Are Nootropics Legal? | WARNINGS and Reviews

With all the information swirling around us every day, it can be tempted into thinking that some claims are just too good to be true. And in the world of supplements, that’s often true. Sometimes we have good news, though. The exciting field of Nootropics seems to offer everything from relief from ADHD symptoms to better memory, and many people are even using them as preworkout supplements.

In my previous article I had a full intro to Nootropics (how they work, and which ones to stay away from). In this brief piece I’ll go over their legal use and which ones to avoid. Before we go further, I’ll point out that all of the Top 5 Nootropics we’ve reviewed are legal in every country we’ve checked (US, UK, AUS).

Key Points:

  • Prescription drugs sold to stimulate the brain had previously been referred to as “Nootropics.” For all intents and purposes, these substances are still illegal to purchase or use without a prescription.
  • For our purposes, we’ll discuss the field of “Nootropics” to mean the over the counter (OTC) supplements made today.
  • Nootropic supplements are increasingly made from legal ingredients to be sold in the majority of countries.
  • If you belong to an athletic or other competitive organization, always check their list of banned substances.

Brief History

I covered much of this content in my article about Nootropics, but just to familiarize readers who haven’t checked that out, yet. The first pharmaceutical to be called a “nootropic” was a cognitive enhancing compound called Piracetam in 1972. It seemed like a golden age in drug manufacturing, with diet pills and “smart drugs” flying off the shelves.

It turned out, though, that many of these miracle cures were in fact addictive and destructive, whether from stimulant properties destroying brain tissue, or from organ damage due to dehydration. What few nootropic prescription drugs from that era that remain are either illegal in any context, or only legal to use under a doctor’s care.

Modern Nootropic Supplements

In the 21st century, modern science has awoken to the medicinal benefits of traditional herbs and natural compounds. Nearly every credible Nootropic supplement manufacturer adheres to a natural ingredient bill, with varying degrees of excellency.

This model has made sense for two reasons.

  • One, it has proven more effective and much safer to enhance focus, energy, memory, and acuity with natural ingredients.
  • Two, by using only natural remedies, supplement makers have been able to extend into wider and wider markets.

That has meant better and safer supplements for consumers, and a larger worldwide customer base for manufacturers.

Athletic Competition

Before we move into a country-by-country breakdown, I’ll briefly mention that the World Anti-Doping Agency has none of the major Nootropic brand names or ingredients on its list of banned substances.

That being said, many leagues and competition committees set their own, independent rules. If you belong to such an organization, contact their substances compliance office and make sure your preferred supplement is approved.

Country by Country

Right now our readership at the Great Green Wall has been focused on the US, the UK, Australia, and Germany. That’s where we’ll start, but if you want to know if Nootropics are legal in your country or territory, please drop us a comment below!

When we answer the “are they legal” question for each country, we’re limiting the question to products branded as supplements, that do not contain any of the following, universally banned substances:

  • Piracetam
  • Oxiracetam
  • Phenylpiracetam
  • Aniracetam
  • Any other substance ending in *racetam
  • Amphetamine
  • Benzedrine
  • Methylphenidate

In most countries these are all still prescription drugs, or outright illegal. Whatever a supplement manufacturer claims, if they have those substances, do not buy them.

United States

Nootropic supplements are generally legal in the US, but consumers there should be aware of the large gray area that exists between the Food and Drug Administration and the US Dept. of Agriculture. In America, the FDA only regulates food safety and actual prescription drugs. If something is a “supplement,” it will only get in trouble with the FDA if it:

  • Contains an actually illegal substance, or,
  • Claims to treat, cure, or diagnose a disease

And here’s where some supplement manufacturers get into trouble. Once in a while a supplement is found to contain none other than that old bugbear Pricetam. At other times they can get caught claiming to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or other illnesses.

Keep in mind, it’s one thing to say “help alleviate the symptoms,” and “treat your ADHD.” Myself and other reputable writers are careful because anyone with a serious illness should always consult their doctor, and continue taking recommended medications. And responsible supplement makers are wise to do the same.

Are they legal: YES

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is an interesting case because many of the best supplements we’ve reviewed a the Great Green Wall are actually manufactured there. That being said, there are still seizures of illegal substances found in OTC supplements.

All that say, the UK give as much latitude to supplement makers as the US does–if it doesn’t promise to cure any disease, and it stays away from banned substances, it’s okay.

Are they legal: YES


Australia gives us the most clear road map to whether a Nootropic supplement is legal. They have a comprehensive list, maintained by a government administration, advising which substances are banned, and under which Schedule their listed.

In general, as we’ve already seen, the big things to stay aware from are the *racetam drugs. You can read the full list here. Most modern Nootropic supplements, and all the ones we’ve rated, walk wide of those substances anyhow.

Are they legal: YES


Our friends in Europe have a similar outlook as the Americans. They define any “supplement” as technically a “food.” Supplement makers are therefore not mandated to report to any regular verification of the substance–but they are randomly checked by Health Authorities to make sure the product in the bottle matches the ingredients on the label.

That being said, like the Americans, they will crack down hard on any supplement they find is misleading regarding its use as an actual medication. In that regard, purchasing from reputable manufacturers can keep you out of trouble.

Are they legal: YES


From the outset, when purchasing a new supplement you should always consult a trusted source, as we hope you consider us to be, and your own physician. Especially if you’re looking for a Nootropic to help with cognitive decline related to any illness such as pre-Alzheimer’s or adult ADHD. These are serious conditions that, while Nootropics can address the symptoms, they are not treatments or cures

That aside, you can always check your national government’s websites for banned substances. For reference, here are the (English) URL endings for government websites–only trust the website on banned substances if it contains these endings:

  • United States – “.gov”
  • United Kingdom – “”
  • Australia – “”
  • Germany – “”
  • France – “”

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About the Author

Sam is a passionate health and fitness enthusiast who has been interested in supplements, fitness, and wellness for over 10 years. He is the founder of Great Green Wall - the health and wellness brand and has completed multiple fitness certificates, including personal training and nutrition certifications. Sam has been working as a personal trainer for the past three years and is dedicated to helping his clients achieve their fitness goals and lead healthier lifestyles. He believes that a healthy lifestyle is crucial to a happy and fulfilling life and is committed to sharing his knowledge and passion with others.

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