You’d be forgiven for thinking that nootropics were addictive. People tend not to be casual or one-off users of nootropics. If somebody experiments with brain supplements a few times, they tend to keep using them for several years afterwards, often with increased frequency. It isn’t all that uncommon for people to try something like Fladrafinil a few times and to then become an intense advocate for that compound, telling all their freinds that they need to start using it!
It’s therefore easy to assume that nootropics must be addictive; otherwise people wouldn’t be so obsessed with them!
Luckily for you, nootropics are generally not addictive at all – that’s including both natural and many synthetic nootropics.
Powerful stimulant brain drugs are, of course, a different matter. Pharmaceutical drugs designed to treat conditions like ADHD can cause addiction and depenency, as well we significant siwthdrawal symptoms. This is particularly true when ADHD drugs are used by people who do not have ADHD!
However, the natural nootropic stacks are not typically addictive. In fact, the reason most people use natural nootropic stacks and the non-addictive synthetic brain drugs (e.g. Modafinil, Piracetam and Noopept) is that they have a far better health and safety profile and they are generally a lot less addictive than their more potent relatives (e.g. Adderall, Straterra and Vyvanse).
In this article, we’ll look at different types of nootropics and the risks of addiction involved when using them. We will discuss whether nootropics are addictive, how some nootropic compounds can lead to addiction, and whether natural nootropic stacks run the risk of causing addiction. If you have any experience with nootropics and addiction, please share it in the comments section at the end.
Nootropics & Addiction
None of the substances used in the best nootropic supplements currently on the market contain any ingredients thought to be addictive.
These brain supplements typically contain ingredients like Bacopa monnieri, Citicoline and Lion’s Mane Mushroom. These are natural, herbal extracts that do not have pronounced enough effects to cause withdrawals.
None of our recommended nootropics contain any ingredients thought to be even remotely addictive.
This is a strict criteria we employ when rating and ranking brain supplements. Any nootropic which looks like it might be even remotely likely to cause side effects of any magnitude is given a very low score. We include addiction and dependency as side effects, so obviously any nootropic which may become addictive will never make it onto our list of the best nootropics.
Generally speaking, the risk of addiction when dealing with natural nootropics – composed of herbal extracts, amino acids, and so on – is quite low. It is only when stimulants are introduced that addiction becomes a risk. Nootropics such as caffeine are indeed extremely addictive, as is nicotine (obviously).
But for the most part, the ingredients found in the most popular, highest-quality natural nootropic stacks are not thought to be addictive in any way. For information on particular ingredients, consult our individual supplement reviews.
Are synthetic smart drugs addictive?
Synthetic smart drugs are a different story altogether.
Synthetic brain drugs pose many more risks than natural nootropics, and the chances of developing a dependency are also significantly higher when dealing with pharmaceutical-grade brain drugs compared to dealing with natural nootropics (even when in potent, pre-made stacks containing caffeine).
Popular synthetic nootropics include:
These drugs are designed to combat severe social anxiety, to help air force pilots stay awake during extended sorties, and other medical/industrial reasons.
Of course, these brain drugs are not supposed to be used by people who do not have a diagnosed attention disorder, and they are certainly not supposed to be used without close medical supervision. However, it is still true thsat the drugs listed above are generally regarded as safe when used responsibly, and they are certainly not thought to be addictive in a classic sense of the word.
But, that does not mean these drugs do not have any addiction risks to speak of; frequent use of these drugs can lead to dependency.
Drugs like Modafinil and Piracetam have very strong, very noticeable effects.
They may also all produce a kind of “come down” as their effects fade 6-18 hours after first taking them. In some cases, this can causs a kind of “hangover” which can last for a day or more. If you find that without Modafinil or Aniracetam your cognitive performance is severely impaired, then you may slowly become dependent on the drugs to remain productive, focused and effective at work.
The line between dependency and addiction is a thin one. As it stands, none of these substances can be said to be addictive, but they do seem to cause some degree of dependency in people who use them repeatedly over a short period of time.
Drugs like Modafinil and Aniracetam do unarguably enhance cognitive function by a considerable degree. It’s understandable that people will want to keep using them once they experience their new, enhanced brain power. This is a kind of dependency, and some would even go as far as to describe the desire to retain higher cognitive functions as a kind of addiction.
Yet the risk of addiction with things like Modafinil pale into insignificance when compared to Adderall and the other stimulant-based ADHD medication. It is pretty much unheard of for someone to become addicted to Modafinil, even though many people may be said to be dependent on the drug to function at full capacity.
Is Adderall addictive?
Adderall is probably the most addictive nootropic by some margin. Adderall is simply a brand name for an amphetamine stack. More specifically, it is a collection of amphetamine salts. These salts augment the speed at which the amphetamine is absorbed, making Adderall at once faster acting than pure amphetamine and longer-lasting. So while users do not get the intense high of taking pure amphetamine, the effects are broadly the same, which is why this substance is strictly prescription-only and should never be used without medical supervision.
As it is just amphetamine, we probably do not need to tell you that Adderall is extremely addictive.
The main risk of Adderall addiction comes when an individual without ADHD starts using the drug. This means that rather than helping them remain at a normal level of focus and behavioral control, the Adderall produces an intense feeling of mental stimulantion and physical energy. This is obviously a pleasurable feeling to most people, which leads them to seek it again.
The “high” you get from Adderall is then followed by a precipitous fall. This fall produces a serious “comedown”, which leads you to crave more Adderall to just get back to baseline. This cycle continues, leading you from dependency to full-blown addiction in a relatively short space of time.
Adderall is classed as having a very high risk of both addiction and abuse. We do not recommend anybody use Adderall for any reason other than to treat a diagnosed medical condition. It must be used under medical supervision.
Can you get withdrawals from nootropics?
It is possible to experience withdrawals when using stimulant nootropics. Stimulant withdrawal is frequently marked by irritability, fatigue, mood swings, sleep disturbance, and cognitive difficulties.
With natural nootropics like Citicoline or Bacopa monnieri or with non-stimulant nootropic compounds like Noopept or Modafinil, withdrawals are practically unheard of. None of these kinds of nootropics have effects which can lead to physical or psychological withdrawals. None of the nootropics used in popular nootropic stacks give you any kind of ‘buzz’ or ‘high’. Instead, their effects are quite subtle and are really only noticeable when doing cognitive demanding tasks. As such, it is difficult for someone to experience withdrawals when they stop taking them.
Some nootropics for depression may cause a mild form of withdrawals when you stop using them. This effect is usually much more pronounced if you have been using mood boosting nootropics for a long period of time without a break. However, if you’re using natural, over the counter nootropics, these withdrawal symptoms should be extremely mild.
Conclusion: Are nootropic addictive?
Are nootropics addictive?
That depends very much on which nootropics you’re talking about.
If you’re talking about nicotine, caffeine, or Adderall, the answer is a resounding yes. These nootropics are highly effective, extremely potent, and are known to cause addiction, dependence and withdrawals.
But if you mean things like Citicoline, Bacopa monnieri and Phosphatidylserine, then the risks of addiction are extremely low. None of these kinds of nootropiocs (herbal nootropics, phospholipids, amino acids, cholinergics, etc) have ever been found to cause addiction in clinical studies.
The best natural nootropic supplements can provide complete cognitive enhancement without addiction, dependency, or side effects. We think you should consider using natural brain stacks first before even contemplating using things like Adderall or Vyvanse. For those that are comfortable using synthetic nootropic compounds like Flmodafinil or Noopept, these substances are also not thought to pose any real addiction risks (although they may be habit-forming and you can become dependent on them to function).
Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.