Help for Nootropic Abuse

Image by Anders Sandberg

Image by Anders Sandberg

Can Smart Drugs Be Harmful?

Anyone who has ever seen the movie ‘Limitless’ will easily appreciate the attraction of nootropics. These drugs offer the promise of increased intelligence, better concentration, improved memory, improved decision making ability, and increased creativity – who wouldn’t want that? The reality is though that the actual mental boosts provided by these substances tend to be modest, and there is a real risk when consuming these substances of undesirable side-effects.

The word ‘nootropic’ comes from the Greek language, and can be roughly translated as ‘to turn the mind’. It refers to any substance that is capable of improving cognitive functioning – this is why the term ‘smart drugs’ is also commonly used to refer to them. Many substances (e.g. caffeine) that would fall into this category would be considered relatively harmless, but there are much stronger smart drugs that have the potential of damaging physical and mental health.

Many nootropics currently fall into the category of nutritional supplements, so they are therefore not closely regulated (e.g. in the US they have usually not received FDA approval). This can mean these substances have not been properly tested as safe for human consumption.

Potentially the most harmful nootropics are drugs that have been designed to treat medical conditions. An example of this would be Modafinil which is sometimes prescribed for people with narcolepsy or other sleep disorders. It is the ability of this substance to produce a state of wakefulness that makes it attractive as a smart drug. Potential side effects of Modafinil include headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and dizziness. The risk of physical addiction may be relatively low (this is far from conclusive because there are currently very few studies into the dangers of long-term use), but there are reports of people who have developed at least a psychological dependence and who experienced withdrawals when they tried to stop.


Some of the nootropics that have the potential to cause mental or physical problems (especially with long-term use) would include:

• Piracetam – may cause anxiety, insomnia, and depression
• Oxiracetam
• Provigil (Modafinil)
• Aniracetam
• Vinpocetine – risk of tachycardia (elevated pulse rate) and hypotension (low blood pressure)

Do You Need Rehab for Problems Related to Smart Drug Usage?

If a smart drug is having a harmful impact on your life, and you feel unable to quit, it would suggest you are at least psychologically dependent. In this type of situation, you may benefit from the supportive environment of a rehab program. It is also relatively common for those who are abusing smart drugs to also be misusing other substances such as alcohol or cannabis so inpatient addiction treatment may be the most appropriate path.

If you have turned to smart drugs in an attempt to self-medicate anxiety, depression, or poor concentration, you will still need a solution to these problems. The benefit of a rehab program is you will have the opportunity to pick up some approaches and tools that are evidence-based. This means you can begin to enjoy improved cognitive functioning without putting your mental and physical health in danger.

If you feel unsure about the need for rehab, please contact a member of our team to discuss your situation