Subscribe Today & Receive 15% Off

< class="article__title title 10-common-nootropics-side-effects-and-how-to-avoid-them"> 10 Common Nootropics Side Effects And How To Avoid Them>
10 Common Nootropics Side Effects And How To Avoid Them
Oct 05, 23
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

10 Common Nootropics Side Effects And How To Avoid Them

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    Dr. Sony Sherpa is a board-certified Clinical Doctor and dedicated advocate for holistic medicine, specializing in functional mushrooms. Her blend of medical expertise and passion for alternative wellness lends authenticity to her role as a contributor for Natures Rise.

  • |
  • 14 min read
10 Common Nootropics Side Effects And How To Avoid Them

While nootropics offer enhanced cognitive abilities, they also come with potential risks ranging from mild headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances to more serious concerns like increased heart rate, blood pressure fluctuations, and potential dependency

In the quest for improved focus, memory, and mental agility, it's imperative to balance the benefits of nootropics with a clear understanding of their possible adverse effects. 

This article is about exploring the transformative potential of cognitive enhancers and navigating their use with informed caution and care. Join us as we unravel the complexities behind nootropics, offering you the knowledge needed to make well-informed decisions about their use.

1. Headaches

Headaches are a common side effect encountered by many nootropic users, especially when first introducing a new supplement into their regimen. Here's what you need to know about this unwelcome companion:

  • Causes and Triggers: Headaches can occur as the brain adapts to the enhanced cognitive stimulation provided by nootropics for focus. They might also indicate overstimulation or a reaction to specific ingredients.
  • Management Strategies: To mitigate headache risk, start with lower doses and gradually increase as your body adapts. Staying hydrated and ensuring a balanced diet can also help in reducing the occurrence of headaches.

Imagine you're diving into the world of nootropics, eager for the cognitive boost, but are met with the discomfort of headaches. It's a balancing act—managing the benefits while minimizing the side effects.

Incorporating nootropics into your life can be a journey of trial and error, finding what works best for you. If headaches persist, it's essential to reconsider the dosage or even the type of nootropic you are using.

2. Digestive Issues

Digestive Issues

Digestive issues, including stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea, are not uncommon when experimenting with nootropics for memory

These side effects can often be a delicate dance between enhancing brain function and maintaining digestive comfort. Here's what you should consider:

  • Possible Causes: Digestive discomfort can result from the body adjusting to new supplements, or it may indicate a sensitivity to specific ingredients in the nootropic.
  • Mitigation Tips: Taking nootropics with food can often alleviate stomach upset. Ensuring you're not exceeding recommended doses and choosing high-quality supplements can also reduce the risk of digestive issues.

Imagine you're all set for a productive day with your nootropic regimen, but your stomach has other plans. It can be frustrating when cognitive gains are overshadowed by digestive discomfort.

Listening to your body's signals is essential to maintain mental and gut health. Adjusting your nootropic choice or dosage may be necessary if digestive issues persist.

3. Insomnia

Insomnia is a potential side effect of nootropics for brain fog, particularly those with stimulant properties. 

It's a challenge many face when seeking cognitive enhancement: how to boost brain power without sacrificing sleep. Here's a closer look at this common issue:

  • Stimulant Impact: Nootropics that increase energy levels or alertness can interfere with your ability to fall or stay asleep, especially if taken later in the day.
  • Balancing Act: To minimize the risk of insomnia, consider timing your nootropic intake earlier in the day. Paying attention to the dosage and avoiding overly stimulating compounds in the evening can also help.

Picture gearing up for a productive day with the help of nootropics, only to find yourself wide awake at bedtime. While these supplements boost your daytime cognitive abilities (making them one of the best productivity hacks), they might unintentionally extend their effects into your night.

If insomnia becomes a persistent issue, it might be necessary to reevaluate the type and timing of nootropics you're using.

4. Fatigue


Surprisingly, fatigue can sometimes be a side effect of nootropics, especially when they are misused or when the body is adjusting to them. It's a paradoxical situation where substances meant to enhance alertness and energy end up causing weariness. Here's what you need to know:

  • Overstimulation and Burnout: Overuse of stimulant nootropics can lead to a crash, resulting in fatigue. This is the body's response to being overstimulated.
  • Dosage and Cycle Management: Properly managing dosages and incorporating breaks or 'cycles' in your nootropic regimen can help prevent fatigue. It ensures that your body doesn't become overly reliant or desensitized to the supplements.

Imagine seeking that mental edge with nootropics, only to find yourself feeling unexpectedly drained. This situation can be frustrating and counterproductive to the goals of cognitive enhancement.

To avoid fatigue, it's important to use nootropics judiciously and listen to your body's responses. Consider adjusting your approach or consulting a healthcare professional for guidance if fatigue persists. 

5. Anxiety and Jitters

Anxiety or jitters are common side effects associated with certain nootropics, especially those with stimulant effects. While seeking to enhance cognitive abilities, it's essential to be mindful of the fine line between stimulation and overstimulation. Here's a deeper look into this issue:

  • Stimulant Sensitivity: Nootropics that boost energy levels in the morning or increase alertness can sometimes lead to feelings of anxiety or jitteriness, particularly in individuals sensitive to stimulants.
  • Managing the Side Effects: To mitigate these effects, lowering the dosage or switching to nootropics with calming properties, like L-Theanine, may be helpful. Monitoring your body's response and adjusting accordingly is vital.

Imagine you're taking nootropics to focus better, but instead, you end up feeling on edge. This scenario can be unsettling and counterproductive to your goals of improved cognitive function.

If you experience anxiety or jitters, it's crucial to reassess your nootropic regimen. Balancing stimulant nootropics with calming ones or adjusting the timing of your intake can often help. 

6. Irritability or Mood Swings

Irritability or Mood Swings

Irritability or mood swings can sometimes be an unexpected side effect of nootropics, particularly those that impact neurotransmitter levels. While these supplements boost cognitive function, they can also affect your emotional well-being. Here's what to consider:

  • Neurochemical Fluctuations: Some nootropics influence brain chemicals that regulate mood, which can lead to emotional instability or irritability in certain individuals.
  • Balance and Awareness: It's crucial to monitor your mood when using nootropics. Balancing nootropic types and dosages can help mitigate mood-related side effects.

Imagine pursuing mental sharpness, only to find your mood swinging unexpectedly. It can be disconcerting when the pursuit of cognitive enhancement impacts your emotional stability.

If you experience mood swings or irritability while using nootropics, it might be time to reassess your regimen. This could involve adjusting dosages, trying different types of nootropics, or even taking a break from them. 

7. Rapid Heart Rate or Palpitations

Rapid heart rate or palpitations can be a concerning side effect of certain nootropics, especially stimulant-based ones. While these substances heighten cognitive function, they can also affect your heart's rhythm. Here's an insight into this cardiovascular response:

  • Stimulant Impact: Nootropics that increase alertness and energy levels can also stimulate heart rate, leading to palpitations or a rapid heartbeat in some individuals.
  • Caution and Care: If you experience heart-related side effects, it's essential to stop the nootropic and seek medical advice. It's crucial to use these supplements cautiously, particularly if you have pre-existing heart conditions.

Imagine you're geared up for a productive study after taking the best nootropics for studying, but you feel your heart racing instead. 

This experience can be unsettling and is a sign to reassess your nootropic use. If rapid heart rate or palpitations occur, pausing and consulting with a healthcare professional is a clear signal. 

8. Blood Pressure Fluctuations

Blood Pressure Fluctuations

Blood pressure fluctuations, either increases or decreases, can be a side effect of certain nootropics, particularly those with stimulant properties. 

While nootropics are pursued for cognitive enhancement, their impact on blood pressure is an essential consideration for overall health. Here's a closer look at this vascular response:

  • Stimulants and Blood Pressure:Some nootropics can elevate blood pressure as a side effect of increased alertness and energy. Conversely, certain nootropics might lower blood pressure, depending on their mechanism of action.
  • Monitoring and Management: Regularly monitoring your blood pressure when using nootropics is essential, especially if you have a history of blood pressure issues. Adjusting the type or dosage of nootropics can help manage this side effect.

Imagine enhancing your cognitive abilities only to face unexpected blood pressure changes. This situation can be concerning, especially for those with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.

If you experience significant changes in blood pressure while using nootropics, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional. 

9. Dependency or Withdrawal Symptoms

Dependency and withdrawal symptoms are potential risks associated with prolonged or improper use of certain nootropics, especially those with stimulating effects. 

While these supplements offer cognitive benefits, it's crucial to be aware of the possibility of becoming overly reliant on them. Here's what you should know:

  • Risk of Dependency: Some nootropics, particularly prescription-strength or synthetic ones, can lead to dependency if used excessively or without proper medical guidance.
  • Withdrawal Concerns: Abrupt cessation after prolonged use may result in withdrawal symptoms, which can range from fatigue and irritability to more severe cognitive and physical effects.

Imagine relying on nootropics for your daily cognitive boost, only to find that you feel unable to function optimally without them. It's a situation that highlights the importance of moderation and responsible use.

To prevent dependency, it's advisable to use nootropics as intended and under professional guidance, especially when it comes to prescription-strength options. Cycling on and off certain supplements can also help reduce the risk of becoming dependent. 

10. Allergic Reactions

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions, though less common, are essential to consider when using nootropics. These reactions can range from mild to severe and are the body's way of responding to a substance it deems harmful. 

Understanding this immunological response is key for safe nootropic use. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Varied Symptoms: Allergic reactions to nootropics can manifest as skin rashes, itching, swelling, or, in severe cases, respiratory issues or anaphylaxis.
  • Identification and Action: If you suspect an allergic reaction to a nootropic, it's crucial to stop using it immediately and seek medical attention. Identifying the specific nootropic causing the reaction is essential for future avoidance.

Imagine finding what seems like the perfect cognitive enhancer, only to experience an unexpected allergic reaction. It's a reminder that even substances intended for health can sometimes trigger adverse responses.

To minimize the risk, start with small doses, particularly if you're trying a new nootropic, and be alert to your body's reactions. If you have known allergies, especially to herbal compounds, proceeding cautiously and consulting a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement is advisable. 

FAQs About Nootropic Side Effects

Are Nootropics FDA Approved?

No, most nootropics are not FDA-approved as drugs to treat diseases. While some individual ingredients found in nootropics might be recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, this doesn't mean the FDA endorses or has evaluated their claimed benefits. 

Prescription nootropics, like Modafinil, are FDA-approved for specific conditions (e.g., narcolepsy) but not for general cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals.

How Long Do Nootropics Take To Work?

The onset of effects varies based on the specific nootropic, its dosage, and the individual taking it. Some synthetic nootropics, like Modafinil or Racetams, can produce noticeable effects within hours. 

On the other hand, natural nootropics, such as Bacopa monnieri or Rhodiola Rosea, might require consistent consumption over weeks or even months before discernible benefits become apparent.

Can I Take Nootropics Every Day?

It depends on the specific nootropic and its recommended dosage. Some nootropics, especially certain natural ones, are designed for daily consumption and may even require consistent intake over time to manifest their benefits fully. 

However, others, particularly synthetic ones, might be better suited for occasional use or cycling (periods of use followed by periods of rest). Always consult the product's guidelines and seek advice from a healthcare professional before establishing a routine.

Key Takeaways

Nootropics have emerged as a promising frontier in the endless quest for cognitive excellence and mental prowess. Like any journey, this one is fraught with potential rewards and pitfalls. 

As we've discovered, natural or synthetic nootropics carry many benefits and potential side effects. The key? Tread with knowledge, respect, and an open mind.

Remember, while these "smart drugs" can offer a boost, true cognitive enhancement is holistic, encompassing diet, exercise, mindfulness, and so much more. Perhaps the most significant enhancement comes from a thirst for knowledge and a lifelong commitment to learning.

Have you had any experiences with nootropics? Are you considering integrating them into your wellness routine? We'd love to hear from you. Dive into the comments below and share your stories, questions, or insights. Let's embark on this cognitive journey together, hand in hand, as a community dedicated to holistic wellness and self-improvement.

We Would Love To Here Your Comments Leave A Comment

Let Us Know Your Comments