Are Nootropics Legal?

head with symbol for law nootropics

We explore the legality of nootropics and find out which legal nootropics are available in the US and UK.

Upon first hearing the word ‘nootropic’ people may become confused about what it means. It can sound strange and even dangerous, and the concept of taking any kind of supplement that alters your brain is usually enough to put some people off.

When people learn more about nootropics, they discover that by their true definition, a nootropic is a safe and effective way to improve your cognitive function with little or no adverse side effects. Comparing a nootropic to the one or two cups of coffee you have in the morning to wake yourself up and stay alert then seems like a more plausible comparison.

With that in mind, people still want to know are nootropics legal? Some of these substances are still relatively new in terms of the health supplement market, but today almost all nootropics are legal in the US. We’re going to look further into the laws and regulations with regard to nootropics.

Are Nootropics Legal in the US?
As one of the leading countries when it comes to the manufacturing and use of nootropics, it’s not surprising to learn that almost all nootropics are legal. Currently, there is no legal restriction in place for people who purchase or consume nootropics within the country, so the responsibility falls on you.

However, for suppliers and makers of the supplements, some are not allowed to be sold as dietary supplements. If there are any nootropics being sold or added to a stack that aren’t vitamins, herbs, amino acids or antioxidants, they must have the label ‘research compounds’. For most fans of nootropics, they prefer the natural kind regardless, so this shouldn’t have an impact.

Because there are still some grey areas regarding the legality from a manufacturers point of view, consumers should make their own judgments when it comes to dosing. Always stick to the recommended guideline and never go above it, but make your own evaluation about what feels right for you.

Are Nootropics Legal in the UK?

The legality of nootropics in the UK is somewhat different from the US, and it all has to do with the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act that was announced in 2016. The act was mainly designed to prevent the sale of strong designer drugs, but ended up making some natural nootropic substances illegal.

The act defined psychoactive substances as any that can stimulate or depress the nervous system or affect the emotional or mental state of the user. This would no doubt include nootropics, as they can be quite effective.

When the act was announced, some exemptions were made. Substances like coffee, prescription medications, alcohol, food, and nicotine that could cause these same effects were all exempt.

When it comes to natural nootropics or anything that also qualifies as a vitamin, herb, antioxidant, amino acid or another natural ingredient, these are still readily available and legal in the UK.

Which Ingredients Are Illegal without a prescription?

Finding a list of illegal nootropics within the US is hard to do, as most of the substances are readily available and allowed. However, looking at the World Anti Doping Agency’s website, you can see which nootropics they consider illegal when it comes to performance enhancing substances used by athletes. These include the following:

  • Modafinil

This is a ‘smart drug’ sometimes sold under the name Provigil and is used to keep people awake and alert during shift work or for sufferers of sleep disorders like narcolepsy.

  • Adrafinil

This precursor to modafinil is another energy boosting stimulant that is used to stop fatigue and sleepiness.

  • Selegiline

This is an enzyme blocker that has been used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease as it slows the natural production of certain substances within the brain.

  • Phenylpiracetam

This drug was developed to help Russian astronauts stay alert in space and although not legally banned (unless you are an Olympic athlete – in which case it it banned for you), it is not one of the safer synthetic nootropics available. Currently, this supplement is unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That leaves it up to you to establish the veracity of the supplier.

One of the most common nootropic ingredients that people wonder about is piracetam. The piracetam legality is often confused, but at this point, it is completely legal within the US and not banned. As it’s a synthetic substance, it cannot be sold as a dietary supplement. One should exercise caution when taking synthetic or semi-synthetic products.

Smart and Safe Supplements

Although prescriptions can be safe when prescribed and taken appropriately, you may prefer to start with all natural nootropics. Quality suppliers of stacks (combo products) and standalone nutrients and herbs will ensure the safety of the ingredients they sell, and a quick check online will show you that they are indeed legal.

It’s always smart to exercise caution when taking a supplement that you don’t know much about. As laws change to make way for nootropics around the world, we will probably find that many countries relax their laws and put new ones in place for the manufacturer and supply of more of these supplements. Formulated stacks can work quite well, and reduce the number of individual supplements you take in a day. The purpose nootropic supplements is to improve brain health, and research shows they can do just that.

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