Nootropic Side Effects
As Dr. Cornelius E. Giurgea argued, 2 of the 5 criteria a supplement must meet in order to be coined a “nootropic” are that they should “safeguard the brain against physical/chemical injuries inflicted from barbiturates & scopolamine” and “be free of typical pharmacology found in other psychotropic drugs with few side effects and with extremely low levels of toxicity”.
While research demonstrates this to be the case with most nootropics where their toxicity is next to none and they are generally all-round safe, there are a few which you should treat with caution.
Second to this there have been no long-term studies carried out on any one particular nootropic on humans – bar perhaps piracetam – for example there are no studies which assess:
a) The continued use of one of more cognitive enhancement supplement
b) The dosage being consumed
c) Their Mechanisms Of Action
d) Their interaction with other prescription or non-prescription drugs
e) How often they’re being consumed
Critically, the brain is not fully developed until one’s mid 20’s. In the Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology, there are some fundamental implications in the use of cognitive enhancers, especially therefore with regards to the underdeveloped brains of children and adolescents.
In most countries one is considered an adult at 18, in terms of the grey matter department however, this is closer to 25 or 30.
Most people in their mid 30’s or older will realize that “true neurological adulthood” didn’t begin until their mid to late 20’s – although women tend to mature younger.
Reviews are thus mixed on how long-term use of nootropics might affect the brain. One school of though is that high amounts of certain types will improve brain development. The other speculates a dependency issue might arise.
From the perspective of treating your brain with respect however, some nootropics deserve certain consideration.
Take modafinil, often quoted as a nootropic it is in fact a smart drug, it is a stimulant that increases dopamine levels and thus it has mild addictive qualities.
It stimulates – albeit through non-amphetamine based compounds – a part of the brain that can develop substance addiction.
As nootropics can be so effective, there are many folk who end up taking them long term and it’s difficult to know how this long term usage might affect the brain and whether a dependency or tolerance has built up.
That said, if you were to start out with what’s regarded as the quintessential “starter nootropic” for first-time users, purely based on its safe and not too potent cognitive enhancing capability, for a long-ish term use, then Piracetam fits the bill.
Based on the extensive research that’s surrounded this nootropic over the last three decades, Piracetam does not prove detrimental to the brain, rather the opposite, when it comes to continued use.
Regarding piracetam’s overall side effects, based on one study – less than 5% of the of the subjects experienced agitation, nervousness, anxiety, irritability and sleep interruptions when taking 2.4mg or more a day, although reducing the dosage reduced the symptoms.
Just to hammer home though one final time as is repeatedly stated on this website, each person reacts differently to any one or more than one (stack) nootropic. You should therefore assume that not all nootropics are side effect free.
When researching online, obviously it’s impossible to verify every review, although those left on places like reddit there’s no room for financial gain (except through donations), it bears noting that in most user’s experience zero to mild side effects were reported, where the most common are a headache, anxiety, confusion, dry mouth and gastrointestinal upset.
Further examples of clinical trial side effects include:
1. Racetam trials on human patients who experienced side effects were able to adjust dosage without leaving the trial.
2. A study of 84 healthy subjects who received Bacopa administration, only one patient withdrew due to gastrointestinal problems.
However, by taking the following 8 steps, you can lower the risk of adverse reactions:
2. Always research your nootropic thoroughly
3. Have a sold reason for wanting to start taking them
4. Keep your dosage level low and build up only if you need
5. Use nootropics sparingly (although other noots may disagree)
6. Give nootropics a break periodically (also known as “cycling”)
7. Important: Take choline if you’re on a “tam” to avoid “the headaches”
8. If you encounter side effects simply lower your dose or stop, there are always alternative types of nootropics which serve one particular function, ie mood, wakefulness, focus.
In summary, although nootropics are generally safe, exercise with caution.