NOTE: we did a PODCAST on this topic on the LiveCortex Nootropics podcast here.
The question of whether or not nootropics are safe to take long term seems to be a pretty relevant question these days. More and more, people are realizing these cognitive enhancersÂ actually do work. They can repair damage done to the human brain from years of drug use. They can improve memory, verbal recall, brain fluidity, and overall performance in multitudes of ways. And they can do a lot more than that.
CDP Choline, a very well known and potent nootropic (and one we use in Cortex Gen 1 Nootropic), has been shown to be a powerful agent in a multi-drug treatment of stroke. Aniracetam, a very well known and very well tolerated nootropic, for some people, seems to lower their anxiety levels, in addition to improving their creativity, verbal intelligence, and focus.
There’s no doubt about it, smart drugs and nootropics are quite effective at what they do. And the more popular they get, the more this will become apparent. The more this becomes apparent, and the more people use nootropics on large scales, the more the question we’re examining in this post will get some more clarity.
Are Nootropics Safe To Take Long Term?
The short answer, in my opinion, is yes. But you have to get a bit more granular than that to have an integrated perspective about that question. I’ve thought about this at length for years now. I’m in year 5 of experimenting with nootropics, and so far, when taken in the right doses, they’ve done nothing for me but drastically improve my capacity to use my brain where it matters most: my life as an entrepreneur, and in my businesses.
So, it’s a very reasonable question to ask. But to answer that question, I think it’s useful to zoom out a bit from the idea of nootropics, and look at the other things we do to our brains everyday, and compare the two. Right? I mean, everything you eat, ends up effecting your brain almost pretty instantly doesn’t it? And do you know the quantity of ingredients/man made chemicals in most of the food that a lot of us eat? It’s preposterous. And plenty.
What about alcohol? Hasn’t there been study after study proving that a few drinks a day is beneficial to the heart and body? The answer is yes. But think about that chemical (ethanol) in excess. What do you get? DUI’s, drunk driving accidents, deaths, fights, violent acts, murders, and prison terms. But a few drinks a day, or a few drinks a week, doesn’t effect the brain in quite the way that a 12 pack of beer a day does. There’s a point at which, both in nootropics, and in alcohol, that too much is too much. In fact, there’s a point at which everything you put in your body, becomes too much.
So let’s break that down a bit.
Comparing Ethanol, To AniracetamÂ
Let’s do a fun one. Let’s compare ethanol to the widely used smart drug Aniracetam. Doses for Aniracetam tend to be between 500-2000MG. But I’ve found that for me, and a lot of the people I know that experiment with nootropics, smaller doses work just fine, and in some cases, better. For example, for me right now, sublingually, 80-100MG is the optimal dose. If taken in a capsule, it’s between 250-300MG. That is nowhere close to the “recommended” dose for Aniracetam, which typically tends to be 750MG. But remember: The vendors you buy Aniracetam from, want you to buy more Aniracetam.
But, let’s be a bit generous, and go with a 350MG dose of Aniracetam. Aniracetam, has never (to my knowledge) been demonstrated as even remotely dangerous. In fact, to the contrary. It’s been clearly shown to be neuroprotectiveÂ in a variety of ways, as well as NOT to increase liver enzymes, indicating it’s level of safety being extremely high, and that the compound is very well tolerated. Here are some other interesting things to note:
- People do not take Aniracetam, then get behind the wheel, and crash their cars because their cognition is impaired.
- People do not start fights with other people in bars, because they had one too many Aniracetams. lol.
- There’s no one in a prison cell right now because they took Aniracetam, and it altered their state so much, that it prompted them to commit a serious crime.
- Admittedly, there is no data here, but I’m quite sure there aren’t a whole lot of relationships being destroyed because a member of the relationship is improving their brain using scientifically backed neurologically enhancing agents.
But all of that is true for Alcohol. Just wanted to point that out. Ok, so back to the details of our comparison. In every 1.5 ounce shot of alcohol (insert most liquors here), there’s an average of .6 ounces of Ethanol. The average person, does not drink just one shot though. Nor two.
When people are out drinking, and they take shots, it’s typically between 2-5, and for those that take it further, it rises into the 2-10 shot range. But let’s just take 2 shots and start there. There are centenarians, that cite taking a few shots of alcohol everyday at lunch as being one of the facilitators of their long lives. Let’s examine that for a second:
If there are people on the planet, that take a few shots of alcohol everyday, and live to become centenarians, when we know quite clearly that there are mounds and mounds of research piled up to suggest that alcohol consumption in high quantities lowers life expectancy, and facilitates the onset of disease, then why is anyone concerned about taking an extremely small dose of a nootropic that for most people, has no side effects, and improves their brain performance?
Remember when we cited that there are no significant increases in liver enzymes when taking Aniracetam? Well here, it clearlyÂ asserts that: “Liver injury may be caused by direct toxicity of metabolic by-products of alcohol as well as by inflammation induced by these byproducts.” And it goes on to further discuss that phenomenon. It’s clear that there is a strong correlation between liver damage and alcohol consumption.
But if there are certain centenarians that drink alcohol for years, in low doses, everyday of their lives, it’s certainly pretty plausible to assume that taking low dose nootropics (which I believe is the only way for healthy people to take nootropics) on and off for years, isn’t going to harm your health, brain, or anything else. We’ll talk about cycling a bit later.
I’m not saying Aniracetam is better than alcohol, or alcohol is better than Aniracetam, I’m just trying to create a perspective through which to look at this question. The question of whether or not nootropics are safe to take long term. Let’s shift to food for a second.
Compare The Chemicals In Your Food, To The Average Nootropic
Trans fats, for example, have been shown over and over again to be extremely bad for the human heart and blood vessels, but this is a substance found in an innumerable amount of foods you see on the shelves. Granted, the FDA has made moves to stop that in its tracks because trans fats are no longer generally recognized as safe. But yet, there are tons of 100 year old people, that listened to the media scare years ago that saturated fat was bad, and that vegetable oils (some of the most egregious hosts for trans fats) are good for you, and they’ve thus been cooking with them for years and years. So, anecdotally, there’s a case for people consuming, at small quantities, a substance that (with a good amount of science to back this) speeds up the process of heart disease, and not getting heart disease, and living well into their 90’s.
I’m not saying it doesn’t contribute to heart disease, because I believe it does, but I’m putting it into perspective: there’s a ton of science to point to the idea that it does (to the point of the FDA banning it), but people still continue to consume (and have consumed for a long time) vegetable oils that have trans fats in them. And people are worried about Aniracetam? Or other smart drugs? Again, just putting it in perspective for you.
How many chemicals do you ingest everyday from the food you eat, and the air you breathe? The answer is, you don’t know, and for most people, it’s a lot. Considering taking a nootropic compound that has science behind it (most nootropics do), to enhance the way your brain works, should be the least of your road blocks in making decisions on what to put into your body.
Take the nootropics. Take the nootropics and stop drinking alcohol. Or take the nootropics and continue drinking alcohol. They’ll likely help you function better when drinking anyway. They certainly do for me. And what you’d be better off doing is trying to eliminate things like trans fatty acids from your diet, to avoid plaque build up in your arterial walls. But one thing should certainly be considered here, and that is..
I believe most nootropics should be cycled. A very basic argument for this is: for the neurotransmitter precursors, you are putting artificial, blood brain barrier crossing building blocks to chemicals in your nervous system, in your body. Over time, a lot of them have been shown (because they cross the blood brain barrier so effectively) to build up in the brain. CDP Choline is one of them. The half life of CDP Choline is extremely high, proving pretty definitively that taking any quantity that will show effects, consistently, is bound to create a build up of the substance, or its by products, in your brain.
There are plenty of anecdotal reports of precursors for neurotransmitters causing ill effects in people after a period of really positive effects. And what’s happening there seems fairly simple to me: these people were in a deficit of particular neurotransmitters, they supplemented with building blocks to those neurotransmitters, solved their issue, kept taking them, and ran into side effects from excess of the neurotransmitter in question.
This has happened to me both with Acetylcholine, and with the catecholamines. About two years ago I discovered L-Tyrosine. It was the best thing since sliced bread to me. I took 500-1000MG everyday for about 4 months and it was rocking my world. At the time, I thought it was one of the best nootropics out there because it helped me to maintain my brain function later on in the day, helped me fight through fatigue and cognitive deficits that would happen after running my business all day, and all around made me feel really good.
But eventually, when I kept taking it everyday, I began to experience side effects. I was overly anxious to the point of nearly having panic attacks. I was stressed out of my mind, and I NEVER would have otherwise felt like that from day to day stress. Researching it to find what was plaguing me, I realized that I likely had entirely too much production of norepinephrine (adrenaline) in my body. Makes sense doesn’t it? L-Tyrosine is a precursor to norepinephrine. I took too much, for too long, and I ran into side effects. It’s as simple as that. I cycled off for a few months, and then returned to using it sparingly as a nootropic to get the extra catecholamines (Dopamine, NE, and Epinephrine) without a problem.
And this can be said for many nootropics for many people. Then there’s the case of down regulation. Down regulation of specific receptors in the brain takes place as a compensatory action in response to increased neurotransmitters at receptor sites. This is a great thread on Longecity about that. If you want to learn more about down regulation, I’d suggest checking this out.
Summing It All Up
So to sum it up, I think that yes, nootropics of all kinds of safe to take long term, but I mean that in a way that specifically involves cycling of that particular nootropic, and only going back to that nootropic if you need it. And again, this is especially the case for the neurotransmitter precursors. When it comes to the Racetam family of nootropics, because their mechanisms of action are less understood, my answer is to monitor your brain, cycle on and off of them, and judge your next course of action from there. Would I take Aniracetam for the rest of my life? Yes. I would have no reservations about cycling on and off of Aniracetam until the day I die. Would I take DHA for the rest of my life? Certainly, and I don’t really know if cycling is needed with such a major constituent of the human brain.
Would I take Piracetam for the rest of my life? Yes, with cycling. Alpha GPC, CDP Choline, or L-Tyrosine? Yes, but only if I needed them, because the mental faculties associated with their presence are waning, and I’d do it to replenish the neurotransmitters they work on to optimal levels. Then I’d cycle off.
So, I think the question should really be: Compared to all of the other chemicals we ingest everyday of our lives, through our food, and through the air we breath, what amount of what nootropics are we comfortable taking?
You can do a lot worse than taking a substance that improves the signaling and functionality of your neurons.
Sources And Referential Data
- Cytidine 5â€²-Diphosphocholine (CDP-Choline) in Stroke and Other CNS Disorders – Pubmed
- Aniracetam (Nootropic) – A Review – Socialanxietysupport.com
- Aniracetam (Neuroprotection)Â – Examine.com
- Aniracetam. An overview of its pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties, and a review of its therapeutic potential in senile cognitive disorders – Pubmed
- Alcohol Equivalence – Wikipedia
- Centenarians in South China’s Hainan Province Reveal Secret to Longevity – IBTimes
- Exploring Alcohol’s Effects on Liver Function – Nih.gov
- Shining the Spotlight on Trans fats – Harvard.edu
- FDA Cuts Trans Fat in Processed foods – FDA.gov
- CDP Choline – Examine.com
- Downregulation and Upregulation – Wikipedia
- The Ultimate Nootropic Question – Longecity
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