The Ultimate Guide to Nootropics

Nootropics, or smart drugs as they are commonly referred, are a new form of health supplement that interact with neurotransmitters to target specific cognitive functions within the brain. 

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Ignited by movies such as "Limitless" starring Bradley Cooper, there has been a surge of interest in cognitive enhancing supplements in recent years.

As scientists uncover more secrets about how our brains work, we continue to strive toward the creation of a pill that can excel us to peak performance.

How far we are from that realization is still up for debate, but one thing is for certain.  Everyone wants to be better, faster, stronger, or smarter.  

What you will learn on this page​

  • What nootropics are and why you should care
  • The different kinds of smart drugs on the market
  • How to pick the nootropic that is right for you
  • ​Potential benefits and side effects
  • General usage guidelines

What is a Nootropic?

Simply put, a Nootropic is a cognitive enhancing drug -- a substance that is taken for the sole purpose of enhancing cognitive function.  

The term "Nootropic" wasn't officially coined until 1972,  but smart-drugs have been used by people of diverse backgrounds for millennia, in an effort to enhance their brain function.

The name is derived from the Greek words “nous” and “trepin”, meaning ‘mind’ and ‘to bend’ respectfully.  

The original definition of nootropics were meant​ to categorize substances that had minimal side effects, the efficacy to increase cognitive function, and could also help protect the brain from degenerative damages.  

Different Types of Nootropics

The term nootropic is a broad term that covers dozens of compounds, and choosing the one that is right for you can be challenging.

For simplicity sake, this site has been organized into 6 distinct categories to help classify the many nootropic substances that are discussed. 





Some of the oldest and most well-researched smart drugs available

Piracetam, Oxiracetam


Interact with acetylcholine in the brain; linked to better memory

Alpha GPC, Choline Bitartrate


Unique category of drugs that show promising results for advanced performance enhancement


Mood Enhancers

These drugs are known to elevate the mood of those that consume them

Phenibut, Tianeptine


Has become known to many as the "limitless pill" and has many generic brands that are sold all over the world

Modalert, Modivigil


Extremely potent and stimulatory group of compounds that are becoming increasingly popular


Now that we have categorized the different types of smart drugs available, let's tackle the prevailing question for those who wish to enhance their brain function...

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Do Nootropics Work?

Well it sort of depends on what your definition of work is.

The chemicals in respected nootropic compounds certainly do interact with neurotransmitters in the brain and in return can provide some pretty astonishing results.  

Like anything, results vary from person to person. A quick google search about nootropic reviews will bring an assortment of positive and negative reactions.​

Rapid memory recall, increased focus and quicker reaction times are not uncommon effects being reported by users of these smart drugs. Others, however, aren't so convinced.

How much the placebo effect takes over is also up to debate. The only way to truly know if a drug will work for you is to just go out and try it.

Will They Make You Smarter?

Many people will equate taking nootropic supplements to becoming a smarter person, which is actually a common misconception.

While it is true that some folks will appear smarter while on these drugs, that is just because they are attempting to gain knowledge in the first place...same as steroid users usually lift weights.

There has been very little evidence that suggests taking nootropics will actually increase or improve IQ scores.

In practical experience, however, many who take supplements reportedly have an increased level of concentration, which in turn allows them to become more productive in school or at work.

Common Benefits of Cognitive Supplements

There are some pretty grand claims made within the supplement industry.  It is up to the consumer to do their homework regarding what they are putting in their body.  

There are plenty of people who swear about the amazing benefits of nootropics, then again there will be others who did not have such positive results.

Below we look at some of the benefits that are possible to obtain from select compounds.​

  • Improved Short-Term Memory

One of the reasons why Nootropic intake skyrocketed in the 70s among students is because it allowed them to study and remember most of what they just read.

Students still make up for the majority of nootropic users, because it provides them more benefits than coffee or any other type of stimulant.

  • Cumulative Improvement in Brain Function

The law of diminishing returns does not seem to apply to taking brain enhancing supplements. On the contrary, the brain benefits from being constantly challenged, which is what happens when a person takes nootropic drugs.

Increased mental activity leads to the production of more neurons, which ultimately results to a more capable brain. The process is not unlike strength training, where the muscle only gets bigger and stronger as long as it is used continuously.

  • Slowing the Aging Process

The brain has a lot to do with the aging process. What people dismiss as forgetfulness is, in fact, parts of the brain that are dying or, more accurately, becoming inaccessible. This is why grandparents forget their grandchildren's names or what they asked for as a birthday present.

The use of brain enhancers protects neurons from premature degradation. What's more is that the active ingredients in these drugs allow for the growth of new neurons so that those memories are never out of reach again.

Which Nootropic Should You Take?

Nootropic has morphed into an umbrella term that encompasses different products in the mental health genre of supplements.  The breadth of information available can be daunting for someone who is trying to learn about these substances for the first time​.

While many live up to their claims and provide some truly amazing results, it has become increasingly difficult to discern a quality compound from a marketing gimmick.  If you are new to this subject matter, hopefully this article can help to educate.

While there is no single best nootropic in the market, some products are better than others. When choosing which ones are good, the following factors need to be taken into account:

Characteristics of an Effective Smart Drug

  • Safety

A good nootropic does not cause any physical or chemical harm to the brain or the rest of the organ systems.

  • Low Side Effects

The substance enhances cognition without any side effects.  The expected benefits such as improved concentration and increased brain activity should not come at a price, i.e. experiencing side effects such as headaches, dizzy spells, etc.

  • ​Consistent and cumulative

Prolonged intake of nootropic drugs must not lead to diminished results. Instead, the effects must be increasingly positive.

Taking enhancers should allow the brain to improve upon itself, allowing for better long-term and short-term memory.

  • Fringe benefits

Nootropics may not be primarily intended to help with other health concerns, but it has been largely attributed to improved sleeping patterns.

Insomniacs, as well as those who wake up prematurely, find that taking brain boosters actually help them sleep better.

Brain supplementation also boosts the immune system, making the body less susceptible to infections of various origins.

How to Use Them?

Taking brain boosters work similarly as prescription medication. That is, the recommended dosage must be followed in order to get the best possible results.

There is no recommended time frame for taking nootropics, as long as the effects remain positive and useful.

As a general rule, there is no such thing as overdosing from many of these supplements, although taking more than the recommended dose will not necessarily yield better or faster results.

Are There Side Effects?

Unlike stimulants such as coffee, cocaine, and other legal and/or illicit narcotics, most nootropics do not contain toxic or harmful components.

Most are not addictive so there is no chance of becoming chemically dependent on these drugs. In rare cases, some people experience headaches, dizziness or nausea, and mild allergic reaction. Every drug and every person is different and results will always vary.

Keep in mind that smart drugs in general are under-studied and lack any concise depiction of long term effects.  Use them at your own caution.​

Are Nootropics Right for You?

Anyone who wishes to increase their brain capacity and achieve practical milestones such as improving test scores or nailing a job interview, can benefit from a nootropics regimen.

Having realistic expectations are important.  They are not miracle drugs by any stretch of the imagination, but the limits of these compounds are yet to be determined.

As of now, Nootropics are still the best chance people have in becoming smarter and more productive individuals outside of typical means.  

Smart drugs are not for everybody, and you must decide if they are suitable for you.

Final Thoughts

Nootropics are rapidly becoming popular among students, professionals and many other demographics worried about there mental performance.

While some of these substances have been around for decades, there is still much to be desired in terms of regulated testing and academic research.

​Are nootropics the key to unlocking the inner workings of the human brain or just another over-hyped group of health supplements?

That is for you to decide.

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Nicole Sanders

Hi, I'm Nicole, chief editor at Nootropics Revealed. Learn more about me and my mission here.