Can Nootropics Cause Brain Damage?

Written on February 9, 2022 by | Reviewed by William Gallagher, MNeuroSci

Nootropics are a class of drugs that are designed to improve cognitive function. However, some people are concerned that nootropics may cause brain damage.

So, can nootropics cause brain damage? The answer is not entirely clear. Some studies suggest that nootropics may be safe for short-term use, but there is limited data on the long-term safety of these drugs.

Additionally, it is important to note that not all nootropics are created equal. Some nootropics may be more likely to cause side effects or to have negative effects on the brain.

In this article, I'll go over some of the data on nootropics, brain damage, and how to minimize your risk.

So without further ado, let's just get straight into it, shall we?

Are Nootropics Bad for Your Brain?

So now that we have a general understanding of what Nootropics are, and why they are popular, let's talk about whether or not they can cause brain damage.

The first thing that we have to do is discuss the difference between the short-term and long-term effects of these nootropics on the brain.

Additionally, some people don't know exactly how nootropics work on the brain.

So, let's start by discussing the different mechanisms of action for these drugs.

Short-term Effects

So far, the research on the short-term use of nootropics suggests that they are safe and can improve brain function.

This is supported by a study that was published in the journal "PLOS One" in which researchers looked at the safety and cognitive effects of Piracetam, a popular nootropic.

The study found that Piracetam was safe and well-tolerated and that it did not have any negative effects on cognitive function.

However, it is important to note that this study was only conducted for 14 days.

Therefore, there is limited data on the long-term effects of nootropics like Piracetam when it comes to cognitive enhancement.

Additionally, it is important to note that some people may experience different side-effects from certain nootropics

What Are the Risks of Nootropics?

Nootropics are generally considered safe when used in moderation, but there are a few risks that you should be aware of.

The first is that some nootropics can be addictive.

This is especially true for prescription nootropics like Ritalin and Adderall.

If you are taking these drugs regularly, it is important to be aware of the potential for addiction (hence, why they are prescription nootropics).

Another risk is that some nootropics can have negative effects on cognitive function.

For example, Piracetam has been shown to impair associative learning and memory formation in rats.

However, this effect has not been seen in humans.

Additionally, Modafinil has been shown to impair motor function and can make it difficult to sleep.

So, while nootropics are generally considered safe when used in the short-term, there are still some risks that you need to be aware of.

What Do Nootropics Do To The Brain?

As briefly mentioned above, Nootropics work by increasing neurotransmitters in the brain.

These neurotransmitters allow for more efficient communication between brain cells, which can result in improved cognitive function.

Nootropics also increase the blood flow to the brain, resulting in better oxygen levels and nutrient delivery to the neurons.

Some examples of popular nootropics that help with cognitive functioning:

  • Piracetam
  • Aniracetam
  • L-theanine powder
  • Caffeine pills
  • Modafinil
  • Adderall

When we talk about Nootropics and how they work on the brain, it's important to distinguish between synthetic- and natural nootropics.

Synthetic nootropics (prescription medications) like Piracetam can be designed to work on specific neurotransmitters in the brain.

For example, Modafinil is a synthetic nootropic that is thought to increase histamine levels in the hypothalamus and has been shown to affect dopamine and norepinephrine levels as well.

Meanwhile, natural nootropics like L-theanine are plant-based and work by increasing the production of neurotransmitters generally.

This is why natural nootropics are often considered safer than their synthetic counterparts.

L-theanine is commonly found in green tea and works by increasing GABA levels in the human brain.

It also increases dopamine levels, which can improve mood, relaxation, and motivation.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that some nootropics can actually impair your cognitive function if used incorrectly or over an extended period of time

Brain Cells & Traumatic Brain Injury

When it comes to the long-term effects of nootropics, much more research is needed.

However, some preliminary research suggests that they may be helpful in treating conditions like traumatic brain injury (TBI).

For example, a study looked at Methylene blue (MB) and its ability to protect brain cells from damage.

They discovered that it has significant potential to treat TBI-induced neurodegeneration due to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective activities.

They also found that MB can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) more readily than other substances.

That being said, more research is needed to determine if other nootropics have similar effects.

So while Nootropics show promise in treating TBI, it's important to remember that they are still largely unregulated and the long-term effects of taking them are not yet fully understood.

Nootropics For Brain Damage And Brain Injury

Let's take a closer look at some of the most common nootropics and their effects on the brain.

Citicoline

Citicoline is a natural nootropic that is thought to improve cognitive function by increasing the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.

It is also known to protect brain cells from damage and has been shown to be helpful in treating conditions like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

It works by increasing levels of phosphatidylcholine in the brain, which is a substance that is essential for cognitive function.

Phosphatidylcholine also helps to protect brain cells from damage and can encourage neural growth.

So, citicoline is a great nootropic for people who are looking for something to help improve their cognitive function, mental performance and protect their brain cells (especially people with acquired brain injury).

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

Phosphatidylserine is another commonly used natural nootropic that has the ability to protect brain cells from damage.

It works by increasing levels of antioxidants in the brain, which can fight harmful free radicals and reduce neural inflammation.

According to research published by Life Extension Magazine, phosphatidylserine may also be able to slow down or reverse age-related mental deterioration.

And a study published in Advances In Therapy found that phosphatidylserine can be helpful for people who have Alzheimer's disease, depression, and age-related memory loss.

In fact, it was found to produce significant improvements in verbal fluency after just four weeks of use.

Phosphatidylserine is often used as a natural treatment for traumatic brain injury as well.

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine for the treatment of various diseases.

It is a natural nootropic that works by enhancing cognitive function and memory.

Studies have shown that it is effective in treating conditions like Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and age-related memory loss.

And research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that bacopa can improve cognitive function and increase cerebral blood flow.

Numerous other studies have also shown that it can be helpful for memory formation and retention.

One study found that taking 200mg of bacopa once a day for 12 weeks could lead to significant improvements in memory formation and retention.

Lion's Mane Mushroom

Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus) is another natural nootropic that has the ability to protect brain cells from damage.

People who take it often do so for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, which can help improve cognitive function and make it easier for people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease to remember things.

Lion's mane is also used for its ability to increase the production of the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain.

Studies have found that it can even help repair damaged neurons and nerve cells, which has made it a popular herbal supplement to take after experiencing brain injury or damage like stroke or Alzheimer's disease.

So, Lion's mane is a great natural nootropic for people who are looking for something to help improve their cognitive function and protect their brain cells.