News from CRIS: Trending - Nootropics

January 18, 2022

What are nootropics?

Nootropics are cognitive-enhancing substances designed and used to boost mental function (1,2).
Nootropics break down into four categories (1):

  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Unapproved drugs
  • Dietary supplements 

Pharmaceutical drugs

These medications are available via prescription only, and many are regulated as controlled substances. Pharmaceutical nootropics are used to treat neurocognitive and neurobehavioral disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer's, narcolepsy, attention deficit hyper disorder (ADHD), and more.  

Over-the-counter drugs

These medications are often marketed to help keep you awake and have active ingredients like caffeine or other stimulants. They differ from dietary supplements because they make health claims that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supports. 
The over-the-counter drugs are regulated and labeled under FDA policy (1).

Unapproved drugs

These compounds are often sold and advertised as dietary supplements. However, they have not gone through the regulatory pathway to be used and considered dietary supplements or drugs. 
These include ingredients like phenibut, racetam drugs (piracetam, aniracetam, oxiracetam, etc.), vinpocetine, and more. While manufacturers may sell products containing these ingredients as dietary supplements, the FDA has not approved them, meaning they have not been evaluated for safety, effectiveness, or quality and may be illegal in specific states in the U.S. (1,2).

Dietary supplements

These often contain herbal or botanical ingredients and nutrients like ashwagandha, Bacopa monnieri, Ginkgo biloba, omega-3-fatty acids, vitamin B12, and more that are suggested to help boost cognitive performance. However, they are not drugs approved by the FDA, so we do not know their full potential, if any, to increase cognitive function. 


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