Nootropics – All In The Mind?


The word is derived from the Greek noo, meaning mind, and trope, which means “change” in French.

Nootropics are often labelled ‘smart drugs’ with university students and professionals as the primary users of these supplements. Although nootropics began as a prescribed medication to treat narcolepsy and ADHD, you can purchase nootropics online or in some health food shops as pills, capsules or powders. On the surface such supplements sound appealing and hugely useful for their ability to help us engage more successfully in our work lives. So why should we be cautious of nootropics?  Nootropics remain in a grey area essentially because they have not been officially approved by UK officials.

This makes it difficult to categorise how safe or unsafe these supplements are, especially when they are considered as a food rather than drug. When browsing on an online store for nootropics, you can be guided towards your ideal supplement by your goal. The options varied from productivity, focus and studying to mood, anxiety and brain fog. This variety alone highlights how easily taking a nootropic for the wrong reasons without in-depth research could be potentially dangerous.

These sites share little of the side effects, and a quick google search of nootropics demonstrate links to psychiatric disorders, skin reactions, insomnia, anxiety and slowing down your heart rate. For this reason, websites selling nootropics should be regarded with some suspicion due to the commercial interests behind them.

Evidence to support different nootropics from these companies are also based on rodent studies of individual ingredients rather than the product as a whole or more importantly on humans. Therefore, we should not underestimate the potential strength of nootropics where our knowledge of the health implications is still very limited. Despite negative implications to the supplements, why should we pay attention to nootropics?

A Global Drug Survey published in the International Journal of Drug Policy this June emphasised the increasing popularity of nootropics across the world. Evidence from the survey indicates on average 14% reported to using stimulants at least once in the preceding 12 months, up from 5% in 2015. US respondents had the highest rates, but the largest increases were in found in Europe, including the UK and France. So what is the future of nootropics?

Some powdered nootropics are not fat-soluble so therefore have to be mixed in with milk. Is this somewhere we can see nootropics featuring in the next few decades? Will we be seeing flavoured milk and other foods being advertised with packaging promoting the cognitive health benefits to help boost our alertness in work and school?  Will nootropics become a mainstream ingredient no longer exclusive to professionals and students cramming in revision before exams?

On the other hand, should the unknown long-term effects of these substances be left for those brave enough to purchase nootropics in the first place? If you are ready to fall into the unknown world of secret society of ingredients, then nootropics are for you. But the rest of us who are more hesitant to place our trust into this speculative territory will probably not encourage the production of food products containing nootropics anytime soon.

Perhaps it is simply the intake of nootropics which generates users to believe they have brain boosting powers than the actual supplements themselves, and therefore be all in the mind. We should be very hesitant to consider nootropics at all because the health implications are still greatly unknown. Do you see Nootropics in our food market in the near future? Contact Hamish at [email protected], or call us on +44 (0) 1803 203387.

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