Nootropic Risks and Side Effects

Are Nootropics Safe? Potential Nootropic Risks And Side Effects

Written By : David J. Grossklaus   ✓ Fact Checked

Are nootropics safe? They can be, if you find true brain-boosting nootropics that are safe, healthy and effective for the brain. This guide discusses steps you can take to maximize brainpower benefits and minimize safety risks with the right nootropics.

(Last Updated on December 1, 2023)

Recently, there has been an explosion on the use of nootropics 1.

Many individuals are trying out nootropics to enhance cognitive function including memory, thinking and other brain functions

However, most people are not informed about nootropics safety and side effects.

Originally, nootropics were designed to have low to no side effects and low toxicity.

But, due to the numerous nootropics available, some may fail to meet the safety criteria because of wrong combination, poor manufacturing conditions and megadosing.

Since these nootropics are mostly sold as dietary supplements; they are not FDA approved and some lack clinical trial backing.

Read next: 3 Best Brain Boosting Supplements You Can Buy

Factors to Determine Nootropics Safety

nootropic pills

Most nootropics in the market are not evaluated because they are categorised as dietary supplements.

The federal law does not require them to be tested for effectiveness and safety before being sold.

All the same, some ingredients in these nootropics are widely researched and backed by science.

Nootropics are generally considered safe if they contain evidence-based ingredients and lack reported side effects.

Here are some factors to consider:

Evidence-based nootropics

Nootropics are considered safe if they have undergone clinical trials.

Whether tested in human or animal studies, side effects and other safety concerns are indicated.

Quality manufacturing

If nootropics are not manufactured in a safe environment, they may pose health risks to the user.

Safe nootropics are manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practices.

Check out for GMP certification on the label of a nootropic to ascertain purity, safety and effectiveness.

Clean label

A nootropic should include a clean label of all its components.

It should not contain some additives and preservatives such as soy, food dyes, carrageenan, gluten and other allergens.

Nootropics should be free from popular allergens to support users’ safety.


Safe nootropics encourage minimum dosage; this dosage is within the recommended clinical range for effective results.

A safe nootropic will not advocate megadosing, which increases the risk of adverse side effects and tolerance.

Formulations should use the recommended dosage for stimulants such as caffeine.

How Can You Ensure Nootropic Safety?

Brain Boosting Supplements

Nootropics may be manufactured in a safe environment, but how you take them determines their safety and potential to cause side effects.

Here are some tips to ensure you take nootropics safely.

Stick to the recommended dosage

You should not exceed the recommended dosage of a nootropic.

Overdosing a nootropic may cause side effects or other health risks.

Cycle nootropics

Nootropics require cycling to prevent tolerance.

You should take a nootropic for a specific period and then take a break for some days before resuming.

Talk to your doctor

Consult your doctor before taking any nootropic to rule out any danger.

This is particularly important if you have a medical condition or taking other medications.

Potential Risk Factors


Taking too much nootropic at once may cause side effects.

An overdose may alter the normal brain function affecting blood circulation, toxin removal, hormone levels and neurotransmitters 2.

This may result in brain fog, insomnia and frequent urination.

Cumulative effects

Cumulative effects are a risk factor when using nootropics.

Nootropics that have a long half-life do not leave the body quickly leading to cumulative effects.

This may cause issues with your brain posing the risk of side effects.

For instance, Huperzine – A causes excess acetylcholine in the brain which causes problems.

Using nootropics for extended periods or in high doses is a potential risk factor.

Personal variation

Individuals react differently to nootropics.

Some may develop side effects due to their diet, genetics, other medications, smoking, drinking and physical activity while others tolerate nootropics very well.


Most manufacturers provide warnings on the use of nootropics.

Nootropics interact with prescription drugs and result in adverse side effects.

If you need to combine cognitive enhancers with any pharmaceutical drugs, talk to your doctor first.

Additionally, do your research and find out any indicated contradictions online.

Possible Nootropic Side Effects

brain pills

When used as recommended, nootropics have minimal to no side effects.

However, individuals react differently and may develop side effects.

Nootropics work by altering brain metabolism and chemistry, thus, if you experience adverse effects from a nootropic discontinue use.

Here are some potential side effects.


Certain nootropics stimulate the brain resulting in improved alertness and focus while others lower anxiety and stress levels.

Therefore, these nootropics should not be taken 6 hours before bedtime, because they disrupt sleep patterns and also affect cognition resulting in insomnia 3, and brain fatigue.

Stomach upsets

Some nootropics such as vitamin B6, Vitamin B9 and Rhodiola Rosea have been seen to cause gastrointestinal upsets.

Also, others may cause diarrhoea due to colours and additives used.

Brain fog

In rare cases, some nootropics cause metabolic imbalances resulting in brain fatigue.

For examples, acetylcholine is essential in boosting mental cognition; however, excess levels may lower brain energy resulting in brain fog.


Some stimulant-nootropics like caffeine may cause jitteriness, especially among individuals who are sensitive to caffeine.

However, the adverse side effects of caffeine can be reduced by stacking with L-Theanine.


This is the most reported side effect of nootropics.

If you experience headaches while starting on nootropics, that is a clear sign that you are allergic to that particular nootropic.

You can alleviate this side effect by starting with a low dosage and increasing your water intake.

Other side effects

  • Anxiety.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Paranoia.
  • Lucid dreams.
  • Agitation.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Hives.


Nootropics are generally safe to use and are well tolerated by most individuals.

Most of them have little to no side effects even when continuously used for long periods.

However, their safety might be compromised due to the wrong use, lifestyle factors, drug contradictions, and genetics.

We recommended using nootropics safely by following the recommended dosage, research online on particular nootropics and find out what other users have experienced.

Also, learn on possible contradictions with other drugs and do not stack nootropics if you are starting.

Start with the lowest dosage to see how your body reacts.

Hydrate your body and learn to cycle nootropics to minimise the risk of side effects.

Read next: 5 Science-Based Techniques To Improve Memory And Concentration

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