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The Ultimate Guide to Nootropics UK 2019: Uses, Side Effects and More!

The Ultimate Guide to Nootropics UK 2019: Uses, Side Effects and More!

If you are here, chances are you are looking to learn more about nootropics (commonly referred to as study drugs, smart drugs and cognitive enhancers).

The good news is that you are in the right place. We, like you, have noticed that life seems to be getting busier, more competitive and more fast-paced.

No wonder then, that the demand for nootropics is through the roof.

Hundreds of companies and brands have come into the market to meet this demand, but it means that consumers can feel paralysed by the selection of brands and the claims they make. That's why we are here to help.

We asked our team of experts, who between them have over 25 years of experience in nootropics, to answer the most common questions people have about nootropics.

Do you agree with them? Is there anything else that you would add? Let us know by commenting at the end of this article.

If you're interested in the topic of nootropics, you should also consider checking out our article Smart Pill UK 2019 Review - Which Ones to Try and Which to Avoid.

Free samples of BrainZyme available


What is a nootropic?

Who in the UK is using nootropics?

What are the most common nootropics in Britain?

Why are more people using nootropics?

What side effects can nootropics cause?

Are nootropics legal in the UK?

Our favourite nootropic of 2019


What is a nootropic?

What is a nootropic?

A nootropic is “a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning.”

Nootropics might be foods, drinks, supplements, drugs or other substances, and they can improve things like concentration, motivation, wakefulness, performance under pressure or even your mood.

Watch: Can Drugs Make You Smarter | Earth Lab


Who in the UK is using nootropics?

As nootropics are meant to improve cognitive functions, it is often people who routinely do mentally taxing things who use them. This might include doctors, office workers, computer programmers or other busy professionals.

However, the largest market for nootropics is in universities: many students and academics in the UK use them to keep up with demanding workloads or to study for longer around exams.

Who is using nootropics?

Many nootropics can also improve wakefulness. Therefore, people like shift workers, emergency services personnel or security guards, who must be awake for long periods, might use them.

Interestingly, the British military has also trialled nootropics as ‘stay awake’ pills.

What are the most common nootropics in Britain?

The most commonly-used nootropics are the so-called smart drugs*.

Modafinil is perhaps the most popular one. The Tab found that around 20% of students used modafinil in 2014. This means almost 460,000 users in total.

Adderall and Ritalin are also smart drugs. They are quite widely used but people seem to view them with more scepticism than modafinil.

There are many other smart drugs available, such as Noopept and Piracetam. However, modafinil, Adderall and Ritalin are the most common pharmaceutical nootropics in the UK.

Quick Tip: BrainZyme Professional works as a great alternative to synthetic smart drugsQuick Tip:
Most synthetic nootropics, such as Adderall, modafinil and Ritalin, (by a large degree) act on the brain neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps your motivation. For some people, dopamine can also increase wakefulness and decrease appetite.

If you want a powerful natural alternative that works on the same pathway (and thus has similar results with fewer side effects), you should try BrainZyme® Professional.

Natural nootropic supplements are an alternative option for smart drugs. They are less frequently used than smart drugs but are quickly growing in popularity.

Natural supplements use natural ingredients with nootropic properties, such as matcha tea, guarana, and choline from sources like broccoli. They do not use pharmaceuticals, which sets them apart from smart drugs.

brain supplements/cognitive enhancers vs nootropics

Why are more people using nootropics?

As mentioned before, many nootropics users in the UK are students. There are several reasons for this.

Rising tuition fees make students feel pressure to succeed. Many students are stressed about their futures, so they want to excel academically to secure better jobs.

Additionally, students have to juggle many other things alongside studying, so some of them might feel that they need a nootropic to cope with everything they need to do.

Other people who use nootropics have similar concerns. As prices are rising and wages may not always be enough, some people might use nootropics to work longer or harder to help make ends meet.

nootropics side effects

Competition in the workplace is also higher, and as a result, people who want to secure a promotion might use nootropics to boost their productivity.

Many workers in demanding jobs also feel under pressure. Cuts to public spending mean that doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers and many other vital professions have to get more work done with fewer resources. 

Another common reason to try nootropics is anxiety, especially performance anxiety at work or university. If someone's working life becomes more stressful or they need to work additional hours, they might turn to nootropic use to keep up with the higher workload.

People might also take nootropics for job interviews, to help with the anxiety that usually comes along.

Others simply use nootropics for focus. Both short-term and long-term lack of concentration is common, and I'm sure that you've experienced it at least once.

Another common reason to take nootropics is for motivation - having the energy and drive to get out of bed and perform tasks that you don't want to do.

What side effects can nootropics cause?

While there are many valid reasons for someone to start using nootropics, it’s also important to remember the side-effects associated with them.

Smart drugs, the most common nootropics in the UK, have many side-effects. Modafinil commonly causes headaches, sleep problems, chest pains and other issues.

More severely, its use can cause acute rashes, and it can also cause or worsen mental problems. These are rare side-effects, but potential issues nonetheless.

Adderall commonly causes nervousness and stomach problems. It can also cause rarer, more severe side effects, such as hyperthermia and cardiovascular problems. 

Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil Side Effects

Ritalin causes similar side-effects to Adderall, with headaches, nervousness and stomach problems being common. Like Adderall, Ritalin has several less likely side effects that can be quite dangerous, such as heart issues and problems with mental health.

Conversely, many natural nootropics in the UK have much less severe side effects. People report problems such as increased thirst, and rare instances of headaches as the result of using natural nootropics.

There are very few, if any, natural nootropics that can cause the more severe side effects mentioned above.

Are nootropics legal in the UK?

In the UK, nootropic smart drugs are not legal following the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act.

Many of them, like Adderall, are controlled substances. The 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act also made it:

“An offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.”

are nootropics legal?

Note that food and drink and medical products are exempted from this Act, as well as people working in the medical or research fields.

As a result of the Act, any psychoactive drug is illegal to supply, import or export without a proper license or prescription. At the same time, this also means that most natural nootropics are perfectly legal to produce or supply, as they do not contain psychoactive drugs. 

There are some exceptions where ingredients, such as yohimbine or Bacopa monnieri, are prohibited under British law.

brain supplements uk

British Law on natural cognitive enhancers/natural nootropics:

  • Natural cognitive enhancers/natural nootropics (such as BrainZyme), made with food supplement ingredients, are fully legal if compliant with the relevant agency requirements (Department of Health, MHRA, FSA, Trading Standards, Environmental Health, EFSA, etc.). They might contain superfoods, herbals, amino acids, vitamins or minerals.
  • Not all natural nootropics are legal. Some are banned in certain countries because they aren't compliant with the relevant agencies.
  • For a fully legal and effective natural nootropic, try BrainZyme.

British Law on pharmaceutical smart drugs:

    • Ritalin is a Class B drug, and its possession without a prescription can lead to a five-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine.
    • Modafinil, Adderall: Anyone in the UK selling prescription-only medicines on the black market faces up to two years in jail, including selling modafinil to friends. Additionally, producing and dealing these drugs could mean up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
    • Experimental smart drugs such as Noopept: the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be seven years’ imprisonment.

The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) has warned university students in particular against taking any prescription, fake or unlicensed pharmaceutical medicines. They also highlight their possible dangers to health as more and more students attempt to get higher marks.

MHRA - are smart drugs safe

The MHRA warns against buying pharmaceutical smart drugs or pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers over the internet, and that such types of pills could cause problems for the users.

They state: "A huge number of medicines bought online are counterfeit, substandard or adulterated. While reports of side-effects of some cognitive enhancers include risk of dependence, cardiovascular problems and psychosis, there is no guarantee the product you are receiving isn’t laced with any number of other dangerous substances."

Users have reported side-effects including skin rashes, migraines, irritability, dizziness, nervousness and anxiety.

Senior Policy Manager at the MHRA Lynda Scammel said, "Be smart - don't put your health at risk by buying medicines online and don't give your student loan to a criminal."

(Source: MHRA press release: Freshers warned to be smart and avoid Modafinil.

Is Noopept legal in the UK?

Noopept is generally legal to possess in the UK, as long as it's for personal use and you hold no more than a 3 months' supply at a time. In 2014, the MHRA seized a big shipment of Noopept, highlighting some of the issues you may encounter whilst trying to import it.

Phenibut UK legality

phenibut uk legality

As it affects the central nervous system, Phenibut was included in the 2016 psychoactive substances ban. This means that it is illegal to sell or supply it. However, it remains legal for personal use if bought in small quantities from a company operating in a country where it is legal (e.g. the US).

Our favourite nootropic

We prefer natural brain food supplement nootropics rather than pharmaceuticals.

The reason for this is:

  • They tend to be better value for money.
  • They come with fewer side effects.
  • They contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
  • They are just as effective as pharmaceuticals.

Our favourite nootropic is BrainZyme. You can find out why here. You can also watch the following review compilation video to learn more.

Try BrainZyme For Free!


We have now examined all the different aspects of nootropics in the UK.

We have learnt that most synthetic nootropics (such as Adderall, modafinil and Ritalin) work on the dopamine pathway.

For a natural alternative that works on the same pathway, and therefore has similar results with fewer side-effects, you should try BrainZyme Professional.

Related articles

If you're interested in the topic of nootropics, you should also consider checking out the following related articles:

The Ultimate 2019 Adderall UK Guide: Legality, Alternatives and More

The Ultimate Modafinil UK Guide: Effects, Side Effects, Dosage and More

A Quick Guide To Noopept | Nootropics Review




* = Important note - whilst BrainZyme is scientifically proven to support concentration and mental performance, it is not a replacement for a good diet, moderate exercise or sleep. BrainZyme is also not a drug, medicine or pharmaceutical. It is a natural-sourced, vegan food supplement with ingredients that are scientifically proven to support cognition, concentration, mental performance and reduction of tiredness. You should always consult with your doctor if you require medical attention.
** = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from BrainZyme enables increased motivation.

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  • Hi Maria,

    I’d advise staying away from online (unregistered) pharmacies that sell Modafinil and Adderall without prescriptions.

    These are usually unregulated and there’s no guarantee on the quality of the products.

    I’d recommend instead buying from reputable companies, such as BrainZyme.

    We have a range of three different nootropics, so I’m sure you’ll find one for you and we have one the best return policies in the world (100% satisfaction guarantee for 365 days), meaning you can buy our products with peace of mind.

    If you’d like to talk over your specific situation, I should be able to give you some more advice. You can email me at or give me a call on 0131 6050168.

    I hope this helps :)

    Robert (Mod) on

  • Where’s the best place to buy nootropics?

    Maria on

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