If you search online regarding the legality and ethics of nootropics, you’re going to get a variety of answers. And with no definitive answer as to whether certain substances are legal, many are left wondering whether they should purchase the drugs at all - no matter how effective they’re thought to be.Most of the confusion regarding the legal and ethical nature of nootropics comes from the fact that there are hundreds of nootropics available. And while each is technically one of the 7 types of nootropics, each also comes with its own risks and chemical makeup, leaving a lot of grey area in this debate.
Further, countries around the world have different laws and regulations governing nootropics, making it all the more confusing for potential users desperately seeking a definitive answer to this question.
Luckily, there are some answers we can offer to readers. And below, you’ll find the information you need to settle the debate (at least for yourself).
Legality vs. Regulation: Understanding the Difference
Many get confused regarding the legality of nootropics because some substances are regulated, especially in the United States.
In the United States, there are different substances that are controlled by federal or state law. For example, all prescription drugs are considered controlled substances. This means that if you possess and use the drug without a prescription, you are breaking the law.
However, most nootropics are not controlled substances. In fact, most racetams (i.e. Piracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam), cholines, and some smart drugs aren’t regulated by state or federal law. This means that you may purchase, possess, and use the drugs without a prescription or the fear of legal consequences.
The actual sale of certain nootropics can make it more difficult to obtain some over others. In fact, it depends on the category that each chemical/supplement falls under when it comes to where and how they are sold. For example, some nootropics may be considered food products whereas others are nutritional supplements. If a nootropic is a nutritional supplement, it is regulated but only so far as its production process.
This grey area is intimidating for some and at the very least can make it difficult to obtain certain nootropics.
Some Nootropics are Illegal, Though Most Aren’t
While their status in foreign countries varies, some nootropics are considered illegal in the United States because they are prescription drugs.
Modafinil and Adderall, both of which are classified as smart drug nootropics, are both controlled substances in the United States. As such, it is illegal to own and use the drugs in the United States, though you could obtain them online from a foreign country. However, many nootropic enthusiasts don’t consider smart drugs to be true nootropics.
If you purchase racetams, cholines, peptides, or any of the other 6 types of nootropics, you won’t be bothered by the law. In fact, all are legal and while they might be difficult to find, you aren’t doing anything illegal by making a purchase.
Even if It’s Legal to Use Nootropics, Is It Ethical?
Now that we’ve established that it’s legal to use most nootropics, there’s another question lingering: Is it ethical to do so?
The answer: It depends on your own perspective and beliefs.
For those who believe it isn’t ethical to use nootropics, they believe so primarily because it is thought to provide an unfair advantage, particularly in competitive workplaces and academia. These same individuals often share the belief that there is unequal access to the drugs as well, making it even more unethical to use them and/or rely on them as a vice like alcohol or nicotine.
On the other side of the debate are those who believe that if there’s something that can put you ahead of the rest, you should take it. This belief is growing in the workplace and academic settings become increasingly competitive. Likewise, this side of the debate believes individuals should have the free will to make their own decisions based on the information readily available.
No matter which line of thinking you agree with, it’s important to consider your own ethical perspective on the matter before making a decision. This means analyzing whether using nootropics is not only good for yourself, but for society as a whole as well.
There is Much to be Learned About the Legality and Ethics of Nootropics
And while nootropics are currently legal and ethical to most, this can (and will likely) change as time progresses.
Ultimately, it’s a personal choice as to whether you want to use nootropics and believe doing so is the “right” decision. By informing yourself as to what all conflicting sources say, you can form your own opinion and take action as you see fit.
At the very least, most individuals agree that there are benefits to nootropics, whether for medical or personal use. As such, it’s clear why this debate pushes forward and changes the way many view nootropics, whether in a positive or negative fashion.