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Illegal and Legal Nootropics – Quick Guide on Global Nootropic Laws

Many people still wonder about the regulation surrounding nootropic substances, even though they have been around for many years these questions always fill certain minds. We hope to answer some of the questions readers may have regarding nootropics and their legality in this article. There are some differences in opinion and some confusion regarding this topic. Nootropic substances (though around for years) are still considered to be part of a newer school of thought concerning medication. Because of this, and other factors, the laws regarding nootropic drugs and their use are different in many countries. Moreover, nootropic drugs are available in many various forms, so sometimes the classification and legal policies surrounding them can get a bit blurry. However, most of the popular nootropic substances are legal in most countries.

Who Regulates Nootropics?

The classifications of medicinal substances are broken down into three main categories, uncontrolled, controlled and restricted. Most nootropic substances tend to fall into the unchecked category, with prescription drugs belonging to the controlled group. In most countries, governing bodies keep track of and regulate how and to whom these drugs are sold. You will often see the words “dietary supplement” listed on nootropic related products, this label will almost always be on over the counter nootropics. However, even over the counter nootropics have strict rules on how they are sold and used. Some nootropic supplements are also sometimes labeled as food supplements.

Research chemicals

NootropicsIn some cases, certain nootropic supplements get labeled as research chemicals. When a new nootropic is created and has not been market tested for long enough to be proven safe or effective, vendors market them in this way. Additionally, these research chemicals will usually be hard to find online on websites like Amazon or Ebay. Some examples of nootropics in this category are Noopept and Piracetam. You may, however, still be able to purchase these drugs directly from the manufacturer but there are some rules you should know before doing so. Some guidelines need to be followed and understood before buying directly from the manufacturer, and in most cases, only small quantities are allowed for purchase at a time.

The United States has a rule that research chemicals such as Racetams are legal to be purchased without restriction if purchased within the USA, but international orders need to be limited to a three month supply or less. This rule is complicated to discern since not all of these substances have well-defined dosage amounts, so it can be hard to calculate. Because of this, we recommend erring on the side of caution and lowering your estimates before placing international orders, so there will be little chance of confiscation at the border. A good rule of thumb to remember regarding the difference between research chemicals and dietary supplements is that most natural plant-based nootropics are considered to be nutritional, and most synthetic ones get placed in the research category. Naturally occurring substances are less likely to have adverse effects, so they are considered innocent until proven guilty, whereas synthetic materials require a lot of money to fund years of testing and research to determine their safety.

Nootropic Legality by Classification

Here is a breakdown of the three major classifications

  • Herbs and Herbal Extracts
  • Dietary Nootropic Ingredients
  • Synthetics

Allow us to go into more detail on how they are defined.

Herbs and Herbal Extracts as Legal Nootropics

Herbal extracts or herbs are usually considered to be a form of food. Because of this fact, all known herbal nootropic substances are legal to be purchased, sold, grown and consumed.

Dietary Nootropic Nutrients

Dietary nootropics are supplements much like vitamins and minerals. These are considered to be dietary and sometimes classified as nutrient supplements. Similar to herbal nootropics, nutritional nootropic substances are also believed to be foods or food-related products. They are very easy to buy and have little regulation with most products just having safety labels on the packaging.

Synthetics and Semi-Synthetics

This last category gets split into two subcategories. Synthetics, which are nootropics formed from inorganic compounds and Semi-Synthetics created by starting with organic substances which are later synthetically modified. Each country deals with the legality of these types of materials differently. Some places don’t see much of an issue with them and sell them quite freely as food products, while others only provide them via subscription, and some ban them entirely.

Are Nootropics Legal in My Country?

NootropicsAfter reading that last paragraph, you may be wondering if nootropics are legal in your country of residence. If you live in the United States, you will find that most racetams like Piracetam are legal to buy over the counter. Canadians and residents of the U.K will need a prescription for the most part and Australians won’t be able to buy them at all since they are banned there. Though racetams, as you can tell, are regulated very differently in many places, many other nootropics have more common ground regarding legality across nations. For example, natural substances like L-Theanine, Huperzine-A, Alpha-GPC, Bacopa, and others all tend to be legal in almost every country. The difference in regulation seems to happen mostly with semi-synthetics like Vinpocetine and synthetic compounds like Racetams.

As stated earlier the United States has different laws regarding the domestic and international purchase of Racetams by its people. The reason for this is partly because other countries may label and manufacture these Racetam substances in different ways, so you won’t always see the same products for sale everywhere.


Most nootropic substances are available for sale over the counter in Canada with the exception being some racetams that require a prescription.

The United States

A vast majority of nootropic substances are legal to be purchased over the counter in the United States, including racetams. The only real regulation on nootropics in the United States is when it comes to research compounds. Because most of these substances are still new and haven’t had tests done on them as much as the others, they are not allowed to be advertised and sold in the same way as other nootropics in the U.S.


Much like Canada, most nootropics are legal for over the counter purchase in Australia. However, certain racetams and Noopept require prescription and piracetam is not available to the public and limited to professional medical use.

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom mostly all nootropics are available over the counter as well. Modafinil and Piracetam require a prescription and Noopept is limited to small quantities and personal doses.


There is almost no regulation at all in China regarding nootropics. Except for Hong Kong, you can pretty much buy any nootropic substance over the counter in China. China is also interestingly the biggest manufacturer of nootropics in the world.


Japan strictly regulates the import of any nootropic substances into its borders. Except for herbal and dietary nootropics, almost all other nootropic substances have strict regulation. Japan’s rules on these drugs tend to change often so if you are visiting or plan to live there we recommend doing your research.

Here is a chart of the countries and their rules for Nootropic use.

Country Status of Nootropics
The USA Most nootropic substances are available for sale over the counter with the exception being some racetams that require a prescription.
Australia Most nootropics are legal for over the counter purchase.

Certain racetams and Noopept require prescription and Piracetam is not available to the public and limited to professional medical use.

The UK Mostly all nootropics are available over the counter. Modafinil and Piracetam require a prescription and Noopept is limited to small quantities and personal doses.
China Almost no regulation at all regarding nootropics. With Hong Kong being the exception, you can easily buy any nootropic substance over the counter in China.
Japan Strictly regulates the import of any nootropic substances into its borders. Except for herbal and dietary nootropics, almost all other nootropic substances have strict regulation.

Best Legal Nootropics

Below we have listed what we believe to be the best legal Nootropics you can buy.


Noopept is one of the most potent Nootropic substances you can legally purchase. The benefits of using this drug have links to synaptic plasticity. Its effects are also believed to be able to enhance short-term memory and memory consolidation. Some other benefits of this substance include better sensory perception, enhanced reflexes, improved mood, and learning ability, improved logical thinking, anxiety prevention, and an overall improvement in cognitive ability. Noopept also increases the blood flow to the brain promoting neuron growth. Noopept has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Also, most importantly this drug has little to no significant side effects so long as you take the correct dosage.  

Huperzine A

This substance is naturally occurring and comes from a herb grown in China. This substance is legal and extremely potent. Some of its benefits are improved memory and overall cognitive ability. Huperzine A can protect the brain from toxins and promotes nerve cell growth. It also is known to reduce acetylcholine breakdown which results in improved brain activity. Overall, this nootropic is considered to be extremely safe and has no known ill side effects.


Pramiracetam is essentially a souped-up version of Piracetam and is considered to be one of the most effective nootropic substances in the world. It has a higher oral bioavailability that Piracetam which means you can take smaller doses of it to see more significant effects. It also helps to maintain and increase the growth of neurons in the human brain which results in increased productivity. Pramiracetam is also able to boost energy, enhance memory and learning, improves concentration and focus, and can heighten attention span. Pramiracetam is known for allowing its users to stay productive and focused during long, intense hours of required attention. The benefits of Pramiracetam mainly target overall cognitive ability and not much else.

Choline Bitartrate

Another vital substance to mention is Choline Bitartrate. This nootropic is also available for legal purchase. This substance formed from choline, (a nutrient found in nature and the body essential for life) is remarkable. Benefits of using Choline Bitartrate include Improved cognitive ability, memory enhancement, liver protection, and anti-inflammatory effects. It is also known to help with depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s and memory loss. Taking Choline Bitartrate is useful for improving overall health.

Internationally Banned Nootropics

One of the most common questions asked in regards to nootropic use and its legalities is which ones are internationally banned. As we mentioned earlier, most nootropic substances are legal around the world with some exceptions varying from country to country. Some nootropics are illegal or banned all over the world. The reason for this is because these drugs have been proven to have detrimental effects on the body such as hallucination when taken in large doses. Small doses of these drugs may have positive results boosting cognition and creativity, but they are overall dangerous substances and are illegal because of that.

Here is a list of some known illegal Nootropic drugs:

  • Psilocybin
  • MDMA
  • Modafinil (Illegal to sell in the UK)
  • Fenethylline
  • Mescaline

Legal Nootropics In Sport

NootropicsProfessional and aspiring athletes may be familiar with a group called WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). The WADA official website has an up-to-date list of banned substances and consumption methods you can read here.

Though most nootropic substances are legal for use by athletes, there are some forbidden for use by them. Some of the nootropic substances banned are:

  • Modafinil (as Non-Specified Stimulants)
  • Fonturacetam [4-phenylpiracetam (carphedon)] (as Non-Specified Stimulants)
  • Selegiline (as Non-Specified Stimulants)
  • Adrafinil (as Non-Specified Stimulants)

WADA prohibits each of the above drugs uses, and therefore they are not allowed to be used by professional athletes. It’s important to make sure you review this list periodically if you are involved in any athletic profession since the consequences can be detrimental to your career.

The Prescription Nootropics

As mentioned earlier prescription nootropic drugs considered to be “controlled substances.” These types of drugs contain chemical compounds not easily classified as dietary supplements or food. Just like the banned substances, it’s essential to check country specific laws before purchasing these, since the requirements vary and change often. It is especially important to do this if you are planning to buy any of these substances online.

For example, racetams and Noopept are considered to be prescription only in Canada, Australia, and the UK whereas in the United States they don’t have any restrictions on purchasing them domestically.

Here is a short list of some prescription nootropics:

  • Modafinil
  • Racetams (except in the US)
  • Adderall
  • Selegiline
  • Adrafinil

It’s important to remember that laws in regards to nootropics and nootropic related substances change often. With that said dietary and natural nootropic substances such as L-Theanine, Inositol, Alpha-GPC, Bacopa, Rhodiola, Ginkgo and B vitamins all can be purchased online and in store around the globe without any issues.

Newly researched chemicals such as certain racetams and Noopept are tricky and should be investigated very thoroughly before making any purchases online as not to break any laws. Also, when traveling, it is equally as important to do your due diligence before carrying any of these types of research supplements with you overseas.


All in all, nootropic drugs are an extremely effective way to improve cognitive and overall mental abilities. The good outweighs the bad, and in most cases, most nootropic substances are legal and can be purchased without any problems at all. We hope that after reading this article, you will be more informed about the legality and regulations regarding nootropics in your particular area of the world.

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