Laurence Lee

September 5, 2022 in Supplements

When describing agents or products that enhance cognitive function, most people use the words smart drugs and nootropics interchangeably. Although these products essentially work to achieve the same goal, they differ slightly.

Below I explain the difference between smart drugs and nootropics:

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics are used to improve various cognitive functions, such as learning, focus, mental clarity, motivation, attention, and mental processing.

Some of these supplements even have neuroprotective benefits, which protect the brain and prevent premature cognitive aging. Nootropics are agents derived from nature.

They are 100% pure and natural compounds that have not been modified in a lab to suit a specific function. 

Nootropics are available for purchase online or over the counter (OTC), making them ideal for individuals looking for a quick and effective mental boost. Nootropics are available prescription free because they have an excellent tolerance and compatibility rate with a low side effect rate.

Nootropics are identified by the following features:

  • Safe to use because of all-natural ingredients
  • Maintains cognitive health
  • Protects the brain
  • Improve memory and learning
  • Increases attention span and focus
  • Better information processing

The supplements are usually a combination of vitamins, herbs, amino acids, and other natural substances, making them completely organic.

Pros and Cons of Nootropics

Here are the pros and cons of nootropics.


  • Long-term benefits for the brain
  • Some nootropics can provide targeted benefits for cognition
  • Helps with anxiety and stress
  • Increases productivity
  • Increases motivation and energy
  • Minimal side effects


  • They are not FDA regulated
  • Since they are classed as nutritional supplements means that studies don’t have to be done for production or sale
  • Possible interactions with other medications
  • Has the potential for unsuitable productions and poor-quality supplements 
  • Can have too many additives, fillers, and preservatives that can cause stomach issues, mood swings, and allergie

What Are Smart Drugs?

Smart drugs are pharmaceutically engineered cognitive enhancers that are designed for individuals who have psychological disorders or neurological diseases.

These agents are synthetically based and typically prescribed to those with Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s disease, dementia, ADHD, and more. Although these drugs are specifically designed to help these patients, they can be used off-label as cognitive enhancers.

Some of the most popular smart drugs, like Adderall, Modafinil, and Ritalin, are used by individuals without neurological or psychological issues to optimize productivity and focus. It is also known for supporting improved memory, wakefulness, motivation, and mental clarity.

These drugs have potent effects that are experienced quite quickly. Thus, their use does warrant a prescription. This means that an evaluation from a healthcare professional is imperative.

Pros and Cons of Smart Drugs

The pros and cons of smart drugs are listed below.


  • Stimulate neuron growth
  • Can reduce age-related cognitive decline
  • Improves mood and neuroplasticity
  • Increases oxygen, energy, and blood circulation to the brain 
  • Enhance the activity of hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes for better brain functioning


  • They can be addictive
  • Limited research on long-term results
  • Side effects include dizziness, headaches, vomiting, jitters, nausea, insomnia, and heart palpitations
  • The ingredients are potent and can be dangerous 

Which One Is Better for You?

Smart drugs and nootropics essentially do the same thing for the brain, using different approaches and ingredients, which means either option can be the ideal choice.

There is a fine line between their effects which can make the decision hard, so I encourage individuals to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each choice against their needs, lifestyle, and mental goals before settling on a choice.

About the author 

Laurence Lee

Lee is a neuroscientist who has dedicated his career to understanding the inner workings of the brain. He has seen firsthand the power of these supplements in improving cognitive function and believes that more people should be aware of their benefits. In his articles, Lee shares his extensive knowledge on the subject and provides unbiased reviews of different products.

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