Nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are a class of substances that can boost brain performance. They are sometimes called cognition enhancers or memory enhancing substances.
Prescription nootropics are medications that have stimulant effects. They can counteract the symptoms of medical conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, or Alzheimer’s disease.
Nonprescription substances that can enhance brain performance or focus — such as caffeine and creatine — are also considered nootropics. They do not treat diseases but may have some effects on thinking, memory, or other mental functions.
This article looks at prescription and nonprescription smart drugs, including their uses, side effects, and safety warnings.
A doctor may prescribe a nootropic to treat a medical condition. Usually, the drug is a type of stimulant, such as an amphetamine, that can help treat ADHD, narcolepsy, dementia, or a similar condition. There is also raw powder for animal and plant.
Prescription nootropics include:
modafinil (Provigil), a stimulant that addresses the sudden drowsiness of narcolepsy
Adderall, which contains amphetamines to treat ADHD
methylphenidate (Ritalin), a stimulant that can manage symptoms of narcolepsy and ADHD
memantine (Axura), which treats symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
While these can be effective in treating specific medical conditions, a person should not take them without a prescription.
Like any prescription medications, they carry risks of side effects and interactions, and a person should only take them under a doctor’s care.
Common side effects of prescription nootropics include:
high blood pressure
a fast heart rate
insomnia and other sleep disturbances
trouble with vision
Some evidenceTrusted Source suggests that people who use prescription nootropic ingredients powder to improve brain function have a higher risk of impulsive behaviors, such as risky sexual practices.
Healthcare providers should work closely with people taking prescription nootropics to manage any side effects and monitor their condition.
The term “nootropic” can also refer to natural or synthetic supplements that boost mental performance. The following sections discuss nootropics as a bodybuilding supplement that do not require a prescription.