Can nootropics cause anxiety? This is a very important question to ask before you decide to start using cognitive enhancers.
This is a particularly important question to ask if you are hoping to use nootropics to reduce anxiety and to sharpen focus in times of peak mental stress. If you’re having a particularly stressful time at work, then taking a substance which can heighten anxiety might not be the best idea!
Many natural nootropics are extremely effective at reducing anxiety and promoting good cognitive performance in times of acute stress. However, there are nootropics which are known to cause anxiety. Some nootropic supplements and study drugs drastically increase anxiety levels, and others still accentuate symptoms of anxiety.
Which nootropics cause anxiety?
Which nootropics help with anxiety?
In the article below, we’ll outline how some nootropics cause anxiety, and then explain which brain supplements can help reduce stress and anxiety naturally.
Which nootropics cause anxiety?
Generally speaking, natural nootropics like Alpha Brain or NooCube are not known to cause severe anxiety. However, there are some naturally-occurring compounds which increase anxiety levels. Then there are the synthetic nootropics which drastically increase anxiety!
Here is a list of commonly used nootropics which are prone to causing anxiety:
These nootropics can all cause acute anxiety given the right circumstances.
All of the cognitive enhancers listed above work in different ways, but they are all known to significantly increase anxiety levels acutely in certain cases where specific conditions are met. In some cases, the above substances have been linked with episodes of severe acute anxiety and panic attacks, seemingly without any real explanation or underlying cause.
Some of these substances are significantly more likely to cause anxiety than others, and the anxiety that these substances cause is not uniform in severity. With some of these substances, users typically experience lower anxiety levels, but in rare cases the same substance can cause bouts of intense anxious nervousness.
We do not know, for example, the mechanism by which Noopept would cause anxiety. Noopept primarily works by increasing levels of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the brain. having higher levels of BDNF is linked with lower levels of anxiety and stress, as well as improved mood and greater social confidence. This is why Noopept typically lowers anxiety.
But in large quantities, Noopept can trigger feelings of social anxiety (the very feelings Noopept is supposed to counter). At least one person on Reddit has complained of experiencing panic attacks after taking Noopept. In that case the person admittedly did not share whether they had been using any other drugs or whether they were prone to panic attacks. In any case, it is clear that Noopept usually lowers anxiety but can sometimes trigger it too.
On the other hand, prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin almost invariably causes some degree of anxiety in the vast majority of users, including those prescribed the drug by a doctor to treat ADHD. Even in small amounts, the massive norepinephrine and dopamine rush that Adderall and other stimulant-based ADHD drugs triggers will either cause anxiety while you’e on Adderall or after it’s worn off.
But at the same time, there have been instances where doctors have prescribed Adderall for the treatment of anxiety, and many studies have found that in some circumstances it can help lower anxiety levels.
Then there are natural stimulants like caffeine, Dynamine and theacrine. Most of you will have firsthand experience of the kind of anxiety that comes with heavy caffeine consumption. Even if you have a high tolerance to caffeine, you will probably find that as your second cup of coffee wears off you start to feel alittle more jittery and slightly more anxious than usual.
There are few cases where stimulants help with anxiety. It is also true that the more stimulants you take, the highest your chances of expriencing anxiety as a side effect. Stacking different stimulants will often produce stronger effects than taking the same dose of just one stimulant. This is also true of side effects, including anxiety.
Nootropics and chronic anxiety
What’s more, the frequent use of things like Adderall and caffeine can cause chronic, generalized anxiety issues. Both of these drugs cause sharp rises in dopamine and norepinephrine. This makes you energetic and focused, but it causes long-term damage; depleted dopamine receptors being the main cause of chronic anxiety.
So yes, nootropics can cause anxiety. Most of the nootropics which cause anxiety are synthetic study drugs – the Adderalls, Modafinils and Noopepts of the world. However, caffeine is also capable of causing intense, acute anxiety, as well as generalized, chronic anxiety if it is abused on a regular basis.
Using nootropics to fight anxiety
Can nootropics help fight stress and anxiety?
Some nootropic supplements cause anxiety, but many more natural nootropics are effective for reducing, suppressing, and fighting anxiety, both acute and chronic.
Here is a brief overview of some of the best nootropics for anxiety:
- Ashwagandha: This staple of Ayurvedic medicine has been found to actively lower cortisol levels in humans. Cortisol is your main stress hormone. Reducing cortisol levels lowers the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety and promotes calm mental clarity, as well as better overall health.
- Rhodiola rosea: Rhodiola rosea is one of the best nootropics for anxiety in existence. This herb is called an adaptogen; this means it works by making your mind and body more robust to the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Long-term supplementation with Rhodiola rosea is known to suppress anxiety and help promote a positive mood.
- Theanine: Theanine is a key ingredient in most nootropics for anxiety, and even nootropics for ADHD should contain some Theanine because it helps counter the anxiety-related side effects of stimulants such as caffeine or Dynamine. Theanine has multiple different mechanisms of action. One of the most important is its effect on GABA receptors. Theanine effectively acts as a limiter on your CNS, preventing the kind of racing thoughts and jitters that come with stimulant use.
- Phenibut: Phenibut is a synthetic nootropic smart drug developed for the treatment of acute social anxiety, chronic stress and insomnia. Many people find that Phenibut is an extremely fast-acting and powerful anxiolytic, effectively eliminating social anxiety in under an hour. Phenibut is a GABA-mimetic, which means it acts as an almost identical molecule to GABA in the brain. By acting on GABA receptors, Phenibut reduces CNS activity, thus lowering anxiety.
- Noopept: Noopept is one of the best nootropics overall. Initially developed as a kind of Piracetam analogue, Noopept has become one of the most popular nootropics in the world due to its potency, low minimum active dosage and lack of side effects. Noopept works primarily by boosting BDNF expression in the brain. As well as being associated with dramatic improvements in focus and memory over the long-term, higher levels of BDNF is also linked with lower anxiety.
These nootropics have all been found to be effective for lowering anxiety in robust clinical trials using human participants.
If you’re struggling with severe anxiety or panic attacks, we strongly recommend talking to a qualified healthcare professional before trying to self-medicate with nootropics. However, if you are struggling with mild anxiety or the symptoms of chronic stress, natural nootropics and synthetic smart drugs can help if used correctly.
Do Nootropics Make Anxiety Worse?
Will nootropics make your anxiety worse?
The answer depends on you and the nootropics you are taking.
Many nootropics almost always make anxiety worse. Substances such as Adderall, Vyvanse and caffeine need to be used with care otherwise they can cause you to feel extremely anxious.
Other nootropics can be both good and bad for anxiety. Substances such as Theanine typically lower anxiety, but in rare cases it can precipitate panic attacks.
Finally, there are many nootropics and smart drugs which generally only make anxiety better.
The trick is to identify the nootropics which give you the best balance of cognitive enhancement, long-term brain health support and anti-anxiety support. We believe the best way to do that is to use a comprehensive nootropic stack.
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.