Stopping Nootropic Usage : Are There Withdrawal Symptoms?
Many people who consider starting a nootropic regimen are worried about what will happen down the road if they stop usage. People wonder is they will become addicted to nootropics. If the benefits they receive from nootropics will stop when they cease use. And if their cognitive abilities will decrease below how what they were before they started using nootropics in the first place.
The purest definition of “nootropic” is a supplement which is neuroprotective, extremely nontoxic, and non-addictive. All nootropics are cognitive enhancers, but not all cognitive enhancers are nootropics. And because many cognitive enhancers are labeled as nootropics you must be careful when choosing a cognitive enhancer.
Nootropics by the Purest Definition
Nootropics in the “racetam” family such as Piracetam, Oxiracetam, Noopept, Pramiracetam, and Aniracetam will not create a physical addiction of any kind. However, it is possible for one to become mentally addicted to their effects. In other words, some people yearn for the feeling of “being at their best”. Knowing that you could be a little but sharper and think more clearly can cause a mental dependence. But there are no physical withdrawal symptoms. In fact, many types of food would be considered more addicting than nootropics.
When you cease use, your cognitive abilities may or may not return to their normal state. This depends on what you did while using the nootropics. If you were using nootropics simply to improve focus, mental clarity, and memory, and weren’t engaging in regular mental exercise, your cognitive abilities will return to normal.
However, if you were engaging in rigorous mental exercise on a regular basis while taking nootropics, it is very possible you will retain some of their benefits. Many nootropics improve our brain’s “synaptic plasticity”. (Our brain’s ability to change the synaptic connects which connect neurons).
Simply put, nootropics “loosen up” one’s brain and make it more receptive to change. If you are engaging in the correct kind of mental exercise, nootropics can help you physically rewire your brain in a way which improves one or more areas of cognitive function. Then, when you stop using nootropics, you retain the improvements created by rewiring your brain. Which cognitive improvements you retain depend on the types of mental exercises you engaged in while using nootropics.
It is extremely unlikely that any of your cognitive abilities will drop below the level they were at before you started using nootropics. Some people may experience anxiety over not “being at their best”, causing a temporary decrease until they overcame that anxiety.
Cognitive Enhancers Labelled as Nootropics
You must be much more careful with cognitive enhancers being labeled nootropics. Some examples include Caffeine, Adderall, and Huperzia-Serrata. These types of nootropics can be addicting, and can cause long term changes to your brain for worse.
When identifying these types of supplements there are two things to ask yourself. Does the nootropic increases levels of dopamine? And does the nootropics inhibit the breakdown of any neurotransmitter?
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter closely tied to our reward and motivation responses. Taking nootropics on a regular basis which cause an increase in dopamine levels can create a physical addiction. Cocaine is one prime example. But of course, any nootropic you encounter will affect dopamine levels to a much lower extent. and be much less dangerous than Cocaine.
Nootropics which inhibit the breakdown of any neurotransmitter can also create a physical dependency. Taking these types of supplements on a regular basis can “trick” your brain into thinking it doesn’t have to produce whichever neurotransmitter is being affected.
When the breakdown of a neurotransmitter is being inhibited, you are constantly getting a signal from it. This means you get a greater effect from the neurotransmitter, even though your brain isn’t producing as much. Also, because less of a neurotransmitter is being broken down, your brain isn’t recycling as many of the parts it used to constructed it.
When you subject your brain to this every day for an extended period of time, ceasing use can cause many problems. Your brain will be producing much less of whichever neurotransmitter was being inhibited.
For example, Adderall inhibits the breakdown of dopamine and serotonin. When people who took Adderall every day for months or years stop use, many are completely zapped of motivation and pleasure. They can have an extremely hard time focusing, and may become depressed.
This means your cognitive abilities will not only return to their baseline, but they can fall well below it. At least until your brain recovers from the changes to the production of whichever neurotransmitter was affected. However, this recovery could take weeks or months. It depends on how long you used the cognitive enhancer for.
If you want to avoid becoming addicted to, and reliant on these types of cognitive enhancers, do not take them more than 2 or 3 times per week. You simply can’t take them every single day without forming a dependence.
Know Your Nootropic
The bottom line is this, thoroughly research any nootropic you are interested in. If it fits the purest definition of “nootropic” you can take it every day, and cease use at any time without risk of impaired cognitive function.
If you are taking a cognitive enhancer being advertised as a nootropic, be careful. Use it in moderation. These types of supplements can be very helpful when it comes to motivation and focus for long periods of time. But if you use them every day, you won’t be able to focus or motivate yourself without them.