if you search for it online.

You need to make sure that you find a quality product that will provide you with the benefits you need, so you need to thoroughly evaluate your potential supplier before buying anything from them. Checking out as many online reviews as you can is something you should never take for granted, as those can help you make an informed decision and find a product that is perfectly safe for you to use.

How to Use Nootropics Safely and Minimize Potential Dangers

As you know by now, nootropics are safe when used safely and you can effectively mitigate any risks by being aware of the potential dangers and, more importantly, by knowing how to use the supplements properly. Here are the steps that you need to take if you are thinking about using nootropics, so that you can make sure that you fully experience the benefits and keep your health in top condition.

Wait until You Are 25

If you are younger than 25, you should seriously restrain from using nootropics, because you don’t know how they may affect your brain, which is not yet fully developed. At this moment, there is not enough research on nootropics and their effects on the brain in development so, if you want to improve your grades in school, it would be best if you simply work hard and study like everyone else, instead of relying on smart drugs.

Thorough Research

Before taking any nootropic, you need to do your homework and learn literally everything about it: what it contains, how it works, what it does, how long its effects last, whether or not there are any potential side effects associated with it, how it interacts with other supplements and medications, and how exactly it will affect your brain and body.

Apart from doing your research on your own, make sure you consult with a medical professional in order to be completely sure that a particular nootropic is safe for consumption. Never take them blindly without knowing how they would affect you.

Balance Your Dosage

You are already familiar with the side effects that may occur if you increase the dosage of nootropics, so make sure you always stick to the recommended dosage, if not even lower than that. More importantly, you should use nootropics only when you feel like you really, really need them in order to perform some demanding cognitive tasks. Otherwise, you may become dependent on them and completely disrupt your sleep patterns, not to mention impair your brain functions.

In the end, if you don’t feel particularly good about nootropics even after you’ve done your research, simply don’t use them. If you weigh in all the pros and cons of using cognitive enhancers and come to a conclusion that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, you should simply find some other way to improve your cognitive functions.

After all, it’s your call. It all comes down to you and your own personal needs and preferences, because it is your health that we are talking about here. If you feel like you would risk your health by using these dietary supplements, steer clear of them and that’s it. However, as already mentioned several times, nootropics are safe if used responsibly so, if you do decide to start using them, make sure you do so with caution. If you do that, you may experience mild side effects, or you may not experience any at all, enjoying only the benefits that they will provide you with.


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