What Are Nootropics?

What Are Nootropics? – Nootropics are sometimes referred to as “Limitless” pills. They are nicknamed after the movie Limitless (2011), in which a character takes a pill that dramatically increases his intelligence, motivation, and general cognitive ability. While the film is over-the-top fiction, there are substances that do appear to exert effects on a person’s cognition. Certain drugs and supplements may have a positive impact on motivation, focus, memory, and cognition. The following is a list of several different nootropic substances, their effectiveness, and their potential for abuse or addiction.

What Are Some Common Nootropics?

Nootropics are a broad category of substances reported to have a positive effect on cognitive functioning. They are also sometimes referred to as cognitive enhancers, and “smart” or “study” drugs. The nootropic category includes substances such as caffeine, amphetamines, and a variety of others.


Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are among the most accessible nootropic substances. Stimulants work in the body to excite the CNS by interacting with feel-good neurochemicals such as dopamine. These chemicals are associated with feelings of reward and motivation. When they are released, people feel more alert, energized and motivated. Stimulants are often used in both prescription and illicit drugs due to their powerful effects. Those who abuse stimulants often do so by obtaining them from family and friends. Others get them from dealers or buy them on the Internet.


This class includes drugs such as Adderall often used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. These drugs have been studied for potential cognitive enhancement in those who do and those who do not have ADHD. A 2015 study revealed that low doses of amphetamines were able to boost cognitive functions such as memory, impulse inhibition, and attention. A 2014 review suggested that amphetamines also helped non-ADHD youth remember more information. Amphetamines are known to cause dependence and addiction when they are abused. They can also cause a variety of health problems, especially in those who use them for non-medical purposes.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

Methylphenidate is another prescription drug often used to treat ADHD. It has been found to improve cognitive functioning and may also increase a person’s ability to complete ordinary tasks. Methylphenidate is moderately addictive and has a relatively high capacity for psychological dependence.


Eugeroics is a class of drugs that includes prescription medication such as modafinil and adrafinil. These drugs are used to treat sleep disorders like narcolepsy. It has been shown to increase alertness, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. While these are not considered to be true stimulants, they do have stimulant-like effects. And like stimulants, it has the potential for abuse and addiction, although this potential is generally lower.

Caffeine and Nicotine

Caffeine and Nicotine

Caffeine from tea, coffee, soda, or supplements can increase alertness, wakefulness, focus, and attention. Both caffeine and nicotine are some of the most frequently used recreational drugs in the U.S. and among the most common stimulants worldwide. Despite the adverse health impact, nicotine has been found to have an effect on cognitive functioning. Unfortunately, nicotine, both from cigarettes and vape pens, is extremely addictive, and smoking has proven to cause severe health problems, such as emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease.


Racetams are a poorly understood category of drugs, especially with regard to their effects on the brain. They may have some affinity to attach to receptors in the CNS, but they are also said to work on specific neurotransmitters in the brain. Some racetams appear to have a significant effect on cognition, and include the following: Piracetam Piracetam is sold in the U.K. as a treatment for muscle twitching, but it’s not approved in the U.S. as a medication. It’s marketed as a nootropic, but investigations into the drug’s potential cognitive benefits have not been conclusive. At most, piracetam appears to have a mild effect. Oxiracetam Oxiracetam is a mild stimulant that is marketed as a nootropic drug. Research suggests that it is safe to use, but it has yet to be approved for any medical purposes in the United States. Phenylpiracetam Phenylpiracetam, an analog of piracetam, was developed in 1983 by researching in the Soviet Union. They designed this drug with the express purpose of helping cosmonauts manage extended periods of stress. Animal research has also suggested that the medication may be useful for improving memory, as well as treating anxiety, depression, and amnesia. Aniracetam Aniracetam is sold as a prescription drug in Europe, but it is currently unregulated in the U.S. It is used in alternative medicine to improve memory, concentration, and mental alertness. It is also sometimes used for the treatment of ADHD, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions.

Dietary Supplements and Other Chemicals

Dietary supplements are often are legal, over-the-counter herbs or pills that may do nothing or seem to have some mild effects. Common supplements include ginseng, ginkgo, and sage. Many other unrelated chemicals have been researched for their potential cognitive effects. In some cases, chemicals can be combined in formulas called nootropic “stacks” that are touted to amplify benefits. Some users even mix and match various chemicals in self-experimentation. This activity can be dangerous, however, and it’s generally not a good idea to combine chemicals if it is uncertain how they will react together.

Study Drugs

Study Drugs

Many students abuse prescription drugs for reasons that aren’t related to medical or recreational use. Instead, they are using specific drugs to help them study and possibly increase their academic performance. ADHD drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are designed to increase focus and attention. Even people who don’t have attention problems, however, can experience some sought-after effects. These may include an increase in focus, alertness, and the ability to recall more information. Students sometimes use these drugs for all-night cramming sessions before an exam. They often report positive results, including improved test scores and grades. Unfortunately, stimulant abuse can result in negative effects and undesirable outcomes related to health and long-term academic performance. Stimulants can cause insomnia, which can impair overall cognitive functioning. Also, sleep deprivation can result in problems such as weight loss and depression. Like methamphetamine, ultra high doses of prescription amphetamines have sometimes been known to induce psychotic symptoms comparable to schizophrenia. Stimulant-induced psychosis is a severe psychological problem that often requires medical assistance. Using prescription drugs in this way is considered abuse and may be more likely to lead to dependence and addiction.

Getting Help For Nootropics Addiction or Abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder that’s related to nootropic substances, other drugs, or alcohol, help is available! Addiction is a potentially life-long disease that often requires comprehensive treatment to overcome. Harmony Recovery Center specializes in the treatment of addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses such as depression. We offer integrated programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Programs include clinically-proven services found to be beneficial for the process of recovery. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Music and art therapy
  • Individual/family counseling
  • Trauma recovery
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Education workshops
  • Health and wellness education

Clients at Harmony Recovery Center often have many of these therapies incorporated into their treatment plans to address their many different mental and emotional requirements. You don’t have to suffer any longer! Contact us today and discover how we help people free themselves from the shackles of addiction for life!

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